27 August 2014

Rough Day

Today I had a bad day at work. I was in meetings until around 2:30, which were fine. We even got lunch catered, which is always fun.

Then this afternoon I realized that I'd done something that potentially will cost one of my clients a couple thousand dollars in taxes. The situation was one that we run up against occasionally, when a company goes out of business and their 401(k) just sends them a check for 80% of their account balance (IRS requires a 20% tax withholding). In 99% of these cases, there's absolutely nothing we can do, so we basically just have to do damage control at that point. To make a long story short, she was in the 1% where we could have done something, we just found out too late. I did not do anything wrong, I did what anyone would have done. But because of her specific situation and a lot of bad timing, it's probably going to end up badly for her, and she's not going to be happy with me when I tell her, because all along we've been under the impression that we can fix what went wrong, so I've been reassuring her this whole time that things would turn out well, when it is looking like there's not going to be anything we can do.

I feel really terrible. Like, I cried in my car after work, haha. Ultimately, it's not my fault, there's nothing else I could have done, but I still feel bad for my client. (And if I'm being totally honest, I feel bad for myself because I'm pretty sure she's going to tear me up when I deliver the news.)

But it all means NOTHING compared to the crazy things that are happening in our world right now.  I've done some preliminary (read: not enough to formulate an intelligent and communicable opinion) research on ISIS and all that's happening in the Middle East. Also I've seen a few news segments on what's going on with Ferguson, MO. All of this in conjunction with America being scarred by Robin William's suicide just makes my heart hurt so badly. It's so easy to forget how important a human life is. Every person on the planet has an immortal soul. There are over 7,000,000,000 souls on earth. This life is short but the next will last forever. Every single soul is of unfathomable worth, so much so that if there were only one who ever sinned, Jesus Christ, God Himself, would come down and be nailed to a Cross so that that person could have eternal salvation.

My heart hurts for the victims of all of these tragedies, but it also hurts for the people who are committing these crimes. I know that God has a plan and uses EVERYTHING for the good of His people, but sometimes it's so difficult to see when it seems like people's hearts are so hardened. It's hard to see how good could come from all of this. But I have hope, and I trust the Lord.

St. James Foley, Martyr for the Faith, pray for us.

18 August 2014

It's Almost Here!!!

That's right! My favorite time of year is almost here. I can tell it by the sun which is rising later and later into my trek to work.

And this girl is SO excited! 

Today, to remind myself why I put myself through another Texas summer, I baked the first Spice Cake of the Fall. A little premature, yes,  I know. But a girl can dream. 

It started last week at Costco. I bought a whole bunch of pears. (As in, one dozen.) I ate three of them in one week and realized I'd need to do something with them before they went bad. So the hunt began.

Then I found an interesting recipe that called for 2-3lbs of pears, and I was set!

First, I peeled and sliced the pears. 

Then I made pear sauce. The pears are sweet enough that there is no need for any sugar. All that's in it is pears, water, cinnamon, a squeeze of lemon and a dash of salt. I will be taking some of this in my lunch this week, for sure. 

Then I added some of the pear sauce to some ap flour, some wheat flour, brown sugar, eggs, butter, baking soda and powder, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and salt. and made a cake!

Then I made a pear frosting with cream cheese, powdered sugar, and pear sauce.

I haven't tried the finished product yet, but I'll let you know how it turns out. 

Patroness of Fall, pray for us! 

03 August 2014

Taste and See that the Lord is Good and Worthy to be Praised!

There are some new initiatives at the Parish I grew up in, which I am extremely excited about. This week in Mass our (new.. ish) Priest announced that we were going to become, as a Parish, more radical followers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Over the past year that he's been with us, he's encouraged his flock to develop a prayer life. He is not the most liturgically strict (orthodox?) Priest I know, but it is apparent that he has a real and intimate relationship with Christ, which is such a breath of fresh air at every single Mass.

Our Parish has 3000 families, which is down 1000 families in the last 15 years. This week he boldly proclaimed that we are, God-willing, going to become an evangelizing Parish. We are going to become a Parish which invites their neighbors to Mass, which constantly is improving their knowledge of the Faith and of God, a Parish who prays. PRAISE GOD!

He has done a great job of casting vision for our little corner of the Church. The result of this vision, at least for now, has meant shaking things up, especially for the children of our Parish. He is adding a Mass in the evenings on Sundays which will have contemporary music. While I'm not a fan of modern Christian music during the Mass, I am thrilled that there will be a Sunday evening Mass. I'm even more excited about a new weekly Parish dinner following the Mass, followed by high school religious education running simultaneously to our Parish's very first adult religious ed classes. I hope we take advantage of the many thought-provoking and engaging theologians and philosophers right down the road at the University of Dallas, and I am extremely interested in seeing the curriculum for this class.

I feel like we are finally beginning to see some of the fruits of JPII's New Evangelization at the Parish level. This is the future of the Church! Get your sunnies, because it's bright!

Saint JPII, pray for us!

01 August 2014

Go Fund Yourself

I have seen some ridiculous stuff on the world wide web lately.

Apparently there is a new website that lets financiers with nothing better to do make judgment calls on how successful your career is going to be before you even finish college. Its called Upstart and is being marketed as the "kickstarter" for student loans. It basically allows you to receive a lump sum upon graduation to pay off your student loans in exchange for a certain percent of your future income, for a certain number of years. (Usually every $6000 equates to about 1% of your income for 15 years or something like that.)

I think it's a risky move for investors because the person could change their mind and instead of practicing medicine, they decide to become a teacher 5 years into their career, or something like that. From the grad's point of view, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense because the amount they pay generally is more than they'd pay if they would just pay off their loans over time, they just apparently don't know how to run a time value of money calculation. (I'm guessing there aren't many finance majors signing up for Upstart.)

It's all a part of this new subconscious line of thinking in our culture that says that if you want something bad enough, you deserve it... or maybe even that something can be deserved. What even does it mean to "deserve" something?

If you think about it in the context of the faith, it doesn't make any sense. No matter how bad you want grace and to be in a relationship with the Lord, you can't deserve grace and you can't earn His love. That being said you're still required to live by His commands. On the other hand, people who have no desire to serve God STILL have grace freely available to them with just one turn of the heart toward Truth. 

So what is it with all of these websites? Upstart, kickstarter, gofundme, crowdfunding. They're all the same. I'm a sweet guitarist and everyone should donate money so I can have a record. I'm a poet but no one gets my work so I'll take donations to do what I want. etc. 

I would imagine that irreligious people would call me a hypocrite for writing this after I worked for FOCUS, and don't get me wrong: I'm not saying anything bad about fundraising. I fundraised my salary for 2 years and it was one of the hardest/most rewarding things I've ever done. There is a fundamental difference, in my opinion, in fundraising through face to face meetings rather than making a webpage, hoping it goes viral, and crossing your fingers. There's a difference in relying on others in the name of the Gospel, and asking strangers to pay for you to go do whatever you want. 

As a financial planner, it's also frustrating to see these type of fundraising pages in response to a certain tragedy. Tragedies happen, they are part of life and they are very sad. But when you get married and especially when you have children, you have a responsibility to your family to protect them from anything that might happen to you. I'm not conditioned to approach financial planning from a risk management point of view, but insurance is SUPER important, and when you're young, it's super cheap! 

Maybe I'm jaded because over half of my take home pay goes to paying off my student loans, or because no one ever gave me a bunch of money to go follow my dreams. But I don't deserve any of that; no one does. I will continue to work hard to pay for the best four years of my life. I will save so that I can buy the things I want, to be able to go the places I want to go, and to live and give how I want. 

Anyone feel like a good solid internet debate about any of these things? Iron sharpens iron!

Patron Saint of People Who Put their Foot in their Mouth, pray for us!