Daily Thought #3

Car break downs suck, but roadside assistance is worth every penny.

It feels good to have her home.

If you think the problem is the other person, maybe it’s really you.

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Daily Thought #2

I got some news last night and it’s really bugging me. I can’t really elaborate on it because it might end up gossip.

I just have to say, a man’s word is vital. When he says something he better mean it and he better stick to it. Otherwise he loses trust.

There are few truly valuable things in life. Trust is one of those things. Once it’s gone, it’s pretty darn hard to get back.

That’s why this news is so tough to process, because now I don’t know if I can trust anymore…

EBT: The Crutch That Keeps On Crippling

I’m hesitant to write this, because it’s a bit embarrassing. Especially considering my position on the State in general.

We are on food stamps.

There, I said it.

One of the reasons I started doing all those odd jobs and writing a series on them is that through several life choices and bad financial decisions we found ourselves in debt and falling behind. Not necessarily insurmountable amounts, but enough that food became something we skimped on.

After several years of stretching a food budget of $100/week to feed a family of seven, we decided that instead of continuing to be hungry a lot, we would rather get into the very system we hate and use the money saved to try to dig out of this debt. It wasn’t an easy choice. Once the card got to us it wasn’t easy to go into the store and face the cashier with it. Being fed with someone else’s money is embarrassing.

But we didn’t intend to stay on SNAP. We intended to improve our situation.

However, now that we have used the system, I am convinced it is not there to help people out of a bad situation. I am convinced that it is merely a system to shovel money into people’s laps whether they need it or not. It is hoped that by dumping this money into the hands of needy people the State will come out looking like a benevolent nanny, leading people out of poverty and somehow stimulatong the economy with money that it removed from the economy in the first place.

Why am I convinced of this?

Well, for one, the whole setup disincentivises work. Just like my experience with unemployment, SNAP reduces its benefits commensurate with any increase in income. That increase in income could be as simple as a few extra overtime hours, or a bonus for working harder. This adjustment is of course intended to make sure benefits only go to those who truly need it. Obviously anyone who works hard and makes more money doesn’t need the help. The obvious unintended consequence of this is that people only work as much as they have to to ensure they keep the maximum benefit. Why work more when one knows one will lose a certain amount of “free” money?

The other interesting effect of having our SNAP benefit reduced commensurate with an increase (even temporarily) in pay is that now we have less money to pay back debts and dig ourselves out of the hole. Sure, our monthly income increased by $600 for that month, but instead of having that money available for reducing debt and pulling ourselves out of the hole, we have to spend that extra on groceries instead. And since that increase was only temporary, once a normal paycheck comes in, we are back to our original $100/week budget, and square one.

SNAP is a crutch, but instead of being a crutch that helps families heal from financial difficulties, this crutch just keeps them crippled by reducing incentives to work and reducing the ability to make any headway in paying down debts.

I have a few suggestions for this program, not that anyone with any power will listen.

The first is this: hire financial advisors. Ask SNAP applicants about their debt, ask them about their income, ask them about their monthly food budget. Find out what they are going to do with the money they save on food. Are they going to pay down debt? Are they going to get an education? What are they doing with their subsidy? Help them formulate a plan to improve their situation so they can get off of the system.

The second: don’t reduce benefits because of overtime, bonuses, or temporary increases in earnings. Instead, track what the SNAP user is doing with that extra income. If they squander it, perhaps there is a reason to reduce benefits. If they are using it to better themselves, don’t knock their legs out from under them by reducing their food allowance.

Third: base benefits off of base income. This goes hand in hand with the last one. If benefits are based on base salary the incentive to work overtime remains the same.

Fourth: eliminate the system altogether. This may be the least politically correct way to handle the problem but it would force local communities to do something about hungry people in their midst. It may also create an incentive to form insurance type food programs. Members pay a monthly fee to a “food insurance” type program which pays them back a weekly stipend for times when money is tight.

Personally I long for the day when I am debt free and financially stable. We thought SNAP would help with that goal, we couldn’t have been more wrong.

Daily Thought #1

Today I am going to start a little record of my daily thoughts. It may be daily, it may not. We shall see.

There is a current “debate” raging in Reformed circles that goes like this:

Side A:”Christ became a wiggling baby so He could get close to us.”

Side B: “No He didn’t! He took on flesh for the Glory of God the Father!”

To which I answer:

“Why not both?”

Christ did come as close to us as possible to us by becoming one of us. He took on all the infirmities of humanity, He was hungry, He wept, I’m sure He got sick on occasion. There is no debate that He became a wiggling baby.

Perhaps we should hone in on the definition of “us”. Properly understood, Christ is close to Christians, we are the “us” that He came to be close to.

Was all of this taking on flesh just to be close to Christians? Of course not. All things Christ did was to glorify the Father.

Can we get back to more important things as Christians? Like reaching the lost?

Why Do I Write?

I wish I had a full sized Matisse… And a desk… And a quill pen….

Why write?

Why write when you are pretty sure no one is reading?

Why write when it gets stressful to keep pumping out posts?

I ask myself those questions sometimes. It can get crazy trying to manage real life and keep up with a blog (or two or three). Sometimes it’s a strain to come up with ideas about what to write. Sometimes I write a complete dud. I had a friend once who wanted to do a podcast with me, like I have time or energy for that! No, blogging is enough.

But why do I do it?

Once upon a time I wrote poetry. Loads of it. I had enough teenage angst to fuel all kinds of creative output. I was published a few times in some random youth anthologies and school lit mags. It was fun, but with age came a dwindling of talent.

In those days I even wrote songs. A few were recorded by my wife’s (then girlfriend) guitar instructor. He hated me. At least the recordings were okay.

Growing up, I was fairly political. I had tons of opinions. I made bumper stickers for my car, some of which I am now greatly ashamed of. My university had a well-read paper and I put my political thoughts and writing skills into innumerable letters to the editor. Some were published, most were not.

After college I went into a bit of a writing hibernation. I had written so many papers and reports that I was spent. It took several years before I started to write randomly again. It was mostly political, but after some prodding I started my first blog about my exploits as a homesteading parent. It was a short lived blog.

Giving up on the blog, I holed up in writing commentaries on social and political subjects. All of them were saved as Word documents, pointlessly hidden on my hard drive.

Knowing how much I enjoy writing, my wife encouraged me to start a new blog. Thus was born Drip Torch Press. It has not always been an easy thing, but I have tried to stay fairly consistent in posting at least once a week. It’s certainly helpful to have the ability to schedule posts out weeks ahead of time. If you ever notice that the posts have stopped, just know that I died weeks ago.

So why do I do it? The big reason: catharsis. As someone who struggles with anxiety it is imperative that I have an outlet for my jumbled brain. The benefit of having a place to dump my thoughts and collect them into little piles is immeasurable.

Having this project is also a perfect way to increase focus. With anxiety comes a frequently scattered brain. It is healthy to have a place that distracts the mind and focuses it on one thing at a time. Learning how to focus here translates into learning focus elsewhere.

Writing to an audience, big or small, is also an ego boost. If I didn’t have a blog my narcissistic tendencies would probably channel themselves into destructive and annoying habits. At least here the recognition is deserved, not just expected.

And last but not least (until I think of another reason) I write for money. I try to impress people into buying my photos and paintings (it hasn’t worked). I post all of these posts on Steemit, which over the course of a year and a half has allowed me to buy into the cryptocurrency markets. It’s a slow trickle, but a trickle nonetheless.

One day I will be able to buy a cup of coffee and say “I earned this from doing something I love!”

That is the goal…

Music and Art Monday, June 25th, 2018: A New Song

I had an urge the other night to play guitar. This is not an urge I have very often, since I got so out of practice with the instrument that I get annoyed by it. But since I had the urge I rolled with it.

I even wrote a song.

Yep, it’s literally been years since I wrote a song. At least that’s how I remember it. So I decided I wasn’t going to get up from the table until I had something written. It’s simple and not very eloquent but I kinda like how it turned out.

I’m a little surprised at how hard it was to get out. I guess years of slacking off will build that kind of rust on a mind.

The wife’s out of town, so I was a bit lonely. But the words really aren’t about her, well, not entirely anyway.

Here are the lyrics:

I met a girl with a rebel heart,
She looked to me for a brand new start.
She told me she’d never part,
But now she’s left with her rebel heart.

Now I’m less a man inside,
Feeling just like I died,
When she left me and I cried,
Oh I cried.

It took us years to get a start,
Built a life despite her rebel heart,
She told me she’d never part,
But now she’s left with her rebel heart.

Now I’m less a man inside,
Feeling just like I died,
When she left me and I cried,
Oh I cried.

I may have deviated a little here and there and the chord progression isn’t perfect. But without further ado here is a link to Rebel Heart:

https://d.tube/v/driptorchpress/h7sd1inc

Inky Blackness

I’m sorry, is my negativity showing?

Sometimes I lie awake in inky blackness, wondering why I can’t seem to get it right.

Which buttons do I push to get this whole thing to work?

How much do I have to grope around in the night?

Sometimes I wish I was an optimist.

And not just a long term optimist, but one who knows today is OK.

I want to be the optimist who knows he won’t forever be swallowed by a suffocating and inky blackness.

That’s not too much to ask, is it? That’s not a tall order once you are done tackling your anxiety.

Once you kill the thought that everything is not OK. Once you put to death the belief that your needs will not be met.

When those wicked thoughts are in their graves, then comes the optimism, right?

I am optimistically hoping so.