Greetings Gentle Reader,

Considering the financial news of the day, this might be a good times to discuss finances: We have been reminded on a regular basis that there always have been, and there always will be, tricky times in the financial world. The ticket for us is to be prepared. Unfortunately, that can be more easily said than done.

A good man of my acquaintance said that he had put himself through college by being a janitor, and now, he was putting his children through college by, once again, being a janitor. That dear man always had at least as many expenses as he had money. He will probably never become rich, but he has always had enough for his and his family’s needs. Such people learn to be frugal, and that frugality stands them in good stead, when the financial world gets the hiccups.

So, how about the rest of us? Have we learned to keep ourselves out of financial deep water, or do we tell ourselves (regularly and often) that it will be okay. After all, we know how to swim.
The one thing we may have forgotten to tell ourselves is the unpleasant fact that financial deep water tends to be full of sharks, and sharks really like naive swimmers. They make a tasty tidbit, and few of them have the financial expertise to recognize a shark, especially if he has a sufficiently charming smile, and a genteel manner.

Many sharks have promoted types of mortgages that are close to impossible to repay. Others are true professionals at convincing couples, especially young couples, that they really need new furniture. It’s not simply that they want it, but they truly need it.

Once upon a time, a friend told me their neighborhood had become so dangerous, with regular home invasions and the like, that they had sold their house and moved to a safe neighborhood. Unfortunately, the deteriorating circumstances in their original neighborhood had caused property values to drop, so they didn’t have enough money to buy their new house outright. That was unfortunate, but they compounded the problem by convincing themselves that their nice, new house needed nice, new furniture.

As a result they ended up with such an increase in expense that they continually struggled to avoid financial ruin. All other expenses were cut to a bare minimum, and still, they barely made it from month to month.

The temptation to declare bankruptcy is ever present, but it should only be indulged in the most extreme circumstances. A loss of employment can create conditions of dire poverty, as can catastrophic illness, but it is imperative that we avoid declaring bankruptcy, unless all else fails. The most important element in avoiding bankruptcy is a determination not to spend more money than we have. If we have ten dollars, never spend more than eight.

In today’s America, luxuries have become necessities, so we are going to have to retreat to the values of our parents and grandparents. They were pretty simple: If we can’t pay cash, we can’t afford it.

That may seem too simplistic, but it actually works, and nothing else does.

Until next time,
Muriel Sluyter

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Greetings, Gentle Reader,

What do you think is the most destructive force or event, so far as the health of your family is concerned? There are a lot of candidates. Bad friends, drug and/or alcohol addiction, inattentive parents, an irresponsible parent, abusive parents, an unfaithful parent, predatory friends or relatives, etc.

Actually, it is probably none of the above. The most destructive thing I have seen in my years and in my experience is divorce of the parents. Now, I have to qualify that at least a little bit. The actions of the custodial parent are tremendously important. If that parent is stable, supportive, constructive and in charge, the children may not do too badly, but if they end up with the least responsible of the two parents, they are in for a very rough ride. Even worse, they are probably in for a rough life, as are their own future children and marriage partner.

Unfortunately, if the non-custodial parent is disruptive, irresponsible and demanding of visitation by the children, and if an uninterested and/or irresponsible judge forces the children to visit that parent, then those children are going to suffer extreme and usually permanent damage. It is not uncommon for such children to rebel against both the custodial parent and society in general during their teen years, and this is especially the case if the non-custodial parent is a deliberate instigator.

If the family has been a stable, nourishing family during the early years of their various offsprings’ childhood, the older children may not do too badly, but the younger ones often become self-destructive and/or predatory.

When these children grow up, it will be very hard for some of them, perhaps most of them, to be a responsible partner in a marriage. Perhaps the worst thing they have learned is that divorce is the proper solution to difficulties in marriage. Instead of determinedly sticking it out when the going gets tough, and it will, too many of them will head for the divorce court. Then one more generation of innocent children, their own, will become the victims of that parent’s destructive attitude toward the vicissitudes of life, especially married life.

We parents must realize how real and destructive the effects of divorce are on children, then we must make sure our behavior toward our mate is not such that it will cause the tragedy of divorce. Our words are the most destructive in the early stages of a marriage, so we must learn to speak kindly and respectfully to our mate at all times, and we must learn the words, "I’m sorry."

Then we must concentrate on being unselfish, because selfishness tends to be the root of so much marital unhappiness. Next, we must work on being responsible. That is something that will grow as we go through the years. It just seems to be a part of becoming mature, but the sooner we start it, the sooner we will get there.

If we want the best for our children, and almost all of us do, then we must make sure to be the best marriage partner. That way our children stand a very good chance of growing up secure, contented, steady and responsible in their own right. Most parents can’t ask for more than that.

Until next time,
Muriel Sluyter

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Greetings Gentle Reader,

'Tis the season of harvest, a time that almost has been lost in our urban culture. The paved streets and parking lots of big cities have little interest in harvest time. The only problem is falling leaves, then slick streets and snowy parking lots as the season advances, but nothing else really matters. Yet it would be unwise for us to lose our understanding of the Law of the Harvest. And that is? Simple, if you don't sow, you won't reap.

Sounds sufficiently boring to be ignored by almost everyone. Right? It shouldn't, it is extremely important. Let's run through a little of it: If you don't lovingly train your son, he will go out into the world unloved and probably a menace to both himself and the rest of humanity, untrained and both incapable and unwilling to live with the guidelines of civilized society. That's the Law of the Harvest in action. A little more complicated than it seemed, isn't it?

If I plant carrots, I will not harvest lettuce. If I do not educate my child, I will have an uneducated child, who cannot feed himself or the family he will probably start. If I do not teach him to treat holy things with reverence, he will grow up mocking sacred things and concepts. If I teach him to be gentle with those he loves, he will rear children who know they are valuable human beings.

How do I know these things? My father loved me and was gentle with me. He treated me as though I were the most important little girl in this world. The result? I knew my Heavenly Father loved me. I knew my Savior loved me. I knew I was a valuable human being.

He didn't treat me as though I were a little princess who had greater value than others, but like his much loved and valued little daughter. As a result, I knew I had value as a person. I knew I was lovable and worth loving.

How many of today's children know they are lovable and worthy of love and respect? Too many do not. Girl's who do not know these valuable facts are vulnerable to abuse of every type, and somehow the abusers can see them coming. It is a rare unloved girl who escapes them.

At least as sad is the man who grew up unloved. He will often become the one who abuses the unloved girls. He may join a gang, because of his intense need for acceptance.

Parents, we know how to solve this problem. Let's put our backs into it and get it done every day of our lives. We can do so. We simply need to recognize its importance and move forward. Your little girls and boys trust you to do so. Don't let them down.

There's more to the Law of the Harvest than we thought, isn't there?

Until next time,
Muriel Sluyter

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Gentle Reader,

As a result of unusually foolish monetary policies on the part of our federal government, we are seeing financial dominoes fall one after another, and the pace is picking up at an alarming rate.

Many of our citizens have lived their financial lives just as our government has done, and their financial chickens are coming home to roost, one after another. Those chickens are looking a little ragged, as though they have flown through a whirlwind, and some of them have been picked clean. If they were put in a pot for Sunday dinner, the family that owns them would have mighty lean pickings.

Now that we have exhausted the chicken dinner metaphor, lets use some real language: We Americans have been spending like 19 year old sailors on shore leave, and we have the bills to prove it. Not only is this not good, it is very bad. Families fall apart over this sort of thing, because the stress can get pretty intense.

The old American saying, "I’m going to talk to you like a Dutch uncle," is now in play, because I really am going to talk to you like a penny-pinching old Gramma, which is how I think Dutch Uncles must talk.

Our families are spending more money than they have. That’s the bottom line. They are going out to dinner, and going to fast food drive-ins, and when they do cook, half of it ends up in the garbage disposal. Why? Because it didn’t come from the family’s favorite fast food place, and, besides, almost none of the last two or three generations of Americans have been told, "NO!"

It’s a perfectly good word. Try it out. It may never roll off the tongue with the grace and dignity of a Frenchman ordering wine, but it’s a good word, and, most of all, it works!

American kids have too many clothes, and they don’t value them. Why? Because they don’t have to pay for them; all they have to do is ask. Worse, the money that goes to buy those clothes doesn’t have to come out of the fast-food-restaurant bill, because many of them are bought on a credit card. Worse yet, Mom or Dad will pay the credit card, so their offspring can and will buy more clothes than they can ever wear, and they will still be totally irresponsible where money is concerned. It grows on trees, right?

We parents have caused this problem. Why? Because most of us have never gone hungry. The Americans who settled this country and those who lived through the depression and went without a great deal, including adequate food, are either long dead or mostly in their last decade or two of life, so kids can’t imagine how those still around can know anything about life in the 21st century. So why should they listen to them?

Parents, it’s time for us to clean up our act. We have let our kids down by not teaching them to go without, by giving them too much and asking too little from them.

Now to our government: it has almost run out of credit cards, which is a very good thing, but there is a very bad side to this: Countries that consider us their enemy are the ones who own those credit cards, and they may demand payment anytime. That is unusually risky. For right now, it pays them to let us get into financial trouble, because it means they own part of us, but they may demand payment whenever they want, and we don’t and won’t have the money to pay them back. We have squandered it on social programs that turn our citizens into irresponsible, dependent children, standing around with their hands held out for more goodies.

America was not created for governmental goodies. It was created so our ancestors could have freedom and self-determination. All that was required of them was hard work, responsible behavior and sacrifice. Modern Americans fall short on all three. It’s time for us to grow up. Our ancestors had to do so, now it’s our turn.

Until next time,
Muriel Sluyter

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How often have parents heard that plea? Perhaps I should be a little more specific and ask, "How often have 20th or 21st century American parents heard that plea?" I’m not sure how common it is in other countries where there is and has been less affluence, so I will confine the question to Americans and, perhaps, Canadians.

Back to the subject at hand: Why do I ask this question? Because, I think this circumstance is indicative of modern families, who may have more money than wisdom. It is not uncommon for Mom to get a job, after the kids are mostly grown, so that often means there is an increase in household money. It happens about the time Junior learns to mount an effective petition. In fact, the latter follows the former as dependably as pimples follow double chocolate fudge sundaes!

Junior has a lot of expenses, and some of them are actually legitimate! And Oh, my, wouldn’t it be just great if Mom and/or Dad would underwrite them! As I have previously, and perhaps infamously, declared, teenage boys are 95 parts testosterone and foolishness and 5 parts good sense. Now, they don’t agree with me, but I stick to my position, and I defy anyone under the age of twenty to prove me wrong. The poor beleaguered parents of this world are nodding their heads so vigorously they are in danger of losing what few marbles they have succeeded in squirreling away during these trying years of parenting modern teens.

But I digress. Back to the discussion at hand: We modern parents have become patsies. The kids see us coming! Even worse, they have lived with us so long, they have our number! They know just how to get around our defenses. But are we being wise to let them get away with it? I’m not sure we are being wise, or even being kind. Sooner or later they will have to start living in a real world, and it is better for them if it happens sooner, rather than later.

Why do I say that? Because they have to learn how to handle money, and they have to learn that saving it is wiser than spending it. They have to learn how to differentiate their wants from their needs. Perhaps the hardest part for them to learn is that food, four or five articles of clothing and a roof to keep off the rain or four walls and a roof to keep out the cold are their only true essentials. Shoes are nice, but a large percentage of the world’s people have none. Soap is great and showers are better, but they won’t lose their lives if they have neither. Just ask GIs who have seen combat.

Unfortunately, American kids think McDonald’s is a necessity, or is it Burger King? And then there is that thing of movies every night. Neither is more than a modern luxury, and they must learn to finance their own luxuries, otherwise they will continue to think of them as necessities.
We parents can do this, and, for our kids sake, we must. By the time they leave home, they must be able to stand on their own two feet, but they never will, unless they learn the difference between necessities and luxuries. Teaching them is our job, and we must not abdicate that responsibility.

Muriel Sluyter

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When that first little bundle of joy comes into your home, you know he/she is going to be perfect, because you are going to be the perfect parent. Oh, how would it be!

Somewhere along about that first year, you discover that this little creature, for whom you would give your very life, is a totally separate human being. No matter how perfect you are as a parent, he doesn’t always respond as you expected him to do. When you are kind and loving, even adoring, he is supposed to respond in kind. But he doesn’t. You walk him; you feed him; you rock him; you sing to him; you snuggle him, and what does he do? He shrieks bloody murder!

Later on, you tell him not to pull the cat’s tail, so he pulls it. You tell him not to hit the dog, so he hits it. You tell him not to climb up on the table and break the china, so he climbs and he breaks. You tell him not to throw his food on the floor, so he throws it. You get the picture. Somewhere, somehow, someone chucked a monkey wrench betwixt your dreams and your reality, and it landed with a tremendous splash, all over you, yet!

What happened? This was your most adored little angel, and now there are times when all you want to do is put him in his crib, go out, close the door and pretend you are still a perfectly normal person, which of course, you are not. How could you be when your much adored, sweet smelling nemesis is screaming his head off behind that door, you know, that door that is supposed to be your magic carpet to sanity?

By now, you have discovered that you can be the perfect mother until the cows come home, but this little stinker is never going to be the perfect child. He is going to torment you within an inch of your sanity.

Right about then, when you are beginning to wonder how you got to be such a failure as a mother, he carries his crying little sister in from outside, sits down on the couch and cuddles and comforts her. You watch in astonishment as the little rascal who tormented her mercilessly a few minutes ago, kisses and hugs her, crooning comforting sounds that you recognize. Why? Because you have been crooning those very sounds to him since his birth, whenever he was in need of comfort.

The next day he drives you crazy while you try your best to get him to kindergarten on time. Soon, his teacher calls and tells you that your son has just stood strong and defended a smaller child, who was being picked on. She says you must be proud of having such a kind, brave boy. What is happening? Is this the boy who drives his little sister almost crazy?

Yes, this is, indeed, that boy. What is happening? That’s not too hard to figure out. The day, weeks, months and years of being the perfect mother (Oh, how would that be?) are beginning to pay off. You have been kind to him. You have been loving and protective of him, now he is mirroring what you have taught him. He is giving to others what you have given to him.

Bottom line? Keep your head up, Mom and Dad. You will get there. He will be a pain in the neck when he is a teenager, but he will outgrow it. Just train him in his duty to his Heavenly Father, while you are training him in his duty to his earthly parents and siblings. Teach him the importance of honor, of decency and virtue. Start the day he is born and never stop.

Last of all, model what you teach. Actions really do speak more loudly that words. The words are needed, but they don’t carry the weight your actions will carry.

Love him and send him out in the world. He will come back battered and scarred, but that is OK too. You are carrying a few scars of your own.

Until next time,

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When our ancestors came to this continent from the old world, whether from one country or another, most of them came seeking freedom. There were those who came for riches, but most of the hard-working, laboring class came for freedom of one sort or another.

In all the countries of the old world, the class system was firmly entrenched. You didn’t move from class to class. Even if you were a lazy slug, your countrymen treated you according to your class, meaning men of honor and good character bowed down to the most worthless of the upperclass.

When our ancestors came here, they brought that system with them. But in this land there was a difference: the continent was huge, and a courageous, hard-worker could go elsewhere if he wanted. He didn’t have to submit to servitude. Even if he had come as a bond servant, meaning he would serve the man who paid his passage to this country, that was for a finite period of time. When he had paid for his passage with a period of servitude, he became a free man.

Now he could worship or refuse to worship, as he chose, because the religious tyrants were elsewhere. The Pilgrims came here for religious freedom and to bring Christianity to the Indians. They had been persecuted, including imprisoned, tortured and executed for their beliefs in the old countries of Europe, now they were free.

What have we done with that freedom? Do we still value it? Or have we allowed those who are, or want to be, our leaders to convince us that healthcare, childcare, school loans, big houses, expensive cars and money are what our citizenship is all about?

In a few short words, have we abandoned the goals our ancestors valued? Do we still teach our children that this is a country like no other on earth? Do we remember to tell them that some of their ancestors died to bring them citizenship in this free country? Do we make them understand that they must not only fight to preserve their freedom when necessary, but they must live according to the precepts required to retain that freedom?

There are certain behaviors, the indulgence in which precludes the maintenance of freedom: intemperance, laziness, failure to value that freedom and downright wickedness. In short, freedom is our reward for struggling to be a virtuous people, a diligent people, and a grateful people. When we cease to be these things, when we cease even to struggle to be these things, our very wickedness will forge our fetters.

Until next time,

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We are admonished by both our present-day leaders and our modern scriptures to seek out righteous people to represent us, both locally and nationally. Sometimes we become discouraged, as we try to find the least flawed of two or more flawed humans. So, how do we make these types of decision? With prayer, of course, but we can’t stop there.

Let’s go back to the very basics; how do the two or more measure up on the most elementary levels? Let’s start with respect for the life of our little ones. We know that to play fast and loose with human life is to take our own eternal salvation in our hands. So, how do we decide when a baby is a human being? Do we have the capacity, the knowledge, to make such a decision? What would our Heavenly Father tell us, if we could ask Him; would He tell us to figure it out according to the values and convictions of those around us, or would He expect more of us How about truthfulness? Do they say one thing one day, depending on their audience, then say something else before a different audience? It is to be expected that an individual’s convictions will change, as years go by, but not from one week to the next, nor from one audience to the next.

Has the candidate we are considering ever been involved, without question, in corruption? Is this person for sale, if the price is right? What are his or her friends like? Have they been involved in corruption? It is a very correct concept that a person becomes more and more like his closest associates every day. So, who is he or she becoming like? We must know the answer to this one.

Finally, and this is very important, has this person always been faithful to his mate? And if he has not, has he defended his unfaithfulness, or has he expressed regret and shame at his moral failure? These things are of great importance, if we are to prepare ourselves to make wise decisions.

This is a perilous time in our nation’s history, indeed, a perilous time in human history. We must be as diligent as we can be in our selection of representatives, so we must not neglect the responsibility to investigate those who would become our leaders and to make wise decisions, decisions we could defend before our Heavenly Father, if we had to do so.

Until next time,

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