Monthly Archives: February 2010

A Glimpse of a Butterfly

   In this garden we call earth, we get to view beauty and splendor: the greenery of vegetation; the soft petals of flowers; the tapestry of a sunset sky; the patterned randomness of the clouds; the awe of the butterfly. Sometimes we get just a glimpse, sometimes a long look at a butterfly, which chances to come into our view. We behold the wonderment and beauty of its patterns and colors. We look in amazement to how delicate the wings are but yet strong enough to flutter the butterfly away. Then, without warning, the butterfly takes flight and leaves our view. We close our eyes and try to capture the image in our mind’s eye. We attempt to catalog the beauty into that space where we keep precious memories.

   This is how I feel about the funeral viewing of someone you love. It is your last chance to glimpse the beauty and wonderment of the body that represented someone’s life. I wrote and said the following prayer for the children of my Butterfly. I hope that it brought them comfort. I hope that it will bring comfort to you as well.

Viewing Prayer, Laura A. VerDow Santelli, 10/06/1957 – 2/20/2010

LORD*, we come to You now through Your Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

  Before us is the body of Your loving daughter, Laura, my Butterfly, Mom – now and always to these beloved children.  Her body is here for us to mourn, but we know that her soul is alive and dwelling with You.  We are comforted to know that she is no longer suffering, that she is at peace and present in Your Glory.

LORD, I raise these children, Jenn & Chris, up to You.  Comfort them through their grief.  Like others, they will miss their mother dearly.  Their mother was such a large part of their lives.  Help them care for each other and see each other through their life struggles.  Watch over them.  Protect them.  Fill their hearts with the knowledge of Your love and that of their mother.  Let them know the kind of love that never fades.

The apostles asked Jesus when He would return.  He said, “In a little while.” That was over 2,000 years ago.  In that light, we are here but a brief time.  So, Mom, your wait will be short.  Soon, we will be with your loving heart once again.

Thank you, LORD, for blessing these children with such a loving mother.  Thank You for placing her in my life.  Take care of her and love her.  We love her and miss her.  Have mercy on us and keep us strong.

In the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, we pray these things.

Amen

 *The original prayer used Jehovah, one of the many names of God.

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My Butterfly Became An Angel

   My best friend passed away in her sleep during the early hours of February 20, 2010. It is not often that a person impacts your life in such a short time. I met her in October 2008. Just 16 months later, she was gone. I was attracted by her kindness and her loving heart. She was seeking the kind of love that was spiritually based. She wasn’t sure that kind of love was even possible. She appreciated all that I did which made it easier to do even more.

   We had a “safe” relationship. We could share anything with each other. She felt comfortable enough to cry in my arms and that she did often. She cried not because she was weak but as an outlet from being overwhelmed while being so strong.

   Butterfly’s children were her life. Their care and comfort were always her first concern. In the short time we had together, she learned that she could take time for herself as well. She did not get out as much as she had liked before meeting me. I made it a point to visit museums with her which always seemed to fascinate her. I even indulged her love for casinos with limits as to how much she could lose.

   Butterfly felt compelled to end our romantic relationship when she was spending time in and out of the hospital. She wanted me to move on so that I would not be tied down by her illness. I balked and argued but she stubbornly insisted. I finally agreed but could not be drawn away from such a loving heart. I kept in close contact with her by phone, texting and weekly visits.

   We continued to feel comfortable with each other. I was honored and privileged to be her emotional outlet. The most profound lesson I’ve ever learned was revealed to me when I cared for my father in the last 19 weeks of his life. You don’t help people die, you help them to live until they can’t live anymore. This was not my goal with my Butterfly as I did not realize her time with me would be so short. But this too has been a lesson. I will now help everyone live until they can’t live anymore as we do not know what tomorrow will bring. I do hope I brought joy to her life. I know that she brought joy to mine.

   I promised her that I would show her what God’s love looked like; that agape love IS possible. I hope that I had enough time to keep that promise.

   To my Butterfly,

   Although your body is here on the ground, I know your soul was heavenbound. I know you’re there in God’s loving care, no longer suffering, but at rest. We will see you soon, when we depart. We will soon again feel your loving heart. I love you deeply. I love you true. We all love you and we all miss you. You are my Butterfly and you always will be. But now you are an Angel; your soul is free. Butterfly, I love you and I always will.

   The Dash!

   There is no fiction in the words above. My Butterfly was known to the world as Laura A. (VerDow) Santelli. She was born, raised and passed away in Newark, NY. Her life spanned from 1957 – 2010. She was 52 when she passed. Hey did you see it? Did you see that dash? That dash represents a persons life. This is how Laura touched my life. This is what her dash means to me.

   If there was a special person in your life, please leave a comment about how they touched your life and what his or her “dash” means to you.

   Take care, stay well and be safe. Love to everyone. – Justin

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How are you spending?

This is the fourth article in the My Second Million series.

 So, how are you spending your money? Where are you spending your money? And finally – how much are you spending? This is the next step after you take your net worth snapshot. You know where you are, now its time to seek direction.

 Money slips out of our hands so easily: a dollar in the vending machine; a cappuccino on the way to work; the $6 value meal; and pizza night or two or three. Sometimes we don’t realize where the money goes.

This exercise is to show you how you are spending your money. How you track this is up to you. You can carry a small notebook and record every transaction like a check register. You can simply note the category and the amount. You can track it in a hand held computer, or even use an online service. The important thing is that you track every spending transaction for 30 days and I mean every transaction. Yep, even that 75 cent bag of chips from the vending machine.

 Fast forward; 30 days have gone by and you have your notations. Now we find out where you spent your money and how much. How much did you spend on vending machine snacks? How many times did you eat out? How much did you spend of lunches? How much did you spend on gas? Did any of this surprise you? I bed it did. Isn’t it surprising how quickly these expenditures add up? A ten here, a twenty there, a dollar over there, soon it adds up to hundreds of dollars.

OK, now that you know where you are spending your money, you can now change how you spend your money. Don’t put yourself on austerity budget right away. You will end up feeling deprived and go on a spending binge. Kinda sounds like dieting doesn’t it. In a way it is like dieting. Dieting is usually not successful unless you change the way you eat as a life change. Financial fitness requires the same kind of commitment. You want the changes to last for a lifetime. So change incrementally and develop new spending habits, positive habits that will grow your net worth and give you financial freedom.

 Look for simple ways to cut back expenses, such as: bag lunches, ride sharing, reduce energy usage, seek lower interest transfers of credit debt, combining errands to save gas, buy non-perishables in bulk, seek value as well as price, etc.

Knowing these things gives you control. This gives you power. Now you know where and how you spend your money. How you continue to choose to spend your money is up to you. You might even ask yourself why you spend money in a certain way. Is t to impress your coworkers? Are you buying friendship? If so, then understand that these are false relationship builders. Do you buy comfort foods? I do, but I also look for other ways to relax. You can too.

 Where are you financially? How are you spending? These questions are the beginning of your financial fitness journey. Your answers will determine your success.

I wish you much love and abundance. Take care, stay well and be safe.

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Relationships and Intimacy

   Valentine’s Day is here and thoughts of romance are in the air. Some relish in their romantic relationships, others are in anguish because they wish for romance. These types of holidays are always bittersweet. I draw your attention to intimacy, romantic or not, and the incredible love that is found there. Like other holidays, Valetine’s Day should be an everyday affair.

   Love is simple, relationships are very difficult. There are so many different kinds of connections that create relationships, not just romantic or physical. This is a list of possible connections that create various relationships with others;

   Social = friends, acquaintances, co-workers

   Family = relatives both close and not so close

   Spiritual = religious, beliefs

   Caregiving = all aspects

   Professional = client, service worker, customer, supervisor

   Sensual = significant other, life partner, sexual

   Greater/Lesser = Teacher/Student, Supervisor/Employee, Parent/Child

       You can connect to others in one or more of these ways. The relationship that you have depends on what connected you in the first place as well as where the relationship may grow or change. Relationships are fluid. They can and do change. Just because a relationship changes, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t remain precious. I still love and care about the women I have known in my life. My wife of 20 years was a wonderful woman. I suppose that there were needs that I could not fulfill and that my wife could not have filled otherwise within our marriage. Our relationship ended badly but it doesn’t erase the many, many years of love, wonder and beauty that we had. I will always be grateful for that time and for her. Other relationships had their own uniqueness and their own treasures and tortures. I will hold on to the beautiful memories and lessons from them as well. I have made friends, lost friends, connected and disconnected with relatives. Relationships are in constant flux. We must accept them as so.

   When someone says “relationship” though, we usually think of a romantic connection, which certainly is possible. In regards to a romantic connection, it can vary in intensity depending on the level of intimacy. Intimacy is a connection that is very deep, very complete and very safe. If you can speak your heart to someone without fear, then you are experiencing intimacy.

   You can share intimacy without sex. You can share sex without intimacy. Sex and intimacy can be enjoyed together.

    Intimacy is not just between lovers. It can exist between any two individuals who allow themselves to be a safe haven for each other. If a romantic relationship also involves intense intimacy, then that relationship is indeed strong. There are different types of intimacy. You can experience one or more of these types. The more ways you experience intimacy with a particular person, the deeper your love and connection can reach.

    Intimacy can be obtained on these levels: emotional, intellectual, sexual, spiritual, and physical. Intimacy means real connection. Intimacy means trust. Intimacy means giving yourself completely to someone because you know they have only your best interest at heart. Intimacy means not expecting perfection but expecting sincere effort and granting forgiveness. Intimacy means the risk of exposing your very soul. Intimacy is an incredible form of love, romantic or not.

  You can share intimacy without sex. You can share sex without intimacy. Sex and intimacy can be enjoyed together.

   Some think sex and intimacy are the same. Mostly men think this. I can say this as I am a man. Intimacy is a skill. It must be learned. It must be experienced. It must be practiced. It comes easier to women, I think, because they are taught to nurture and to be caring, and are probably naturally inclined that way. Boys may be too, but I was taught that boys don’t cry, they don’t show emotion as that denotes weakness, which I have since unlearned. So ladies, be gentle with us. We need to be taught that intimacy is possible and that it is different from sex.

   You can share intimacy without sex. You can share sex without intimacy. Sex and intimacy can be enjoyed together.

    You can have an intimate relationship with people who you have no desire to have sex with. You can have an intimate relationship with a friend, a relative, a mentor, or anyone else you have trust and respect for. Most importantly, you can have an intimate relationship with God. God certainly loves you. God wants what is best for you. God is a safe haven for everyone. Find intimacy with God and you can share yourself easier with others.

   Emotional intimacy allows you to cry, to laugh, to scream, to be still and allow yourself to be loved. Intellectual intimacy allows you to share ideas, dreams and thoughts without fear of ridicule or rejection. Sexual intimacy allows you to give your body and to share theirs for the glory of sensations that our minds and body crave. Spiritual intimacy allows us to solidify our faith in others, in ourselves, and in God. Physical intimacy is a handshake, a warm hug, a kiss, the holding of hands, a shoulder massage, an abandonment of personal space that welcomes the touch and closeness of another. Guys, this is called “cuddling” – a powerful way to show your love.

   During this time of Valentine, don’t just concentrate on romance, but think about all the different kinds of relationships that you have. Think about the level of intimacy that you have with different people. Let those lucky enough to have intimacy in your relationship know how much you love and appreciate them. Love is a tremendous gift and a powerful force. And never forget, grow your intimacy with God.

   God bless you. Take care, stay well and be safe.

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Where are you financially?

This is the third installment  in My Second Million series.

   Before you can get where you want to go, you first need to know where you are. One quick way to do that is to determine your net worth. I recommend that you do a rough and simple net worth calculation.

   Write down and add up your assets: home, vehicles, retirement accounts, checking, savings, etc. You can even add the value of antiques and jewelry if the item is valued at $500 or more. I do not add values of life insurance policies or accounts dedicated to college funding, as this is not my money. Life insurance is for your heirs, and school savings is for your children.

   Then write down and add up your liabilities: mortgage, car loans, credit card balances, student loans, etc. Now, subtract your liabilities from your assets. The result is your net worth. It can be large, small or even a negative number. The larger the number the better but don’t worry too much if it’s negative. Persons just starting out will usually have a negative net worth. They have had little time to build assets and could be settled with mortgage and student loan debt.

   OK, so now you know your net worth – now what? Now you know where you are. You can begin tracking your progress. I recommend you recalculate your net worth at the end of each month. This will show you your progress. You want this number to grow. Guess what? Life happens. Your car might break down, your furnace quits, the stock market dives, or some other emergency occurs. Your net worth will be impacted, so don’t get too upset if it doesn’t grow every month. How does your net worth grow? Simple, when debts go down and assets go up.

   Now where are you going? That is a question best answered by you, but at least you have a starting point. You also have an overall picture of what your financial state looks like. It is easy to lose track of where you’re going without this picture. Knowing where you are also gives you a sense of control. Regardless of the value of your net worth, you have the power to determine your future. You do this now without even thinking about it, use this knowledge to improve your financial fitness.

   If you don’t have an emergency fund, start one now. Put away just $40 every paycheck, if paid every two weeks. It is best to set up recurring automatic transfers into a separate savings account. Your emergency fund account will have $1,000 in one year. This is for emergencies, such as car repairs and home repair emergencies. Redecorating the kitchen is not an emergency. Vacationing is not an emergency. Birthdays and Christmas are not emergencies.

   Great online places to save your money are listed below. This is not an all inclusive list and rates change quickly. These online banks are FDIC insured, which protects up to $250,000 per depositor per individual account until Dec 31, 2013. If no federal intervention occurs, the extension expires and the coverage reverts back to $100,000 on Jan 1, 2014.

Ally Bank 1.44% APY
FNBO Direct 1.40 APY
HSBC Direct 1.35% APY
ING Direct 1.20% APY
Emigrant Direct 1.10% APY

    May your net worth grow throughout the year. Take care, stay well and be safe. 

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