Saturday, November 22, 2014

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival

Hello, and welcome to Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival. We are a group of Catholic bloggers who gather weekly to share our best posts with each other. To participate, go to your blog and create a post titled Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival. In it, discuss and link to your posts fo I rr the week--whether they deal with theology, Catholic living or cute Catholic kids. I'm mostly a book blogger so my posts are generally book reviews, some Catholic, some not. Make sure that post links back here. Once you publish it, come back here and leave a link below.

We also have a yahoogroup; signing up for it will get you one weekly reminder to post. Click here to sign up.

Well, I was late last week so I'll be early this week.  Saturday will start with dropping my daughter off for Girl Scout camp.  From there I'll walk to the other side of the parking lot and help with the parish craft fair.  I'll take a break from the craft fair in the middle of the day to have lunch with the local chapter of the Mississippi University for Women Alumni Association.  Then it is back to the craft fair for clean up.  

Since all I posted last week was the linky, I'll go back a bit further with my posts.  Last week I was at a Girl Scout retreat, which made me reflect on the story of Martha and Mary.  I reviewed The Christmas Ranch which is a sweet romance.    I posted about my success with Lending Club.  I reviewed a Catholic book for young teens. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Are You a Martha or a Mary?
Are you a Martha or a Mary?  I'm a Martha, I'm a doer, I see what needs to be done and I do it.  At Mass this weekend we heard from Proverbs 31:

 "She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her fingers ply the spindle.
She reaches out her hands to the poor,
and extends her arms to the needy.

That woman isn't being praised for sitting and listening; she gets stuff done.  I get stuff done.

This weekend I took my daughter on a Girl Scout retreat.  It was held at a local camp/retreat center and put on by a committee of women involved in both Girl Scouts and the Catholic Church.  It was sponsored by the office of youth ministry for our archdiocese.  My daughter was the only girl from her troop who chose to attend; most of the other girls there were with their troops.  My daughter was put in a dorm with a couple of troops and those troops' leaders were the adults in that dorm (there were only two adult spots available that complied with the Safe Environment guidelines).  Because of the set-up,about half the adults, including me, ended up in a dorm with just adults.  We were all troop leaders, we were all women who were used to spending weekend camping trips planning, facilitating, teaching, and corralling girls.  We were used to being kept up at night by talking girls and being woken up by the girls as soon as the sun was up (if they slept that late).  On this trip we were away from them and with other adults who do what we do, and we had a ball.  Usually on trips like this, the girls are up half the night Friday night and then are exhausted Saturday night and sleep.  Well, the adults were a little different.  We all were asleep pretty early Friday night (unlike the girls in their dorms) and Saturday night we delayed lights out because everyone was talking, sharing stories, comparing troop activities, problems and solutions.  Yes, we pitched in when we saw work that needed to be done but we weren't in charge, we weren't responsible, and if we wanted to wander away to the chapel or to take a walk, we weren't missed.

One thing the girls did was skits acting out Bible stories.  One they did was Martha and Mary.  They "updated" the story and had Martha and Mary planning a party and Martha had her lists of things that needed to be done, stuff they had to get and so forth.  The party started and Mary was greeting the guests and spending time with them; Martha was in the kitchen doing chores and was upset that Mary wasn't helping.  Jesus told her to chill and that it was more important to spend time with the guests than to handle all those chores.  My thought was "cute".  

Tonight I was thinking about the retreat and about how much I enjoyed not being in charge and then I remembered the girls' skit about Martha and Mary.  I doubt you'll every completely turn me into a Mary, but I think God's message to this Martha this weekend was to chill a little and spend some time with Him. 

Sunday Snippets--Snippet Edition

I was on a Girl Scout retreat this weekend and now have to run to work before running to....  anyway, sorry I forget to preschedule.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Christmas Ranch: My Review

About the Book:
Hope Nichols has never felt as if she belonged anywhere, except her hometown of Pine Gulch. So, when she hears that her family's property, Christmas Ranch, is set to be shut down forever, a determined Hope heads home. She refuses to let the Grinch steal her holiday—this will be the most memorable ranch Christmas ever! And, thanks to hunky former navy SEAL Rafe Santiago and his adorable nephew, she might just pull off that miracle. 

Rafe is undeniably drawn to Hope and her passion for rebuilding her family home. But he knows more about Hope's tragic past than even she herself could imagine. And though she doesn't know it, she owes him her life. And all he wants in return is for her to spend it with him…

My Comments:
It is a clean Christmas romance.  Enough said.  Grade:  B

Thanks to the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  

Monday, November 10, 2014

Lending Club: It's Been Four Months Now

Well, I may not be getting rich, but I'm very satisfied with my Lending Club returns to date--so satisfied that this is the last time I'm going to update you about the experiment and probably the last time I'm going to show you a screen shot like this.  Am I quitting?  No.  I've just invested about half our bank savings, and frankly it isn't the world's business how much that is.  I may talk about Lending Club here in the future, but I'm seriously considering starting another blog about our progress toward retirement, (I've set it up and drafted a few posts, I have a number of post in mind that I want pre-scheduled before I go live) and will post Lending Club updates there.

So, how have I done in the last four months?  It depends on how you look at it.  Bottom line is that I invested $1,000 on July 10 and $1550 on August 14 and today I have $2578.24.  Lending Club says I have an annualized return of 10.6%, which beats my bank any day, and beats the k stock market much of the time.  However, the XIRR method, which many say is the most accurate way to compute returns, says today that my return is about 4%--but Friday it was 6%.  Why?  Lots of notes were due and paid on Friday, but not many over the weekend or today so they are averaging in three more days and not much more money and on an account this small and this new those days and cents make a big difference.  A larger and older account would have a more steady return, unless there was a late note or default.  Absent late notes, my return should climb as I bought many notes at a premium so that the interest they paid prior to this month went to replacing capital, not to earnings.  Now everything is earnings.  A third way to look at it is to say that since this time last month my account has increased by $29.10.  If you multiply that by 12 months it gives you $349.20 which is 13.7% of $2550.00.  Bottom line is I'm doing well, and even if I had a $25.00 note default every month, I'd still do better than my bank savings account.

What have I learned in the last four months?

  • I'm not a financial expert, this is not financial advise and your experience may not mirror mine, but to me, this seems like a great investment.  Banks have been making money on consumer credit for a long time; this allows small investors to do the same.  One piece of financial advice I got years ago was that if I was going to invest in something I needed to be able to explain how the investment could make money and how it could lose money.  Peer-to-Peer Lending is easy to understand as are its risks and pitfalls.
  • From everything I've read (and I've been giving Google a real workout) the more money you have invested in Peer-to-Peer Lending, the harder it is to get earnings signficantly above the average, or significantly below.  Considering the average is about 8%, I'll take it.  Right now I'm above average, but that's because my account is new, not because I'm brilliant.  I paid a premium for some resale notes hoping they would be less likely to default that new ones.  Time will tell if I'm right,but resale notes have a risk I did not consider when I bought a bunch of those--the risk of early payback.  I had a couple of notes pay off early and leave me with less money than I invested.
  • While I have enjoyed playing with these notes--selecting them and watching the account grow daily, and while I may have squeezed a few extra cents out of the account by doing so--I really can't see doing this on a large scale.  While I can't say I won't play with this anymore, I realize that the more money I have invested the more I have to rely on automatic tools.
  • In trolling the Folio site for resale notes I've noticed that large notes are for sale at larger discounts/smaller mark-ups than $25 notes of similar quality/interest rate.  Unless I have so much money that I can't get it invested in $25 increments, I'll stay with the $25 notes, even if I buy several of them on the same loan.
What will I be doing going forward?

  • Emergency fund:  I took about half of our cash savings and moved them to Peer-to-Peer lending; half to Lending Club and half to its competitor, Prosper.  I left enough in the bank to buy a new used car.  I figured that for any other use of our emergency fund, I'd have time to liquidate these notes.  Also, unlike many investments, this one throws off cash every month so if I know I need money for something, I can stop re-investing the returns and transfer them to the bank.
  • College fund:  My daughter is in college.  We've been paying what her scholarships do not.  I'm expecting an inheritance soon.  I plan to take the money for her final two years of school and invest it in resale notes that come due before she finishes.  I'm going to let my daughter manage the account.  If she chooses to do nothing, there will be money there when she needs it, with 4-5% interest (assuming defaults are no worse than expected).  If she is a little more active with it, she might do a little better.
  • Inheritance:  I'm expecting a substantial cash infusion soon.  While I plan to put some in the stock market, I also expect to increase my Peer-to-Peer portfolio.
  • For my readers:  If you want an invite to invest in Lending Club and get up to a $25 bonus, email me or leave a comment and I'll send you one.  

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Review: Ten Commandments for Kissing Gloria Jean

About the Book:
A 14-year-old girl who wants her first kiss more than anything gets diagnosed with Celiac disease, prompting important considerations about her body and her Catholic faith. Themes include: faith, choices, and sex & relationships.

My Comments:
I won this book on the Holloway Family North blog.  It is a Catholic YA novel aimed at the middle school crowd.  I have mixed feelings about it.

The book starts with Gloria Jean and her friends (whose parents consider them too young to date) arranging a group party with boys at the movies.  Of course the kids pair up--but due to some intestinal distress, Gloria Jean never gets kissed by her "date".  She does lie and tell her parents that the girls all sat together.

We continue to follow Gloria Jean and her friends through the first semester of the school year.  One new thing this year is that PE includes sex ed once a week--sex ed that is focused on consent and staying safe, not sex ed focused on chastity.  Gloria Jean is also getting sex ed in her confirmation classes, where they are taught the Catholic view of sexuality.  I thought the contrast between the classes was interesting and instructive.

Another thing Gloria Jean is dealing with is celiac disease.  She'd been suffering from increasing intestinal distress and other ailments for over a year and was finally diagnosed with celiac disease and put on a gluten-free diet.  Of course she's not happy about it, though she does feel better.  She has to learn to deal with a new diet, which includes not taking the host at Mass--and changing Mass times to one where the Cup could be offered (her family attended the Extraordinary Form Mass).  

One thing that had me annoyed for much of the book is the fact that Gloria Jean's best friend was Jewish.  Her best friend was the one who was encouraging her in her quest to get kissed and it seemed for much of the book like the author was setting up a contrast between how a good Catholic should behave and how the world (as exemplified by Gloria's friend Eden) expects us to behave.  It annoys me to no end when a Christian novel uses a Catholic in such a situation and for most of the book I saw no reason Eden should have been cast as Jewish rather than as "we go to different churches every Christmas". At the end of the book, the fact the Eden is Jewish does become important, so I'll give Britt Leigh a pass on that one.

This is clearly a book designed to teach religion and a lot of it.  During the course of this 195 page book we learn that Gloria Jean attends a Latin Mass in the Extraordinary Form, that the people dress up for that Mass, and her mom even bought her an expensive veil to wear.  We listen to the sex ed talks at Confirmation class, and go with Gloria Jean to Adoration.  Gloria Jean ends up doing a project on bread and learns about the use of bread in the Bible.  Gloria Jean goes to confession too.  At times I think the story got bogged down because there was too much effort to teach religion.  

I'd like to thank Britt Leigh and the Daughters of St. Paul (her publishers) for providing a complimentary copy of the book.  Grade:  B-

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