President Obama commutes Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence

This news has absolutely made my day. President Obama has decided to commute the bulk of Chelsea Manning’s sentence. The whistleblower will be released from prison in May of this year! She will have served over seven years of her thirty-five year sentence, the longest sentence ever dished out for her type of “crime.”

I’m not going to make this post about bashing the powers that be, even though I do think that Chelsea should have never been locked up in the first place. I’m just happy that President Obama did the right thing. Given Chelsea’s mental state after being subjected to long stretches of solitary confinement (a practice that is now condemned internationally as a form of torture), I have no doubt that Obama’s decision has saved her life. This is something that he can be proud of. One of his final acts as President of the United States was to grant mercy to a young woman who would have most likely died without it.

So, in a few short months the whistleblower will be set free. I wish her well, and hope she finds happiness in her new life outside of the cage.

Good night, my friends.


The snowball is rolling

It’s day three of my vacation. Yesterday I was on the tiny house kick, and I still am. But, since we’re broke (actually below broke, seeing that we are in debt), I think the first step would be climbing out of this hole.

This week will  be the first time that we have used a technique commonly called the ‘Debt Snowball.’ It’s really quiet simple. You find some extra money, not a lot, but enough to speed things up a little. Then you throw it at your smallest debt. You do this every chance you get until it is paid off. Then you take the extra money plus the amount you were paying on your smallest debt, and throw it all at the next largest debt. You repeat this over and over, and move up the ladder from smallest to largest. The process creates a cascade effect that in theory should enable us to pay off all of our debt except the house inside of five years (if my calculations are correct).

The hardest part of this is actually applying that extra money to our debt instead of blowing every cent of it, which is what we usually do. So far though, we are doing pretty good. This is the first time in a long time that we have made a budget and actually stuck to it. I’m very optimistic about this now. I’m not sure what’s changed, but we are beginning the be more, well… disciplined. It’s a change.

Tiny Houses and the yearning for community

Hi friends.

I have been on vacation this week. Surprise, I’m actually posting on this blog now that I have tons of free time. I’ve noticed that about on day two or three of a vacation, I start to pick up all the things that a busy work life has forced to the back burners. One day I will learn the skill of consistency.

Today I have spent a good deal of time watch videos on Youtube about tiny houses; building them, living in them, and all the fun minimalist concepts that go along. Denice and I have both taken up an interest in minimalist living, and that’s huge. There aren’t many things that we have a common interest in, so when we find something that we are both into, it’s only a matter of time before we dive in.

Our current house is already (relatively) small, at seven hundred square feet. So the thought of downsizing is pretty scary. It’s one of those things that you know will take sacrifice and dedication, but you also know will add more to your life that it requires.

I really like the idea of using a tiny house/minimalist living to help get us out of debt. I also like the idea of being “off the grid” and more sustainable and self-reliant. But, what I really love is the idea of being able to share this with like-minded others – to build a community.

Community, over the years, has become largely lost to the consumer capitalist culture. We don’t need each other like we used to. Before, neighbors would share things to keep from having to buy every little thing that you need to live. If I had a drill or a lawn mower, the whole community had it. Before, you wouldn’t pay for child care because there were plenty of others with children in your circle who would be more than happy to share the responsibility. We used to take care of each other, but now we just pay. We pay strangers and corporations to do everything for us. We don’t have to know them, we don’t have to like them, and we certainly don’t have to be vulnerable and true with them. This arrangement sucks. It’s too impersonal.

What I yearn for is true community. Deep down inside me there is a part that wants and needs community. I think what I would like to do some day is build a tiny house community – a true village. One where resources could be pooled and raw freedom could be wrenched from the cold hands of the corporate beast that most of us are prisoners of.

So, where to start? Well, the logical place to start would be with our own dwelling. This would be a big challenge for us, seeing that the only thing that we have every built together is a dog house, and we really botched it. However, Denice and I are fairly intelligent and resourceful people, and I believe in our ability to figure things out and get them done.