Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Priorities

I grew up poor. My mother worked two jobs just to put food on the table. I didn't have the latest of anything. I know gub'ment cheese makes the best grilled cheese sandwich and gub'ment butter has a bad after taste. Butter sandwiches and syrup sandwiches were after-school snacks and I once paid for a pack of Kool-Aid with 25 quarters. I don't say that to gain empathy or sympathy. I said it to say this, I learned to appreciate the value of a dollar and vowed that to the best of my ability, I would stay clear of that situation once I started working.

Now let's fast forward to the present. I currently have a job in which I work with a low income population. As part of my job they have to show me certain documents in order to receive certain government benefits. Some of these documents include their current bills and ther paystubs. Without fail, there isn't a day that goes by in which I am not puzzled when I do the math on their situations. Case in point, I recently had a client, who is currently unemployed, making around $300 per week. Their rent is $900, their light bill is $50. Their gas bill is $25 dollars and they spend $75 a week on food. That accounts for a majority of they money that they get on a monthly basis. Then the show me a cable bill that is $100 a month and 4 months past due. Maybe I'm wrong, but the first thing that pops in my head is 'why do you still have cable?'.

Michael Jackson once said "if you can't raise a baby, then don't have a baby". In the same way, I think that if you can't afford something, you shouldn't have it. Make sure you can pay your bills and avoid debt at all costs. Take care of the basics and if you have anything left over, save it. Whether you are on unemployment or a multi-millionare, live within your means. You might not like it in the beginning, but it will definitely pay off for you in the long run.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Breaking Character

Last night I did something I haven't done since the summer before my junior year in college. Something that led me into months of therapy last time it happened. Something I vwed would never . . . EVER allow to happen again. Last night, I allowed someone to get me to a point of anger that turned me into another person.

My wife (who was not the cause of my anger) said she had never seen me the way I was last night and was scared of what I might have done. Shaking, with tears rolling down my eyes, I wanted to scream, punch a wall and confron the cause of my anger. Fortunately, I was reminded of a quote that says "speak when you are angry and you will give the best speech you will ever regret". I knew that the individual I allowed to get to me was the last person I needed to speak with. Instead, I just tried to go to sleep.

Unfortunately, the combination of the heat and the anger didn't allow for much sleep. I was up by 4am overthinking the situation. Even now, almost 24 hours later, its still bothering me, but I am getting to a place where I can deal with the situation now. He is not worth my time, energy or anger. I've better things to do with my energy, and I hope you all do as well when people drive you crazy.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My Two Cents

I took an offline day Saturday (no contact with anyone I know), so I didn't hear about the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial (some people tend to forget that it was Zimmerman, not Martin, who was on trial) until almost midnight and really didn't have time to process it until Sunday morning on the way to church. I have my own opinions regarding the trial and the verdict, but nothing I can say here will change that. Zimmerman will have to answer to a higher authority eventually. My thoughts Sunday morning went elsewhere.

As I walked the five an a half blocks from my house to the church, one thing stood out at me - I didn't say hello to one single person the entire time. Those who know me know that I am not the most social of people, especially when it comes to people I don't know, but to be able to walk that far in my own neighborhood and not be able to see a familiar face might just be a problem. Growing up in Saint Albans, New York in the 1980's, not only did we know everyone on our end of the block, we actually interacted with them. We had them over, the children all played together, we had block parties. Yes, the 1980's seem like forever ago, but some old school values need to be brought back. Zimmerman was allegedly a one man neighborhood watch, something that would never have been needed back in the day because your block was your village. If you did something wrong, two of three people already had your parents permission to check you until they got home. Nowadays, nobody knows anyone, so we can't tell who belongs in our neighborhood and who is suspiciously out of place. It's time to get back to basics, people.

I am of the opinion that (regardless of whether you thought Zimmerman was profiling or not) if Zimmerman knew that that was Tracy's son from up the block just going to get some Skittles, Travon Martin would still be alive today. Instead, Zimmerman classified Martin as one of "them people" and now, instead of getting ready for his sophomore year in college, we are coming up on the anniversary of the death of Travon Martin. I'm sure there's more to it than just that, but it's a point that I hadn't heard anyone else speak on as of yet. That's my two cents.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Soda Free Summer II

Last summer, at the urging of one friend and with the support of a few others, I participated in Soda Free Summer. Soda Free Summer is a program in its sixth years. It was started by the Alameda County (Ca) Public Health Department as an initiative designed to motivate and educate people to make better beverage choices. The program encourages participants to stop drinking sodas and energy drinks for 10 weeks and substitute their soda consumption with water, low-fat milk, unsweetended teas or fruit juices. I did it last summer, along with 14 of my friends and honestly didn't miss soda after the second week. I'm doing it again this year starting today, and will continue until September 14th (if not longer). Feel free to join me. There's strength in numbers. For more information, visit Soda Free Summer, follow them on twitter and friend them on facebook.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Stepping Out

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine the other day and the topic of dreams, goals and aspirations came up. Ultimately, we started talking about our respective "bucket lists"; or should I say my bucket list. I say that because she told me that she didn't have one and that if she dreams about doing something enough times, that is her queue to go out and do it. Regardless of how big or small it might be, if she dreams it, she does it. In her exact words "if I dream it, it must be done". I ponder that statement long after that conversation was over and realized that she might be on to something. Too often, we (I) spend more time talking about what we want to do than actually doing it. We write lists, make plans and plot how things are going to be done while others are out there enjoying life doing what they want to be. It's like we (I) are doing 54 in a 55 while everyone else is in the fast lane doing 70 (or more). Sometimes, we need to get out of our own way, step out on faith and go for what we want. As they say, nothing beats a fail, but a try. You can't run with the big dogs if you don't get off the porch. Less thinking, more doing from now on.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

I Wanna Be Free

Today is the 4th of July and the United States is celebrating its independence from the British. Yes, we are free from the British, but are we really "free"? I'm not speaking about the country itself, because all you have to do is look at the nation's deficit to realize we aren't. But on an individual basis, are we free? You? Me? Anyone? I can't seak for anyone else, but I know i'm not. In general, most of us are restricted by something; job (or more specifically the need of money), moral obligations, committents (relationships, etc) or the opinions of others among other things. There are very few people walking around who can truly say that they can do what they want, when the want, how they want just because they want to. We all want to get close to that point but we are all being held back by something. For me, it starts with the person I look at in the mirror every day. For the next person, it might be something else. What is it for you? What is stopping you from truly being free? What's seperating you from your independence?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Halftime 2013

Today is the 1st of July, which means we are at the halfway point of the year. Looking back on the last six months and the only word that comes to mind is enlightening. I have learned a lot about myself and the people around me in the last six months. Processing what I have learned has brought a lot of clarity, some inspiration, some motvation and most importantly, some direction. I have learned who's for me, who's against me and who has been trying to use me. I have been reminded that nobody will care for me as much as I do and when people sow you who they are, you have only yourself to blame if you don't believe them. Going into the second have of the year I am focusing on getting back to me. To quote shawn Michaels, "I have lost my smile" and I need to find it again, before it kills me. I don't like the person I have allowed myself to become (it hurt to type that) but admiting it is the frst step and fixing the problem. The second have of this year is mine and if I don't make the most of it and get to where I want to be, I only have one person to blame - ME!