Jaren's Blog

August 31, 2010

Want to be happier, healthier and have brighter kids?

Filed under: Jaren's Writings — Jaren @ 3:39 pm
Tags: ,

If I told you there is a way for you to live happier, healthier, accumulate wealth and build social status; would you be interested?

What if at the same time you could boost the educational performance of your children and lower your chance of becoming a victim of crime?  Do I have your interest peeked even greater?

Finally, what if in addition to the above mentioned opportunities you would realize higher civic participation, enhance your volunteering activity and lessen any need for public assistance?  Is there anyone reading who I haven’t created a mild case of curiosity in now?

In 1931 James Truslow Adams coined in his book, “The Epic of America” the concept of; “The American Dream.”  He stated: “The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement… a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”

My contention is the “American Dream” by Adams, contains as an essential element, the opportunity for each of us to own our own homes.  Homeownership through many independent studies, over many years, has proven to provide all of the benefits discussed above.  Let me take just a little time with you to cover some detail on each of them.

Homeownership, in addition to the benefits I cited above, accounted for 14 percent of the United States economic activity in the housing sector alone.  Homeowner’s real estate holdings totaled $16,500,000,000,000.00 ($16.5 trillion, included 000’s for effect) in 2010.  This is after all the devastation we have realized in our “Great Recession.”  If we subtract liabilities, the net value (equity) of American homeowner’s in 2010 is $6.3 trillion; astounding!

If we go back to the turn of the 20th Century American’s homeownership rate was below 50%.  It has gradually increased to a record high in 2004 of 69% and is currently hovering around 67% as I write this piece.

A fact discussed as a component of adding the benefits I have covered is the stability homeownership provides to community.  A homeowner moves far less frequently than does a renter.  The difference is staggering; a renter changes residence 6 times as often as do homeowners.  Homeowners who do move cite they do so: first– to a better home or neighborhood, second– for family reasons and lastly– for employment.

Homeowner’s have positive impact on their children in both achieving higher levels of education and reducing deviant behavior.  Studies show the home purchase is one of the largest financial decisions we make; homeowners tend show greater responsibility through managing the financial commitment and maintaining skills required to handle the payments.  Additionally, bad behavior which would detract from the value is minimized in the home and parents help, “police the neighborhood” eliminating similar activities outside.  It comes to reason that with children reaching higher levels of education their earning capacity improves as well.

Children who grow up in a home, which is owned, have a much higher probability of becoming a homeowner.  Part of our societies push to improve learning should include a strategy to promote homeownership.

Civic duties increase as the natural move from spending time and money maintaining the home, spills over into interest in the quality of the surrounding community.  The political process too is improved as incentives to protect the neighborhood are managed through concern over who is making community decisions.  Homeowners vote at a much higher percentage (nearly 50% more) than do renters.  Too, homeowners know the names of school board members and elected officials twice as often as do renters.

Volunteering increases as does attendance in churches.  The reason suggested for this, is simply the stability of the homeowner equates to their interest in engaging in the community; this comes in a variety of ways.

Ownership includes the feeling of individual autonomy, through possessing our own property.  Wealth is created with the appreciation of the asset, which over time has proven to be reliable investment.  Homeowner’s are better able to deal with financial setbacks or deal with being laid off because they can access their equity.  This gives community self-reliant citizens who don’t require as much public assistance.

As people become homeowners they are likely to have higher life satisfaction, higher self-esteem and a higher perceived control of their life.  The homeowners develop a sense of being able to do things as well as anyone participating in stable relationships.  Homeowner’s feel self-fulfillment having reached the milestone of achieving, “The American Dream.”

Jaren

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August 26, 2010

The Beginning – and End – of My Fishing Career

Filed under: "The Gonzo Mama" — TheGonzoMama @ 10:16 pm

By Christina-Marie “The Gonzo Mama” Wright

My parents are nutty about camping. Seriously, I don’t know how I ended up with such distaste for sleeping, cooking, eating and bathing in the out-of-doors, considering my parents are such fanatics. Here’s just a sampling of phrases you’ll never hear come out of my mouth:

Bring on the mosquitoes! Mmmm… hot dog on a stick! A thin layer of nylon is all I need between me and the elements – and the bears!

Unfortunately, my parents were as adamant about exposing their offspring to the wilderness as I am about staying out of it. Clearly, there was a major conflict of interest and opinion in regard to how my childhood vacations should be spent.

That difference of opinion is how I ended up stuffed into a tent in an eastern Washington campground while it rained for something just shy of the fabled forty days and nights. I think I was about nine years old at the time, though I could swear I was six when we began the trip. When the rain stopped falling, Dad asked if I wanted to go fishing with him. “Heck, yes!” I shouted. At that point, I would have followed him into a sewage treatment facility, if it meant getting out of that tent.

Dad grabbed the poles and led my brother and me approximately eleventy million soggy miles away (on foot) to “this fishin’ hole I know about.” It turned out to be a secluded waterfall, with a wide pool at the foot. My brother and I half-heartedly cast into the pool, while Dad headed closer to the waterfall, expertly landing a cast at the base.

A near-eternity passed, with none of us getting so much as a bite. I didn’t mind much – it was better than being cooped up in a tent the size of my closet. The sun warmed my shoulders and danced on the water, sending blazing starbursts of light in every direction. The waterfall crashed into the pool, its song echoing off the rock walls that enclosed the pool.

Ah, sweet serenity.

“Hey… Hey! I got a bite!” The peaceful scene was shattered by Dad’s yell. He was pulling hard on his fishing pole, reeling and straining for all he was worth. Below the falls, the tail of a massive salmon breached the surface of the pool, fighting and twisting in an effort to escape.

It was a battle of endurance, and I wasn’t laying money on either one as the clear favorite – man and fish appeared fairly evenly matched. Dad struggled for several more suspenseful minutes, then landed the monstrosity.

Well… almost.

“Sonofabeaver! He spit the hook!”

(Leave it to Dad to teach his progeny the ever-important vocabulary of fishing. I believe that particular phrase is actually mandated by federal law – and enforced by game wardens – anytime a nice catch spits the hook.)

“No, Dad—LOOK!” My brother pointed to a cluster of rocks a mere yard from Dad’s feet. The fish’s thought stream must have read something like this:

Puh-toooie! Yeah! I’m off the hook! I’m flying… flying… Look out, water! Heeeere I COME! Yeah, baby! Oh, crap… SONOFABEAVER! I’m gonna fall, headfirst, into those rocks!

The fish landed, head wedged between two large stones. For a moment we all stared, dumbfounded, at the furiously wriggling salmon, which was determined to squirm its way back to the pool.

“EEEEEEEIIIIIIYAAAAAAAAAAH!” Dad’s battle cry could have splintered wood. He launched from the ground—head lifted, arms and legs spread, leaping toward the fish. (For a moment, he resembled a five-pointed star, flying through the air, surrounded by golden glimmering starbursts darting off the water’s surface.) With both hands, he reached for the fish tail as his feet hit the ground. With puma-like instincts, Dad bent down to get more leverage and…

RIIIIIIP! Dad’s jeans split from zipper to back belt buckle, but he didn’t let the phenomena of his underwear suddenly becoming outerwear deter him. He yanked the fish from the rocks and hefted it backward, over his shoulder. The salmon smacked the rock wall. I expected it to be stunned or killed, but the battle only seemed to make it stronger.

For a nanosecond, I wondered exactly how far we were from the Hanford nuclear facility, and if the government knew about the radioactive, mutant-powered salmon running amok in the area.

Dad, too, seemed to draw strength from the war, and he spun around, pouncing on top of the flailing fish. He pinned his opponent for a full three counts, proving once and for all who the champ was.

Talk about poor sportsmanship… Instead of graciously accepting his belt and title, Dad drew his hunting knife and began thwacking the fish’s head with the heavy handle end. Over and over—thwack thwack, thwackthwack… until there was no more fight in the fish.

Then, all was silent. Well… almost. One angry, horrified little girl sobbed and hiccupped and cried out through the quivering fingers held over her mouth, “Dad? How COULD you? How could you DO that? How could you beat that POOR FISH like that?”

The girl turned and ran in the direction of camp, followed by a small giggling boy and a bewildered man who muttered, “Are you kidding me?” as his boxer shorts flapped in the breeze behind him.

* * *

You’ll find the story above, plus many more in the newest issue of my parenting zine, Gonzo Parenting.

What’s a “zine?” It’s an independently published magazine. 🙂

I’m always looking for new contributors, so if you’re handy with words, a sketchbook or a camera, send stuff my way! Submission guidelines are on the zine’s site, linked above.

Enjoy!

August 25, 2010

How to Help Me (Or Any Author) Become a Bestseller

Filed under: "The Gonzo Mama" — TheGonzoMama @ 3:22 am

Signing books at a recent appearance

 

As I’ve learned recently, writing the book is just the first part. After that, there’s the marketing – and it’s a full-time job. 

It’s not enough that I agonized over each and every word contained within the precious bound pages of my tome – now I have to beg people to buy it. The good news, friends and fans, is that you can help me – or any other author with a book you love! 

My inbox today contained a link to a very useful blog post by author Eileen Flanagan, titled, “If You Love a Writer.” And, well, you love me – or, at least, you love Jaren – right? RIGHT? 

*Ahem* 

Fans, friends and family members often ask me how they can help me to promote my book, now that it’s been released. These are some of the ways you can help me to get the word out about my (or anyone else’s – *points at Jaren*) book (I’m going to hit on the high points of Eileen’s post):
  1. Buy the book, and buy often. If you haven’t bought your copy of Everything I Need to Know About Motherhood I Learned from Animal House yet, please take the leap and do so, here. If you’re already the proud owner of your very own copy, buy a copy for each of your friends and family members. If you can’t afford that, at least recommend it to each of them.
  2. Ask your library to carry the book. This is something you can do to help me gain exposure and boost sales – and it’s absolutely FREE.
  3. Buy local! I’m a huge proponent of feeding local economies (and so are you, right?), so I always recommend that folks order through their local independent bookseller, via IndieBound. You can connect to a local indie bookstore to order my book here.
  4. Do a review! If you’ve read Everything I Need to Know About Motherhood I Learned from Animal House and loved it, please review it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, GoodReads, or all of the above. Reviews help to boost my “cred” as an author, and help others to realize they must. read. the. book.
  5. Blog it, Tweet it, Facebook it! Mention the book on your blog, and link to it, or embed the video book trailer on your blog, if you think it’s nifty. Or, interview me for your blog, so I can talk about my book. Send out a tweet with a link to the book’s page/trailer video, or post the links on your Facebook profile. The more mentions out there, the more the word spreads! Blogging and social media not your bag? That’s cool… you can send an email to all your friends, instead, telling them your friend just published a book and would love some support. Be sure to include relevant links (trailer and ordering info) in your email.
  6. Book me… and my book. If you own a bookstore, coffeehouse or winery (or are good friends with someone who does), consider booking me for a reading and book signing. I promise to make people laugh! I’m also available to speak to your writers’ group, book club, mommy group or girls’ night out posse.
  7. By all means… Yes, if you know Oprah, send her my book, along with my telephone number.
  8. Don’t forget to pray! Pray that the Lord will allow me to use the talent He blessed me with to be a shining example of His glory.

Of course, I won’t tell if you pray that I get on Oprah, too… 

August 22, 2010

Acceptance, the Key to Being at Peace with Reality

Filed under: Micah McAllister — mikeutah @ 1:18 pm

As we go through life, we often contribute to a bumpier ride than is necessary by resisting or fighting against reality, against life.  We torture ourselves by being unhappy about our job, our family situation, our financial situation and more.  We turn to outward things, possessions, people, events, in the past or future seeking fulfillment and peace.  All the while, the source of the greatest peace is already within each of us.

The one thing we have control over which has the greatest potential to change how we perceive reality is our attitude of either acceptance or resistance.  To accept means to receive gratefully, to agree with what was given and receive the gift in it, the hidden wisdom or experience to behold.  To resist means to fight, to oppose, to not agree with what is in front of you or being offered to you.  When we accept life as it comes to us, we flow gracefully with it, enjoying or at least being at peace with the ride.  When we resist life, we exhaust energy and peace while trying to swim upriver or trying to change the direction of the river.  On the one hand we become in harmony with what is, with what life deals us and on the other we become out of tune and the creator of our own hell.

For any event or experience that life brings to you, the amount of suffering or peace that accompanies you comes down to either accepting it, or resisting it.  To resist it is to prolong the suffering by wanting to deny what happened, to want things to be different than they are but at the same time not being able to change what happened.  We then become our own torturers by continually reliving what happened and hoping for a different outcome only to open our eyes and not like what we see.  Since we only have control over ourselves but don’t really have control of what happens around us or to things outside of us, to not accept what happens, what is, is to deny reality and live in a dream world while continually being awakened to the nightmare perception we create.  The nightmare ends when we accept what happened, what is, and make peace with it, allowing it to flow through us instead of creating a blockade of torture within us.

Above all, accept yourself fully and completely just as you are.  If you are a subscriber of Christianity, consider the words of Jesus from Matthew 5:48 “Be ye therefore perfect”.  The Greek word that “perfect” was translated from here means “whole”, “complete”, “wanting in nothing”.  There’s no better way to realize this state of “perfect” than to accept yourself just as you are, flaws and all.  Through this selfless and non-judgmental self-acceptance and love you’ll gain the clarity to enact any desirable character changes that merit it.  But that change only comes out of first accepting them and yourself just as you are.  Without accepting, you are resisting and through your resistance you are unknowingly feeding the perpetuation of those “flaws”.

From the non-judgmental acceptance of self point of view, accepting others just as they are, and dispelling judgment becomes more natural and easy.  This plays into the “Golden Rule” of not judging and also treating others as you would prefer to have them do to you.  Any perceived control or influence you think you may have over others is an illusion.  Whether “others” be family, friends, acquaintances or strangers, they are going to choose, act and do what they will in spite of most of your efforts.  Instead of resisting and fighting the choices and actions of others that you don’t agree with, and likely creating a continued state of disappointment in yourself towards others, accept them as autonomous equal beings.  So long as their actions and choices are not being forced upon you directly, what is it to you to allow them to be themselves?  Truly accepting and embracing the diversity and individuality of humanity awakens you to the beautiful collage that is life and nature.

Accept the situations, experiences and curve balls life deals to you.  Whether you’ve lost a loved one, been laid off, or suffered an injury, accepting it without judgment or labels can transform any event from one of only hardship or suffering into an experience filled with wisdom and growth.  Through acceptance you’ll have better clarity to navigate and pass through it without sabotaging your peace or potentially increasing the amount or length of suffering.  Resistance usually has the affect of perpetuating the undesirable suffering.

Accept the events of the past to gain the wisdom they hold and then let them go into the records of history as a learning experience.  Holding onto the past, or in other words, resisting what happened, generally perpetuates the guilt, anger, or other emotions involved or caused by the now gone event and can even result in the past repeating itself.  Accept the future as being mostly unknowable and accept that the future can’t save you from the current moment in which all of life is lived.  Accept that the current moment is the only true position of power and happening and live it to the fullest.

When we flow with life by accepting instead of resisting, we more quickly learn life’s lessons, experience more peace, and have more harmony in our relationships with others and nature.  We see others as extensions of ourselves instead of a “them” that need concurring.  Life is then seen as something that happens for us, instead of against us.

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