Friday, July 29, 2011
We’ve got a guest writer on the blog this week, Faye Offett. Ms. Offet is a highly successful real estate entrepreneur, single mom and motivational speaker.
Abraham Lincoln was a man of great accomplishments. He was once asked why he did not replace one of his cabinet members who constantly opposed him on every move that he made. Typically, Lincoln answered with a story which reminded me of something my grandmother would have said.
Lincoln replied: “Some years ago, I was passing a field where a farmer was trying to plow with a very old and decrepit horse. I noticed on the flank of the animal a big horsefly, and I was about to brush it off when the farmer said, “Don’t you bother that fly, Abe. If it wasn’t for that fly this old horse wouldn’t move an inch.”
The farmer was giving Lincoln a lesson. He was teaching him that sometime things are placed in our lives to challenge us to keep going. Just like the fly on the horse, the cabinet member challenged Lincoln to dig deeper into his soul for guidance and understanding.
Life lessons often present us with difficult people, situations and conditions that challenge our values and goals. Just like the fly on the horse, my grandmother Isabell Watts influenced my decisions in life.
I am quite successful as a real estate entrepreneur, and when people ask me what helped me to become so I tell them that I graduated from the Isabell Watts School of Hard Knocks. Now when you look at the name of the school, you’ll probably assume that my grandmother might have spanked me when I was growing up. Well yes, you’d be right. Back in those days physical punishment was permissible, but afterward she would sit and lovingly explain her reasoning for doing so. Now I may have been upset about the spankings, but the tongue lashing would last far longer and they would make a lasting impression.
Those tongue lashings challenged me to be honest and forthcoming and to do the right thing. They provided me with the wisdom to confront life with vigor. I didn’t always understand what she was saying or why she did what she did, but today I can truly say that her presence in my life was a blessing in disguise.
During my youth I perceived my grandmother as a difficult person. However, as time has passed I began to understand that she wasn’t difficult. Isabell Watts was a lady of great wisdom and strength.
She had one child, my mother, Irene. In turn, my mother married and had nine children. When my mother divorced, my grandmother took on the responsibility of helping raise her grand children. I am number seven of the nine.
One of the things that she instilled in each of us was the value of hard work. Not only did she work hard, but she took pride in whatever she did.
She was employed by the state of Maryland as a janitor at Jones Elementary School. My great-great grandfather had given the land to Ann Arundel County, Maryland to build the school for the black children to attend. My grandmother took pride in that school. She had roots in that building. I attended the school. It remained all black until 1963 when it was desegregated.
Isabell worked all day maintaining Jones Elementary and in the evening she cleaned and prepared the school for the next day. After leaving there at 9:00 p.m. she would than go to her second job, cleaning the local library after it closed.
As each one of her nine grandchildren reached the age when they could hold a dust rag or a mop, they would be put to work. We worked after school and during the summers, and because she took so much pride in her work every task she gave us had to be done to perfection.
I remember once when my sister and I were given the task of washing the windows at the school. I had one side of the building and my sister had the other side. The total number of windows in that building was about seventy-five, and they were large windows. This was not a small job. My grandmother gave us explicit instructions on how to wash each window. We were to use ammonium water to wash and we were to dry them with newspaper to prevent them from streaking. We thought that it would take forever to get those windows clean, so being children we rushed though our tasks taking all kinds of short cuts. We used water without ammonium and rags to dry. We wanted to finish quickly so that we could play with the neighborhood children.
The next day, when the sun came out revealing the streaks and spots that we had missed, all hell broke loose. I’ll dispense with the other details, but she did make us do every window over until they met with her satisfaction. I can tell you that when we finished all seventy-five windows did shine.
Of course we children worked at the school for free. If we wanted money for something special she taught us how to be creative entrepreneurs. We would pick black berries and sell them at fifty cents a quart. We also picked a plant called bittersweet, a flower that grew wild in the woods. During the early fall the hull that covered the berry in the bittersweet opened to reveal a beautiful reddish orange color. In Maryland where we lived, people would decorate their homes with bittersweets for the fall, so we sold them in bundles for $1.00 or $2.00 depending on the size. Every year we had repeat customers. Today a bundle of bittersweet sells for $30.00 and up. It’s too bad we’re not still in the business.
Isabell Watts’ School of Hard Knocks wasn’t always easy, but because of her I learned to be responsible, creative and to take the initiative in whatever I do. I acquired a sense of awareness that no matter what my circumstances or condition might be in life, I have the ability to choose my attitude. I can be negative or I can be positive. I have the ability to change the way that I see any experience in life. I’ve used her wisdom and values as a single parent to raise my son and to interact with my colleagues and with my friends.
No, I didn’t always understand what my grandmother was trying to teach me. Yet because of her presence in my life, I can honestly say that I do understand what the farmer meant when he said “Abe don’t bother that fly.” I am deeply indebted to Isabell Watts.
Thank you, Grandmother, for challenging me to become the best that I can be.
Until next week muse on that!
Friday, July 22, 2011
Hi! Fanny Collier here, and like I told you the first time I wrote on this blog, every once in a while I’m tossing in some thoughts of mine that I call Brain Farts. Why do I call them that? Because some of the things that I want to talk about are so simple that even an idiot without a brain should be able to figure them out, and have I got a doozy for you this time.
I was sitting in the doctor’s office the other day waiting to get my annual checkup and minding my own business when this woman struck up a conversation with me. The two of us were the only ones left in the waiting room, so I guess she didn’t have anything better to do than bother me. She had been reading this magazine, while I was trying to sneak in a short cat nap. All of a sudden she starts to moan and groan about this article that she was reading and decided to share her ideas about it with me—am I glad that she did.
The article was about the rise in HIV/AIDS in older women in the United States. Since I’m in my eighties, I don’t know why I seemed to be the ideal candidate for this discussion from this woman’s point of view, but then again, why shouldn’t I be? She was a woman who I guessed to be in her fifties, maybe sixties, and despite the opinion of a lot of young people she was probably still sexually active, and I’m a widow who if given the opportunity might be willing to do a little messing around myself. So when she started talking I listened. I figure that a little knowledge never killed anybody, but ignorance can kill. This is what she told me:
According to the Center for Disease Control people age 50 and up accounted for:
- 15% of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses
- 24% of persons living with HIV/AIDS (increased from 17% from 2001-2005)
- 19% of all AIDS diagnoses
- 29% of persons living with AIDS
- 35% of all deaths of persons with AIDS
The rates of HIV/AIDS among persons 50 and older were 12 times as high among blacks and 5 times as high among Hispanics compared with whites.
I mean to tell you, when I heard all of this my eyebrows went all the way up to my hairline! What in the world is going on? Have these old butt men and women lost their minds? What kind of madness was this? After hearing this I had to do some research so that I could wrap this around my mind.
The first one I asked about this was my doctor. As soon as I got inside his office I started questioning him. He seemed surprised that I brought it up. He’s a man of about forty-five and couldn’t seem to imagine why a woman my age would bring up the subject. He tried to divert my attention by informing me that I didn’t have to worry about it. He said that people who were sexually active or were intravenous drugs users were in danger of becoming HIV positive. I asked him how he knew that I wasn’t one of those. He had to admit that he didn’t know for sure. See, one of the problems is that doctors and other medical professionals underestimate the risk for older people. They need to get a clue!
Once I got him straight, he told me that his older patients rarely asked about sexual matters and he rarely brought them up, and that’s another problem. Older folks don’t discuss HIV/AIDS, not among ourselves or with our health care providers, and those who have it hide the fact because of shame or embarrassment. If they talk about it they might be able to spread the word. The doctor told me that older women are especially at high risk for HIV/AIDS because as we age there is “vaginal thinning and dryness that can cause tears in the vaginal area.” That means that the virus could enter through the tears.
Now this threw me for a loop, that and when he told me that some of the symptoms of an AIDS diagnosis can be like the ones that might come with aging, such as being tired, or losing weight or having mental confusion. Sometimes because of this an early diagnosis might be missed by a doctor. That’s not reassuring at all!
So here we are, and this is a no brainer. We older people have to protect ourselves! We’ve got to speak up, talk to each other about this HIV/AIDS thing, talk to our doctors and anybody else who will listen. Don’t let some medical person ignore you, demand to be recognized as not only a human being but as sexual humans. It could mean your life if you don’t.
Get out there and get tested for HIV, even if you’re not sexually active now you still could be carrying the virus from when you were in the past. The virus can stay in your system a long time and not show itself. They have drugs now that may help save your life, so don’t wait until it might be too late. Most of all don’t be a fool. Use a condom if you’re having sex. I don’t care how old you are, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Now that’s a real Brain Fart.
Muse on it,
Friday, July 15, 2011
Hello, I’m Bea Bell, and I want to tell you about a funny thing that happened to me when I wasn’t looking. One day I applied for a job; thirty years flew pass and I found myself contemplating retirement. I was no longer that twenty year old woman who dismissed the idea when someone suggested that I save for retirement. That wasn’t on my radar. Retirement was for old people, I thought, and I wasn’t planning on getting old. (And I didn’t, I just got older)
I didn’t do any serious planning until about six years before my anticipated retirement date and it was then that I learned that retirement is serious business. I also learned that it’s never too early or too late to plan life after working.
If you are fortunate enough to have a job in today’s economy, retirement planning should be a goal for you. Ideally, you should start planning for your retirement from the time you enter the workforce. There are many things you should consider before retiring.
First of all, ask yourself what does retirement mean to you? Whether it means playing 18 holes of golf every day; traveling around the world, relaxing on your patio, or having time to spend with your grandchildren you’re going to need money to live, and I don’t know anybody who doesn’t want to live their best life.
Now, these days the financial gurus out there say that you need $1 million or some other astronomical figure in order to retire. How discouraging is that? Don’t despair. For those procrastinators like me who waited before actually formulating a retirement plan, don’t waste time beating yourself up for what you didn’t do. Get busy finding out what you can do now.
Don’t be afraid and don’t guess. Calculate as near as possible how much income you’ll have in post-retirement. You want to be as accurate as possible, so routinely check with your employer to find out how much your monthly pension payments will be based on the years you have worked and your age at retirement. List every resource, including employer pension plans, Social Security benefits, savings, annuity account pay outs and earnings from other investments. Then consider your current expenses. How much of your current disposable income can you devote to paying off credit cards and paying down other obligations? Get rid of as much debt baggage as possible.
I seriously tried to get rid of all of my debt but it wasn’t possible. My total debt required more time and money than I could dedicate before my retirement date. I did pay off as much as possible.
While living your definition of the good life during retirement, there is also the reality of everyday living. You’ve got to consider things such as life and health insurance, (Medicare pays for only 80% of medical cost), utility bills, the upkeep on your home, and if your house isn’t paid for, you must pay your monthly mortgage. All of this has to be covered with your monthly income, and add to that the possibility of outliving the additional income you might have saved. In the end, the only thing you may have to depend on is your Social Security or pension.
Before you retire, decide if you’ll need to take Social Security benefits immediately upon retirement. You should receive a benefits statement periodically from Social Security (or you can ask for one.) This will give you an idea of what your Social Security income will be and when you will be eligible for full benefits. The age to receive Social Security benefits has increased and future changes to the system can be expected. You may consider taking early retirement benefits but be warned, if you do, you will receive reduced payments and your payments will not increase even when you reach full retirement age. Weigh the pros and cons of taking early benefits or waiting until you’re eligible for full benefit payments. The fact that you are eligible for retirement doesn’t mean that the check will automatically appear in your mailbox. You must apply for benefits. Check with your local Social Security office.
Savings may make up a big portion of your retirement income. The question is not whether you can afford to save for retirement, but how can you afford not to save. Hopefully you’ve been saving something over the years. Try to save as much as possible between now and your anticipated retirement date.
Income from annuities and other investments should be included in your income planning. There are many financial instruments that allow you to earn income without disturbing the principle. I’m certainly not a financial planner (remember I’m one of those among you that didn’t get serious about retirement until a little over 6 years prior). However, you should review your investments and at the minimum know the current rate of return. If you plan to leave your investments in place after retirement, review with a financial planner as to whether you’re getting the best rate. Also, determine if you should move to more conservative vehicles.
If your company’s pension plan has retirement savings plans such as a 401 you may want to look into rolling your funds into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or a Roth IRA as opposed to leaving the savings in your company. Again, check with a financial planner and your company.
Speaking of rolling over a 401 plan, one of the most important things to remember when you’re considering taking money out of 401 plans is TAXES. Nothing can dampen the enjoyment of that first retirement check than realizing you didn’t allow for taxes. Nothing can make you cry harder than having your 401 payout deposited directly to your bank account only to see the big 20% reduction for taxes. Nothing can put a cloud over you faster than having the month of April roll around and finding out that you’ll spend the rest of the year paying income taxes. I know from experience.
Once you’ve taken care of that business, I want you to remember that the definition of retirement is to “withdraw or give up an office or work”. Following this definition can result in you growing old. My advice is to never withdraw and never stop working in some way, shape or form. Get out, meet people, volunteer, participate in church events, visit family and friends, observe people in the park, join a group that shares your interests or hobbies. Traveling is a great way to spend time. If you didn’t plan for retirement sufficiently to fly to Paris for a week, then gas up the car and look for obscure, interesting or historical places in or near your home town.
As for giving up work, who says that because you’ve stopped one career you can’t start another? Why not dust off your resume and search for a job in a field in which you’ve always been interested? What about starting your own business? Whether it’s a brick and mortar business or a virtual online business, the opportunities are limitless.
The trick to not getting old is to stay mentally fit. A young mind can defy an older body anytime.
Helpful web sites to visit:
Friday, July 8, 2011
Okay, this is Connie and it’s my week to write a little something, so I was thinking about how I didn’t go to church this past Sunday. Instead I chose to stay at home and lay around the house with my boyfriend. We watched a little television. I read the newspaper and we did plenty of “sinning”, if you know what I mean. I had a good time. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
I must admit that I did feel a tinge of guilt about missing Sunday service. It’s not something that I do often. I’m a a widow in my sixties, born and raised in the south. I’m from a generation when going to church every Sunday was mandatory. Everything we did revolved around the church and that didn’t change when my late husband and I moved to the north. I’m a member of the church choir. I go to bible study now and then. I am a card carrying member of the southern Baptist tradition. Yet I am sitting here wondering why do I go to church?
Sometimes the services can be so boring. There are the sermons that can put you to sleep, or the fire and brimstone sermons that can scare you to death. There are the solos that are sung off key and the gossips who talk about everybody. There are the better-than-thou-art Christians who judge, and the ministers who admonish, when they’re not begging for money or chastising you about keeping up with your tithes. Why does anybody go to church? It is an intriguing question and there must be a million different answers.
To some church attendance is the reinforcement of their faith in a Higher Power. To others it simply soothes their souls to hear the Word of God. Then there are those who are following the directives of one of God’s Commandments that states that we should remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. However, that same commandment goes on to say that we’re not supposed to work on Sundays either. Of course that part is totally ignored by the vast majority of Christians, which means that only half of that Commandment is obeyed by the majority of us.
That got me to thinking about how many of the Commandments I have broken over the years in spite of my church attendance. I reviewed a list of them the other day and of the Ten Commandments so far I’ve broken five and honored five. That means that I’m holding at 50%.
I haven’t put another god before him. I haven’t killed anybody. I’ve honored my parents and I haven’t committed adultery. I also haven’t borne false witness against a neighbor—although the last one is debatable since my friends and I have been sued for slander, but the woman who filed the charges is a lying heifer, so I doubt if that counts. Oh, and I really haven’t stolen from anybody, except when I was a kid I did lift some penny candy from the Five & Dime store on a dare. I guess that counts. Anyway, if I compare my rate of Commandment breaking to that of the rest of the people in this country then I haven’t done badly. I’m probably average. That 50/50 thing is one of the reasons that I go to church, that and fornication outside of marriage.
Now we all know that’s a sin. That’s not one of the commandments, but it says not to do it in the bible. Yet, that’s probably the most widely disregarded sin in this nation. I doubt if many of us are going to give that particular sin up any time soon, and committing it on a regular basis certainly isn’t keeping anybody from going to church. Perhaps that’s the main reason that we attend. We know that nobody is perfect, and we’re all trying to become better people in spite of our moral ambiguity, so when our time is up we can plead our case.Anyway, muse on that. I’ll see you in church this Sunday—maybe.
Friday, July 1, 2011
Hi folks, I’m Hattie Collier and I’d like to say, let’s be serious. Would you go to any hospital and apply for a nursing job if you have not received medical training? Would anyone in your family hire you as a lawyer knowing that you did not have a law degree? Would you choose an auto mechanic as your dentist? Exactly! This is common sense stuff; but thousands, maybe millions, of people masquerade as parents when they don’t have the sense that God gave a goose.
Just the other day, I heard a woman say that when her daughter’s boyfriend comes over, she knows that they have sex in her daughter’s room. You could have knocked me over with a feather. This woman actually allows this to occur in her home. Her excuse was that if her daughter had sex at home, she would be in a safe environment. She wouldn’t be in the back seat of a car or in some seedy motel. If she were home, her mother wouldn’t have to worry about where she was.
I said, “Well mom, let’s not forget to break out the champagne and put a mint on the pillow. If you’re going to run a brothel, you might as well make it comfortable”. Does my reply say that I’m down on mothers that are trying to provide good, clean, sexual entertainment for their kids? You’d better believe it! And it doesn’t stop with sex. There are those parents who provide alcohol for their underage children. They throw parties so their children’s friends can drink as well.
Believe me, it’s not just movie stars and celebrities that provide drugs for their little darlings. Whatever Junior or Sally wants, by all means let them have it in the safety of their own home. Mom and Dad may even join in on one or all of the above. Is this good parenting? I don’t think so.
Just like you wouldn’t hire an unqualified nurse, doctor, lawyer or auto mechanic, you should turn down the job of being a parent if you don’t have the backbone to be one. Heck, some kids have more gumption than their parents and they’re a lot smarter too—or at least more manipulative.
Let me break it down for you: you are a parent because you pay′rent. It’s your house! The kids just have temporary residence until they grow up. That means you pay the bills so you set the rules. You decide what is and isn’t the right behavior. You decide what is and isn’t allowed. The Good Book says train up a child in the way they should go so that when they’re old they won’t depart from it. Did you notice it said ‘the way they should go’. Not the way they want to go or the way society or their friends say they ought to go.
I can hear some of you whining, “What if they get mad at me?” What if they do? If kids knew so much God would have made it so they came into the world fully grown.
So, I say put down the how-to-raise-a happy-well-adjusted-child-that-thinks-his-parents-are-cool-because-they-party-together books. Stand up on your hind legs, look them in the eye and tell them whose boss. They may not like it and they may not like you but this too shall pass.
Love your children more than you want to be liked by them. Don’t spare the rod or you’ll spoil the child.
Stop right there. Before you stomp off in a hissy fit, I’m not suggesting that you beat your kids three times a day. What I’m saying is that your “rod” is whatever method you use to demonstrate to your kids that you make the rules and you expect them to be kept.
Raising a child properly is work. Your job is not to provide a comfortable sexual experience, keep the booze flowing, or provide the best high your child ever had. After all, think about the kind of example you are setting. No matter what they say, your child will eventually figure out that allowing such behavior was not a help.
If you spend the money to educate your children to be a doctor, lawyer, or auto mechanic, shouldn’t you first take the time to educate them on being good, moral citizens of the world? It won’t cost nearly as much and it pays off in even bigger dividends.
So muse on that.