single mom

American Dream or American Scheme?

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Buying a home is the American dream but for many not the American opportunity. Crisis like unexpected job layoffs, illnesses, divorce and other “life happens” experiences can leave you with a credit score so low banks laugh when they see it. But, it’s your dream anyway and you’re tired of paying rent which won’t secure your future. You spot a sign in the yard of a decent looking house with “Rent to Own” bad credit ok and an opportunity has come knocking on your door. Sometimes this scenario has a happy ending but, more often than not, it turns into just another “life happens” crisis.

The reason is communication from the buyer and the seller. Here’s a red flag right at the beginning of negotiations, there is no standard rent-to-own contract. Each owner can, and will, include or delete options for their advantage. The wording can be complex and is designed basically to meet the state regulations you live in but the owner can adapt it beyond that. For instance you need assurance in the contract that your rent money goes toward taxes, mortgage insurance and home owners insurance so three years down the road it’s not put in foreclosure. Look at the last appraisal and when the last inspection was done. Make it very clear in the contract who is responsible for what repairs.

Also, at the end of the contract (3 to 5 years) you must secure financing on your own, up to this point the portion of funds the landlord agreed to put toward your home is basically to cover the down payment. Unless something has been worked out with the seller or there’s a clause protecting you in the contract you’ve just lost your investment and probably your home. There are success stories that have worked out well but make sure you are making the best informed choice possible. Here is a list of pros and cons to think about.

PROS

  • This transaction gives the buyer (the advantage) to lock in the price in advance, but if the home value goes down, he can choose to renegotiate the deal or move on.
  • Buyers could also get the upper hand — and sellers, the disadvantage — if the home’s value rises more than expected. Say the house is currently valued at $200,000 and the buyer and seller agree to a purchase price of $230,000 in three years. If the home ends up worth $250,000 in three years, the seller loses that extra $20,000.
  • An advantage of a rent-to-own contract for the buyer is that she has additional time to save for a down payment. A buyer also gets additional time to clean up her credit history if she has negative marks due to collections or late payments.
  • A rent-to-own home allows a buyer to try the area before he purchases a home. He gets a feel for the neighborhood, schools and overall environment, including crime rates. A buyer also does not have to wait weeks or months to move in while the inspection, appraisal and documents are gathered. He typically moves in as soon as he pays the upfront fee and lease payment.

CONS

  • Buyers lose their investment if they fall behind in payments. If a buyer pays $1,200 each month for a home, with $400 of the payment each month to go towards the down payment; they have accumulated $14,400 at the end of three years, as an example. If a buyer decides not to purchase the home, falls behind on payments or is evicted, he loses the investment.
  • A buyer loses out on their investment if he cannot secure financing at the end of the contract term. Unless he works something out with the seller or has a clause in the original agreement, he risks losing out on any fees or extra rent paid during the course of the contract.
  • Not all the money you pay in rent will go toward the down payment. Owners are the lenders and they are the ones who decide how much of your rent payments are credited toward the down payment and closing costs. Most owner/lenders will only allow a credit for an amount paid above the market rate for local rentals to be held for eventual home buying costs.
  • If you decide not to buy the house at the end of the lease, you probably won’t get a refund. That money is usually only returned to you when you buy the property
  • If the house is a “fixer upper” you may not have the extra money for material and labor to maintain it. Big items like roofs, foundations and integrity of the structure, if not fixed, could cause the home insurance to cancel for the owner. In addition because you are not the legal owner yet you cannot take advantage of the many organizations that could help with these problems at low or no cost. Even if the owner gives them permission to make repairs they will bill him because his resources will not qualify him for the assistance.
  • Watch out for “slum lords” who want the rent money but who do not want to spend the money to maintain their properties as required by legal guidelines. If you are buying it then the burden becomes yours. They can evict and resell to the next victim over and over.
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Short Term Memory

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Ever wonder how a good waiter or waitress can take your order and that of other tables and never write a thing down? And they do this all night never making a mistake. Bluma Zeigarnik wondered the same thing about this phenomena at a restaurant while observing the same thing. She watched them for hours taking orders by memory then seemingly eliminating the memory once the food was served making room for the next order in their memory.

Zeigarnik, a Russian psychologist, was intrigued and proceeded to find out how the short term memory worked. Using participants in lab tests she gave those tasks to complete without interruption and some tasks where she took them away before completing the task. Her discovery showed the people remembered the unfinished tasks twice as much as the completed ones. Understanding the Zeigarnik response it makes sense why difficult, hard to complete puzzles like Rubik’s Cube and TV serial type programs with cliffhangers at the close of each week have such a big following. Short term memory can’t dispose unfinished tasks easily. Like a computer it waits for you to come back and finish.

Understanding the Zeigarnik process can also help prevent procrastination by at least starting even a small piece of a project. If the task seems overwhelming and you are at a loss of where to start you can begin anywhere even with an insignificant action. Once it is in your short term memory, hanging in the air unfinished, you will be driven to complete it. It remains there like the puzzle and the cliff hanger. Although the technique is simple, we often forget it because we get so wrapped up in thinking about the most difficult parts of our projects. The sense of foreboding can be a big contributor to procrastination. If you have a goal you are passionate to reach understanding Zeigarnik could be your road to success.

Pantyhose Anyone?

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Some of you won’t even remember pantyhose and it’s just as well. For some reason society back then felt it was an absolute necessity for nice girls to wear under their dresses and skirts along with a tourniquet called a girdle. The natural look was definitely not in. Just about everything you put together for a night of dancing, partying or visiting friends was fake. Wigs and hair extensions were in, false eyelashes, the girdle, perfume, plastic jewelry, make-up including fake blush and the dreaded pantyhose. It was all about others pleasure looking at you not your comfort.

You didn’t dare go to church, where ladies did not were slacks, or to a wedding or any event where you had to dress up or even your workplace with bare legs. Pantyhose was expensive so the average woman only had about three pairs. They would get runs easily, really easily. They came in different skin shades and some of the more expensive ones had what they called “control top” that was to hold your stomach in. These were made of nylon that stretched so unless your stomach was already flat it was wasted money. Then there were the “nude toe” so you could were them with sandals. Nothing like putting the fragile nylon right out there in front so they could snag everything they touched. They were HOT. I grew up in Phoenix and wearing pantyhose in 120 degrees should qualify as an Iron Woman marathon event.

So, I pondered why they were invented, what was the purpose? After digging in the history I found the answer appalling. The main function was to hide any scars or veins and make us more desirable to men. It’s just another example of societies expectations of women’s perfection. Pantyhose really exploded on the market in the late 50’s to early 60’s with the mini-skirt faze. But this generation would also bring it to a close with the feminist movement and the hippie natural look and the acceptance of women wearing trousers and jeans. Just shows you how much power women really have if they unite their purchasing power.

L’eggs, one of the largest manufactures of pantyhose, is trying a comeback but this throwback scheme is trying to influence young women who are smarter, more empowered and self-assured who are not interested in a product their grandmothers used. Tanning beds and ultra-rich lotions is all that’s needed now for a much more active and comfortable lifestyle. Plus the nylon material is not biodegradable.

I haven’t wore pantyhose since 1968 and I don’t miss it one bit. It’s also been almost that long since I wore a dress. Some things are best left in the past like suffocating girdles, garter belts, plastic jewelry and pantyhose.

Going It Alone

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Single mothers are tough independent multi-task women. I know I was one. But these attributes are hard won and not something you’re just born with. They are earned by falling to your knees a hundred times in despair then pulling yourself back up again. There is nothing to prepare you for taking on the job of both parents. No training before or during this journey.

Although my kids were my joy and the very motivation to put one step in front of the other I would find myself yearning at times for a partner to share my life with. My four children and my job took up most of every day and night. That rare moment when at last I fell onto the couch before bed my heart would weep for stronger arms than mine to hug me.

Unbelievably in today’s modern world the barriers single moms face are almost as many as when I was raising my children over 20 years ago. Most employers do not consider or accommodate situations like sick children, snow days at school, school bus schedules or special events a parent is expected to attend. Then there is the teachers who don’t understand why your child’s 15 pages of nightly homework is not finished or why they are not finishing their lunch in the cafeteria. And there’s the school nurse who reported you for not signing the vaccination release even though your child never brought it home.

It’s like we still live in a1950 society of two parent families with little tract homes and wives stayed home and tended to the children. Everyone knows better but the rules and expectations have not changed. Single moms have not only replaced the other parent, they have replaced themselves. Daycare is not only hard to find but can cost as much as 20% of salary for one child.

In spite of it all it’s much better for the children and yourself to live in a more peaceful home without constant relationship conflict. The kids raised in a single parent have a different kind of role model in a woman who is strong, exhibits self-worth and is pro-active in solving problems by planning ahead. They become independent adults from the early years of necessity when I ran late or had meetings. My kids learned to cook simple things and side dishes as early as 9 years old. I lived by “notes” left everywhere like turn crockpot on at 11:00, stay in the house until I get home, change into play clothes etc. They didn’t think twice about taking care of each other and that bond remains strong to this day. I was lucky in that my kids were spread enough in age to have older ones watch out for younger ones.

Yes, it was a challenge, a big one, but every single little heart was worth it. When the empty nest finally came it was so lonely I walked around in a fog for months until one day I found myself again, my 18 year old self before it all began. I drug her out from the back of my heart where I had placed her so long ago and began to reach for those dreams again before life happened. Only now I have these beautiful best friends to share it with, my children.

Acrimony

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Anger

Why, why, why are so many government workers rude? I’ve pondered this question all my life but especially during my 26 years as a disability advocate. I experienced people who conquered obstacles so difficult that the impossibility of it was stunning. They came in with pride not regrets of their condition because they had beat the prognosis. Then these same beautiful souls would get humiliated, ignored and embarrassed by some worker at social security, Medicaid or food stamp office as if they were slackers and loafers instead of incredibility courageous and independent. Why would anyone want to disenfranchise another?

There is no satisfactory avenue to complain about staff. Their jobs are very secure as they are protected under the Federal Government Employee’s Union. It is almost impossible to get fired as long as they perform the essential functions of the job which is correct and timely paperwork and does not include politeness. Performance reviews are based on job duties alone and merely being rude to a citizen needing help apparently doesn’t qualify as dereliction of duty. Essentially you’re in for life unless you want to quit.

There is absolutely no incentive to treat people like human beings. In the private business sector these individuals would not last a day. You wonder if these civil workers are products of lower upbringing and enjoy their temporary power over someone who doesn’t understand the overly complicated system.

There needs to be some drastic changes to a system that encourages efficiency over empathy. The government needs to hold their staff to a higher standard and eliminate the “us vs them” mentality. There are many good staff in these government offices also but they are overshadowed by the ugliness of their co-workers and suffer the same reputation they don’t deserve.

A few things you can do are let the supervisor know how you appreciated a good staff. Complaints never go anywhere but compliments do. For bad situations get in touch with your U. S. Congressmen’s office. Helping constituents cut through red tape is the kind of stuff that makes happy voters.

“Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.” ― Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind: And Other Aphorisms

Social Movements – Good or Bad?

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Social movements are the cornerstone of the American freedom of speech. Like tiny rebellions they are everywhere and the number and scope keeps growing and expanding. Social movements are a major vehicle for ordinary people’s participation in public politics. This political or cultural conflict is formed from a shared collective identity. Some of the more well-known movements are civil rights, feminist, disability, anti-war, Ku Klux Klan, Labor, environmental, Christian fundamentalist and a list of at least a hundred more most of us never heard of. Whether you agree with a movements agenda or not it is a groups right to protest and if successful, bring about social change.

I’ve belonged to a few briefly throughout my life but found myself less and less active because I eventually found myself in conflict with the movement’s conduct more often than with the barriers preventing social change. Social influence can be a powerful tool used to create conformity. It can be used constructively or destructively depending on the agenda of the dominate members. As humans we crave to belong, to be part of something and to fit in. How far we are willing to adjust in order to gain acceptance and avoid rejection depends on our level of self-confidence and strength of our self-identity. Conformity is the engine of “movements” like the Civil Rights Movement or the Disability Movement. By color or disability you are automatically accepted but may not necessarily agree with every concept or ideal that comes from the groupthink meetings forming them.

Groups base their success in the advocacy arena on projecting a united front. Although the discrimination barriers they are fighting to remove may never have happened to you there is a feeling of guilt if you don’t join and support the movement. The same person who belongs, however, usually acts, dresses and speaks differently at work or church or around gatherings that include non-disabled or Caucasian peers. It’s that compelling need to be accepted in our surroundings that pushes aside the true identity of most people. Although well intended most of these groups demand unquestioned allegiance and discourage individual thinking. Conformity in purpose, conformity in thinking, conformity in actions.

Even when given the opportunity to voice their opinion in a groupthink meeting most members would rather stay silent than be ridiculed by the dominate members. This lack of speaking up is brought on by a member or members so overbearing and intolerant of others opinion that intimidation rules the meeting. The consequence is that the group is weakened by members who do not have full buy-in of the purpose they are fighting for. These disenfranchised members speak differently when alone but are paralyzed by fear of rejection to speak up in the group.

This kind of intolerant atmosphere can easily be used destructively to incite members to action like hunger strikes, property damage or even riots. Those who are not comfortable with conflict get swept along regardless because of the need to impress the others. To them it’s not about the purpose as much as it’s about performing to the expectations of others. Some “movements” have made much needed social reform and have been very successful in building cohesiveness among their followers. However, I’m very careful when participating in any movement and observe if there are dominate leaders who do not encourage others ideas and questions. If I see it exists, I’m out of there.

Full Circle

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1991 & on –

Life now is all about “bucking up” and getting on with our lives. My daughter and her sister came home two months after I did. She is in complete remission. I can walk with crutches now but can only use my thumbs because of the contractures. I taught myself to drive wearing leg braces and finally kicked my ex out. I am apprehensive on my own in my condition but I have faith I’ve done the right thing. The kids and I are all together again and that will get me through anything. I know someone is still by me from the other side as I can feel the presence at times and when I am conflicted over a decision or direction I want to go the knowledge is there. It is not a voice like it was in the coma rather it’s like intuition only more persistent.

I trusted it whatever it was and knew something was waiting for me to fulfill. During the next year I learned to walk with a cane and do most everything with my hands even though they were still in contractures. We all licked our wounds physically and emotionally and counted our blessings. I knew it was time to move toward my destiny but did not know where that was. My old plan to return to Phoenix didn’t feel right anymore. Then one evening sitting with the kids on the pier watching the crashing waves smash the shore it came to me. We had relatives who lived in Missouri. I had only drove through the town one time but I could not shake the feel of urgency. It was like a divine decree.

There was no way I could ignore this powerful pull. So, I sold the RV dirt cheap and everything in it. I bought new tires for my old 79 Ford pick-up, filled it with gas, three kids, two cats, clothes and one TV and headed north. I understood this was my destiny and I would make it. Within a week we rented our first house in six years. We had finally come full circle. Money was very scarce with just social security disability and a little child support but we were free, together and alive. It was good to be with family again. We had been through so much that the struggle to survive now was nothing comparatively.

But, surely this was not what I was pulled here for. One morning while enjoying a strong cup of coffee that powerful tugging returned. I knew I had to go find a job. My family thought I was crazy with all my complicated disabilities but I could not deny it. I was apprehensive of course. My only transferrable skills was my mind and my life experience. Everything else was braced up, atrophied or contracted. Nevertheless, I trusted this direction of my destiny. I was afraid the job search itself would do me in let alone a forty hour work week but by now I knew how to push through my egos fear.

My second interview was with an organization called Southwest Center for Independent Living. I was hired with a hand written resume in my hand but had no idea why or what they even did. It all soon fell in place as I learned they empowered people with disabilities to live their dreams by removing barriers physically, attritional and mental. All the lessons I had overcome, the struggles, the despair, the determination are now going to be played forward.

I have just retired after 22 years of empowering so many people with disabilities to see their potential and their self-worth, a career I never dreamed of pursuing. It was the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life. I wondered what I’m to do now with all those years of working in the disability field and the intertwining of my life experiences. I had entertained the idea about blogging because I have always loved to write but knew nothing about blogs. About six months before I retired I got an email out of the blue from a blogging site so I looked into it. I created anyoneteachone.com and here I am. I’m still playing it forward and hope I can until I cross back over.

Never give up your dreams, never believe in prognosis and believe with all your heart the enormous power you own when you acknowledge you’re potential.

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