• Benefits to Being a Freak

    Benefits of Being a Freak

    (4 minute read)

    “Be a freak. Normal is mind-numbing.” –Jamie Cearley, PhD

    I am a freak. No matter what crowd or setting I find myself in I always seem to be the one who is more than a little odd. This used to bother me quite a bit more than it does these days. Yet, my husband still prods me to be more social on a regular basis. In a bit of awkward irony he just texted me, urging me to contact an out of town friend next week. Evidence, I don’t make this stuff up. As I age I am starting to see the underlying cause for this social paradigm of mine. It turns out there are some positive features to being a freak.

    Although I am sure there are more, here are 3 benefits to being a freak I have found:
    • I am versatile. I should have realized this back in high school when my senior class voted me most versatile. Back then, I interpreted this award went to the biggest freak in the class and was a PC way of picking fun. Now I look back on this award as the biggest honor they could have bestowed. Why? Because it meant I was different. I was more than a one trick pony. I was a good student; the only one who could find anything in the microscope in biology lab. I was an All-State point guard for our Alabama State Championship basketball team. I was the only one in Home Economics class to sew a sweatshirt instead of an apron. I thought aprons were boring and useless. Yes I know, it turns out aprons are far more useful than sweatshirts. I was 16 years old. Cut me some slack. I hot rolled my hair every morning, and helped my dad do things like dig trenches, and fix cars at night. I can identify more tools than the finest mechanic. What’s more, this ability includes kitchen gadgets. As it turns out being versatile has helped this freak out quite a bit in life.
    • I am interesting to talk to, if you are willing to give it a try. More often than not the world looks different to me than to most people. Part of this is because I don’t see the world through Hollywood glasses. My basis for relating to the world is reality. You might say I am “out of the loop” on most topics. I know a little about current sports, have seen a small number of movies, watch little television, and know nothing about video games. I once had to hastily dust my television when company was coming over to watch an event it had been off for so long. Of course I would have dusted ahead of time had I either a clue or interest the event was happening. My husband often teases me saying I had a deprived childhood because we did not sit around and watch Planet of the Apes! He gasped the first time he realized I did not even know the show existed. Turns out we were watching the Lawrence Welk Show at our house. It is the only show I have vivid memories of watching on a regular basis as a child. What I do know is how to play,  in the dirt, rain, and snow. I know how to spend 14 hours a day in a swimming pool. People tell me I have an opinion on about every topic. It is true, I am well versed in topics ranging from how to clone a mouse, which I understand few people care to discuss, train a horse, roast a turkey, or what to do when your car alternator is going dead and you are driving. I also enjoy reading about politics, religion, money management, nature, and science. The sad thing is most people either aren’t interested or cannot engage in a meaningful conversation for any length of time. Hey, is that a Pokémon over there? Hence, I am a freak.
    • I am true to self. In spite of immense pressure to conform I remain a freak. In case you know me or have looked at my website and are thinking, “I don’t see how she could feel like a freak,” here are a few points to consider:

    I do not have children. Most people my age do.

    I have a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics. Most people do not.

    I am a woman who does not do my nails or wear much makeup if any. I have never had a manicure, pedicure or spa treatment nor do I want to. The thought of a stranger touching me makes me cringe.

    I don’t wear jewelry other than a wedding band.

    My favorite all-time birthday presents include a battery powered hedge-trimmer, and a small shovel.

    I like to fix and take care of my own stuff when I can. This includes farm machinery, mowers, appliances, and a host of other things.

    I so dig digging. Except when it’s hot. I had to put in a disclaimer in case my dad reads this.

    I don’t believe in spending money I don’t have.

    I own one purse and it was a free gift for purchasing some riding boots.

    On an on it goes…

    I will never be what my culture thinks of as typical. I refuse to fit in.

    This post started out being my proclamation of freakishness to the world. Then I started to think, I bet everyone feels this way to some degree. Has our culture convinced us there is some kind of strict mold into which normal fits? Are we all pressured by thinking we are to look, act, and be this or that? I wonder; does everyone feel like a freak?

    Could it be we are a world of freaks struggling to change so we fit in? Would we be doing ourselves a favor to scrap any hope of normal and be our true selves? I say yes. I choose freak.

    As Albert Einstein said, “The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before.”

    How Strong is Your Will to be a freak?

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  • 4 Ways to Kill Any Relationship

    (2 minute read)

    “If you want to know what is inside a person, look at their relationships.”-Jamie Cearley, PhD

    Whether you want to strengthen your marriage, teach your kids to keep their room clean, or train your puppy to pee outside your level of success will boil down to your relationship. It is true, what you do in a relationship is important. But, many problems erupt not because of negative actions but because of the negative attitudes preceding those actions. Even if the action appears to be positive, if you have the wrong attitude you are killing the relationship.

    Here are 4 ways to kill any relationship:

    1. Be chauvinistic. This is believing you are higher than the one you are trying to have a relationship with. Do you think your species is superior to any other? Is the dog, “just a dog?” Or you think your gender is superior to another? Are women smarter than men? Are men better than women? Should kids “do as told” because you are in charge? Or is it skin color, education level, nationality or even religion that places you above others in your mind? We all struggle with chauvinism one way or another. Until we come to treat others as equals we are in danger of destroying our relationships with them.
    2. Be autocratic. This is playing the power card. To rule with absolute power and authority without consideration of another’s opinions, wishes, or perspective: tyranny. This attitude in a relationship often shows itself in the failure to allow choice. One skilled at relationship building recognizes the difference between make and choice. Will you make your kid do their homework or will you find a way to cause them to choose to do their homework?
    3. Anthropomorphize. In the truest sense this is assigning human qualities to another species or object. We do this a lot with animals; and not only our domestic pets but wild animals too. Here we will use this term to illustrate how failing to recognize an individual’s uniqueness in this world is destructive whether human or animal. For example, let’s say you were an outstanding sports star back in the day and so you think your kid will also grow up to be a sports hero. Yet, reality says the kid has no athletic talent whatsoever, but wait, they can play any instrument they pick up. Pushing this kid into sports is a lot like putting an owl on a stuffed horse and making a video to go on social media: both wretched and awkward. Let individuals excel in their own way. You will find their dignity remains intact and your relationship deepens.
    4. Use direct line thinking. Following an unyielding path toward a goal. This is heading straight for the target without consideration of the needs, wants or desires of the other. Humans are first-class direct line thinkers. We see or dream up what we want and it seems nothing can cause us to waver from our path. In a marriage relationship this can take many forms. Do you consider your spouse’s needs, wants, and desires when it comes to financial goals and management for example? What about the cloths your children wear? Could it be a man and a woman have different views on what is appropriate clothing for an 8 year old? Getting back to the puppy: the bladder of a puppy is quite small. Are you conscientious of their needs being different than yours?

    In summary, relationships are best built when we recognize and respect each other as unique individuals and allow one another the freedom of choice.

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  • 11 Inexpensive Dates You Need to Go On: Priceless

    11 Inexpensive Dates You Need to Go On: Priceless

    (5 minute read)

    “Rather than look at a screen on a date, make sure you screen your date.” – Jamie Cearley, PhD 

    So many singles today struggle to find anything to do together other than sit and look at a screen. Movies, television, sporting events, and video games abound. If you are lucky you can go to dinner, look at your phones, and take selfies for social media.  None of this allows you to learn much about the other person, let alone deepen a relationship. You will need to know far more than his favorite video game or her favorite movie to make a long term relationship work.

    We always referred to my mother’s quotes as pearls of wisdom. One of her pearls with regard to dating and marriage was this, “Decide what you don’t like about the guy. If you can’t think of anything, forget it, you are not dwelling in reality. Now, if you do manage to come up with some traits or behaviors you dislike, take those and multiply their intensity and frequency by 10. Decide if you can tolerate this for the rest of your life. If so, he might be the one.” 

    What’s more, you should have precious little cash to invest in finding the one. If you think you have a pile of cash to spend on this you should read 10 Cruel Lies That Will Crush Your Kids Financial Future

    Here are some fresh ideas for inexpensive dates. These are all sure to reveal the best and worst in your date as they allow loads of opportunity to get to know each other. 

    1. Stomp a creek. Whoever thought of this as a date? The reasons creek stomping makes for a delightful date are many. Life’s journey is much like a creek stomping, especially if you choose to stomp upstream. It is hard to be proper and make every step smooth. There are obstacles you will have to help each other navigate. You will have to either slow down or speed up at times to match one another’s progress. There will be delightful little surprises along the way. It is a winsome trip full of struggle and reward. It might even end in a solitary embrace of both exhaustion and joy of having finished a journey together. 
    2. Hike. Not one of those crowded asphalt greenways but a secluded mountainous trail. A place where you have the potential to get lost. After all, there is no more sure fire way to get to know someone than to get lost with them: think men and directions. 
    3. Picnic. No phones, no wifi, you and your date alone on a blanket strewn over a grassy hillside having a good conversation. Need some good topics to discuss? How about money, career goals, and moral values to get you started?
    4. Attend a church service or some other religious event. Look out, your date might spew some mind-blowing deep stuff about themselves and their thoughts after this one. Make sure you listen up.
    5. Perform an act of service together. Go visit someone in the hospital, nursing home, or shut in. Rake an elderly persons leaves for them. Care for a neighbor’s lawn while they are out of town. Sit with someone while their loved one has surgery. There are endless acts of service to pick from. Choose one or more and try it out. How compassionate, patient, and kind is your date? 
    6. Attend a funeral together. Wow, at this point you get the idea dating should not be only about fun. Why, because life is not all fun. Let’s be frank, most of life is not fun in the sense of entertaining. Find out if your date has a solid perspective on life, its brevity and priorities.
    7. Make dinner for your parents together. Like it or not there is truth in the saying, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” While children differ from their parents, some degree of similarity in character and behavior always exists. Having them as dinner guests is a fantastic opportunity to look for related traits and decide whether these are positive or negative.  
    8. Bake something together. Like getting lost, opportunities abound only the potential for smoke and fire are present. Cool, now there’s a fun date. Not to mention if you are successful you will have some tasty treats to enjoy. 
    9. Build something together. After all if you can’t agree on how to assemble a bicycle can you imagine building a house?
    10. Fix a problem. Repair and maintenance are two more real life slaps in the face. Yep, like people, things break. How well will your relationship handle these mishaps in life? The broken appliance, the car refusing to start, a yard looking like the Amazon rainforest because your lawnmower won’t run; will you handle them all with grace? 
    11. Take part in one another’s hobby at least once. This might be easy if you happen to have the same hobby as your date but it could also be quite a challenge if not. This is a fantastic way to find out how compatible you are. It will show you how passionate your date is about this particular activity. How much time, effort and money are they willing to toss into their hobby? Can you see yourself doing this too? Can you at least see yourself allowing them to continue to do it without you? If you are not interested and cannot see yourself setting them free to continue on their own while maintaining your relationship you might reconsider sticking around.  

    Even after you find your spouse these will remain excellent activities to take part in on a regular basis. For those activities no longer possible find a similar substitute. 

    It isn’t that more traditional dating activities aren’t good as well. We all need some brain dead entertainment now and then. Yet, when we are looking for a lifelong partner or seeking to maintain our lifelong partnership we need to dig deeper. We need to provide abundant opportunity for relationship development and maintenance. Anything in life worth having is not obtained without great effort nor is it kept; yet the rewards of doing so are immeasurable.

     “Love doesn’t make the world go ’round; love is what makes the ride worthwhile.” — Shannon L. Alder

    Happy dating, fulfilling marriage. Press on.

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  • 10 Cruel Lies That Will Crush Your Kids Financial Future

    (8 minute read)

    “Things come apart so easily when they have been held together with lies.” ― Dorthy Allison

    With each passing generation, Post WWII Americans are raising more pathetic money managers. Most Americans main goal for their child’s future seems to be, “I want my kids to have it better than I did.” The translation being, “I want my kids to have more material prosperity than I did; a bigger house, nicer car, more stuff.” This is a disturbing goal on its own. What’s more, they are being taught to get more no matter how much debt they have to amass.

    Rather than equip children to be independent, we enslave them to debt for life.

    In part we pass our despicable financial skills through these 10 cruel lies that will crush their financial future:

    1. You can have any career you want. This is a lie for at least three reasons. First, we all have unique physical and mental characteristics. These traits lend themselves toward some careers while eliminating others. You can want to be a fighter pilot with all your heart but if you stand 6’8” you can forget it, no matter how hard you try. For many of us our limitations, passions, and talents don’t jive in real life. We need to think more practical when it comes to career choices. Talk about ways you can fulfill your passion and use your talents outside of a career. Talk about career options, college degrees and their marketability. Second, circumstances beyond the control of any individual affect careers. Economic, social, and political factors determine the opportunities for certain careers to name a few. Discuss the consequences of different career choices. Where will they require you to locate? Is there versatility in location options? What are the expected income levels? Is there physical labor required? What number of jobs are available in this field? Is a student loan for a given degree a good financial decision?
    2. You can have it all. No you cannot have it all; sorry. Every career choice demands sacrifice. You cannot have a stellar career as an oceanographer if you are not willing to sacrifice living with your friends and family in Kansas. It is critical to show the cost of a particular career. Not only in financial terms, but with regard to family, stress levels, travel and health. Someone is always willing to sacrifice more than you to get ahead in a job. Set your priorities firm ahead of time to avoid sacrificing more than you intended.
    3. Math doesn’t matter. Statistics often show Americans lacking in math skills relative to other developed nations. I am forever skeptical about the validity of such studies. But, it would seem the area we are least apt to apply any math skills is finance. We tend to think of wants more than numbers. We look at the monthly payment and ask can we afford the payment. What we should be asking is can we pay for this outright. If you find yourself pondering monthly payments on a depreciating product rather than do I have the money to buy it, you need to change your thinking. Consider a mortgage. Sit at the kitchen table together with your kids and look over your mortgage. Calculate the percent of your monthly income your mortgage amounts to. Calculate how long it will take you to pay it off if you make only the monthly payment. Show them how much interest you will have paid by the end. Emphasize this is the true cost of the house. Now reflect on the value of the house if you were to sell it. Compare the two numbers. Show them the difference in these numbers for a 15 year vs a 30 year mortgage. Do you want to blow their minds, and make yourself cringe? Take the difference in interest paid on the 30 versus the 15 year and instead invest this money at 3% interest. Show them how much money you could have in the bank and own the house with this one simple change.

    Here are a few more math concepts that matter:

    compound interest

    loss of opportunity costs

    equity

    capital and

    depreciation

    Make these are clear in their minds. Math matters. More than your score on a standardized test, math matters when it comes to financial management.

    “Making what you want equal what you can pay for is good math, and the foundation of good financial management.” –Jamie Cearley PhD

    1. You can live here for free. Teach kids early that you don’t live anywhere for free. Instill this valuable lesson through the avenue of age appropriate chores. It can be a challenge for a child today to transition to financial independence. Yet, prior and proper preparation can go a long way to making this rocky transition smooth. There are more adult children living with their parents today in America than ever before; many of them for free. Living anywhere for free is not teaching the realities of life. The longer a person lives for free the more difficult a transition to reality becomes.
    2. Property value will always go up. Having put ourselves under our first mortgage in 1999 and our last in 2008, before the real estate bubble popped, this one rings loud and clear. No two words are crueler in the English language than always and never. While it is true a house can bring financial returns, be cautious in considering your house as an investment. Depending on the current market status your house may not be a liquid asset by any definition. Besides, with any luck you will be healthy enough to live in your house for a long time.
    3. You will make more money as time goes on. Like housing value one hopes this will be the case. But sorry, the grim reaper strikes again. Even if your income does manage to go up, watch out, there are plenty of hands out to grab your hard earned money. Sometimes reapers come in the form of health insurance. In 2006 we paid $0 out of pocket for coverage and had a $300 deductible. Now in 2017 we pay $10,000 for coverage and have a $6000 deductible. There goes that big raise we never got. Then there can be literal hands grabbing for your money. Those little cute noisy hands called babies can create quite a financial demand.

    “Someone or something is always out to get your money. Don’t fall into the mindset of thinking that says, “We will have more money later.” Later never comes.” -Jamie Cearley, PhD

    1. Be spontaneous. Compulsive purchases  are almost always a poor decision. Do not make major purchases without sleeping on them first. The most foolish financial mistakes I have made were a direct result of not following this rule. Pressure sales tactics where you have to buy now are nothing short of scams. If it isn’t still for sale tomorrow forget it.
    2. If you mess up young, no worries, it is easy to recover. Get a job. Consumer debt and poverty are two of the most difficult life situations to get out of. Debt is the cancer of finance. It continues to grow and metastasize to every facet of your life. Point out to your kids where businesses like title loan, pawn shops, and check cashing services do business. Why are they always in depressed areas? Explain to your sons and daughters about women and poverty. How do they get there? Why can they not seem to get out? It is far more complex than getting a job. Raise awareness of how early decisions have long term financial consequences. If you have amassed debt, take the time to show your children how those early decisions contributed to your current situation. Show them how you can indeed dig a hole you may never get out of before you are 25.
    3. You don’t need a budget. Set a budget for yourself and your children. Rather than handing out cash, giving them a debit card to your account, or even worse a credit card, set up a personal account of their own. As I was getting ready to leave for college my mother and I sat down and made a list of all the essentials I would be needing. We then went to the store and priced each of these items and came up with a cost of $100 per month. When we arrived at the school location about 400 miles away from home we set up a checking account at a nearby bank. Each month my parents would deposit $100 into the checking account. The rest was up to me. Needless to say there was elation when once each semester my Gram would send $5 in the mail with a note saying, “Go and get yourself a hamburger.” I know parents who keep track of their child’s account balance and deposit money when the balance is low. The kid writes checks and swipes their debit card with no regard for the balance on the account. It is as if the account were a bottomless pit of gold. Little could be further from reality than this practice.
    4. Sweat equity is not real equity. On our farm we get 500 or more bales of hay delivered each summer. Each year the arduous task of unloading the hay from the trailer and stacking it under our lean to rears its ugly head. We always joke with our hay provider about who has managed to sway some poor souls into helping each year. Every year it seems the prospects dwindle. If you ever want to lose a friend or convince someone to never speak to you again, have them haul hay for you. It is given they will be forever wiped from the screen of your life. One year I had cleared with a strapping young man to come and help on the agreement we would give him $100 for what would amount to about two to three hours work. He said yes. I was thrilled. I called him one afternoon to tell him the hay was being delivered in the evening. He said he could not come. He and two buddies had made plans to go to a movie. Being me, I thought what an excellent opportunity for me to gain extra help surefire. I said, “Great, bring your two buddies and we will give all three of you $100 each and you can go to the movies every weekend for the rest of the summer.” He said no. I was speechless. Either he was incapable of doing the math or money was coming his way far too easy.

    For the next generation to have it better than the last we need to make some changes when it comes to money management. We need to develop good stewards of money and material things. Maintain a healthy focus on what matters in life. Learn how to make money an outstanding slave lest it become a terrible master. Set your kids up for financial freedom. Stop them from believing the lies.

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  • Are We Kind of Kind? 8 Paths to Authentic Kindness

    (3 minute read)

    “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” – Dalai Lama

    It would seem today there is more than one kind of kindness going around. There’s choosy kindness where we are kind to those like us and dirty rats to those not. Then there’s opinionated kindness, where we are only kind to those who share our opinions and loathsome to those who don’t. Then there is the worst kind; those who declare themselves as the epitome of kindness yet when pressed they are revealed as charlatans. Yes, indeed we are full of pompous kindness.

    Deep down all of us love kindness. We all can agree the world needs more kindness, but how do we make it authentic and not just some political phenomenon or catch phrase we use to sway people in our direction or worse yet banish them to outer darkness?

    Here are 8 Paths to Authentic Kindness:

    1. Talk less and listen more. Stop listening to reply and listen with compassion.
    2. Stop being too busy to be kind. Kindness takes time.
    3. Smile. Some of the most tense and awkward social situations can be dissolved by a single genuine smile.
    4. Look up from the screen. Open your eyes to others. There are opportunities for kindness surrounding us every day. A kind word, a small deed, a helping hand, and once again a smile are all simple ways to dish out kindness by the bucketful.
    5. Humble yourself. We are a proud bunch of people. Pride is the predecessor of unkindness. Pride makes us think we are right with no chance of being wrong. Education level, geography, religion, and political stance can all be pillars of pride. Be careful when you start thinking you are smart, unkindness will be close behind. Who are the smart ones anyways?
    6. Seek to understand rather than to be understood. Realize everyone has a reason behind how they live, what they say, and their opinions. Seek to find out what their reason is. Chances are they are wrapped tight around their wounds, fears, and heartaches.
    7. Learn respect. Respect is a lost art these days. For you see respect does not equate with love, agreement, or support for ideas, or behaviors. Respect esteems another because of position. Whether that position is ruler of a nation, owner of a company, or as one of God’s creation.  In effect, if we are to be authentic in our kindness we will have respect for all; for all have a position in this world worthy of our respect.
    8. Do not express complex thoughts in blips such as texts, emails, social media and other forms of pseudo communication. There is no availability of further detail, and no tone of voice in these techniques. Therefore, there is no chance for two or more people understanding and sharing an idea, the point to be made will be misconstrued every time. Instead, seek to have long, deep, personal conversations with those who differ in thought. Of course you want to apply all the paths to authentic kindness to such a conversation.

    Agreement is not required for kindness. Indeed kindness is always possible. However, it is not probable without taking the time it takes, having respect for others, and being humble in heart. Have the courage to be kind.

    He who at all times agrees is weak minded and cruel. He who sometimes disagrees yet is kind is a true friend. – Jamie Cearley, PhD

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