• I Matter

    How to Be Important When You’re Not

    (3 Minute Read)

    Am I important? Do I matter? Will anyone notice when I am gone? Why am I even here?

    The concepts of self-worth, self-esteem, self-confidence and so on continue their decades long rise to premiere importance in our culture at every level. Everyone wants their children to grow up with high self-worth. People want to feel good about themselves. Yet, we don’t.

    A quick Google search on “Self Worth” will turn up a barrage of information. Articles on how to measure self-worth and to how not to appear. You can also read why girls have less, why boys struggle, and how anyone can get more self worth. Indeed it appears as though everyone wants more and they are willing to pay for it. Americans spend millions in a market area geared toward improving self.

    Some articles go so far as to say the words, “Statistics show…” then spew numbers as high as 95% of American’s struggle with self-worth. Of course they never cite a statistical study with actual data. Yet, we have to look no further than our bathroom mirrors to know these figures are closer to home than we would like to admit. So what’s up with our self-worth problems?

    Yes, part of the problem subsists in the criteria by which we measure our self-worth. Yes, part of the problem lies in our past experiences. Yes, part of the problem rests in the fabric of our culture and social norms. There are countless articles you can read on these topics. This is different.

    Sitting in my chair one evening, feeling especially worthless at the time, I pondered the answers to those exact questions above. Coming up void of any satisfactory answers I heard the alert sound for a text on my phone. Being occupied with nothing more than self-absorbance I took a look to see what it was. This photo showed up with a note attached reading something like, “Cleaning out mom’s house and came across this. The Big Red Apple! Memories.” It was from a good friend of mine from grade school.


    My frown turned upward to a smile and then a giggle, like a grade school little girl. For you see, the Big Red Apple wasn’t any ‘ole car. It was the car her mom drove when we were young. They lived four doors down the street and our moms would rotate taking us to school. When it was her turn I would wait at the door; patient yet eager for that big red car to peek from the corner of their garage and putter up the hill to my house. When I jumped inside, Mama Faye, as I called her, always seemed to be smiling. We would giggle all the way to school. In fact, I giggled so much when I was with my friend at Mama Faye’s house we still laugh about the first time I spent the night. As Faye tells it, “We were lying in bed listening to you giggling late at night. Lawrence said, “Either me or her are going to the shed, cause I can’t sleep with that going on.””

    I don’t know what happened to the Big Red Apple. It wasn’t the car that mattered. In fact I thought it was a four door. Mama Faye is now in an assisted living home struggling at times with her mind. To my knowledge she never did anything people would find worthy of fame or grandiose in any way. No accolades or trophies here. Most would say Mama Faye is an ordinary lady. They would be right, almost.

    In a world where so many seek to tear us down; a world where we return the favor and tear down others in turn, Mama Faye matters. She made a difference in this world, oh yes she did. In a way most of us fail. She brought a smile to my face every time I saw her. She still does in fact; I giggle, she snorts. It’s the difference that makes the difference. It is what matters. She will be missed, guaranteed.

    “Do not despise little things: a lantern can do what the sun can never do – shine at night.” –Unknown

    Maybe we shouldn’t be so concerned with doing big things in life. If we are honest, most all of us are ordinary. Get the simple little things right; smile, be positive, encourage others, and we may find “I matter“, more than we ever thought possible. Simple actions leading to a rich life indeed. We might find ourselves shining when night falls all around us.

    Share some little thing you have done in the comments and give everyone some ideas on what they can do for others so they too can say, “I matter.” You might even want to share this article and start an “I matter” movement.

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  • Is Race Real

    Is Race Real? Get the Simple Living Rich Life Answer

    “I don’t fancy colors of the face, I’m always attracted to colors of the brain.” ― Michael Bassey Johnson

    Is race real? The simple answer is no, but keep reading. After all, who wants to be one of those people who jumps to conclusions without reading the whole article?

    The basic genetic mechanisms controlling skin color are in effect the same as those controlling eye color, hair color, height or any other physical feature.

    The beauty of these mechanisms is they are reliant on many individual genes. You might think of these genes as types of tools in your garage such as wrenches. Wrenches come in many different types: adjustable or fixed sizes, some open ended, others closed. Then there are hammers: sledge hammers, claw hammers, and ball peen hammers. The complexity created by these tools or genes allows each of us to appear as an individual. Even siblings have hundreds to thousands of changes between their genes. Yet, all humans remain >99.9% identical genetically. Chew on that for a minute. We are all pretty much the same, yet we are all individuals at the same time. This is pretty cool stuff. No wonder individuality is pivotal to our culture, religious beliefs, society, and civil liberties.

    There is little room if any to draw clear lines to create what we call races in this complex system. Scientist work long hours to obtain what we call clean data. Small standard deviations, those tiny error bars on graphs; priceless. Trying to separate people into race groups produces broad fuzzy categories at best. In short, terrible science.

    To counter, here is some outstanding science when it comes to race:

    Deborah and Zakariyya were the children of Henrietta Lacks; a poor black woman who suffered incomprehensible pain and agony from cervical cancer. Scientists took Henrietta’s cancer cells without her consent, for research purposes. Those cells, known to scientist as HeLa, have been a cornerstone tool in molecular biology and cancer research ever since.

    Yet, the family of Henrietta was left in a state of fog, never understanding or knowing what had happened to their mother and her cells. What were they? Was a part of her still alive? Was her soul still locked in those cells? Why did all the financial and medical benefit their mothers cells provided go to others, yet they had no medical insurance or money themselves? After decades of unanswered questions, Christoph, then a postdoctoral fellow provided some answers. He invited them to his laboratory to have their first ever look at their mothers cells.

    If the only molecular biology anyone ever learned was what Christoph Langauer taught Deborah and Zakariyya Lacks the issues of race would disappear. Here is a snippet of their conversation as recorded in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot:

    “If those our mother’s cells,” he said (Zakariyya), “how come they ain’t black even though she was black?”

    “Under the microscope, cells don’t have color,” Christoph told him. “They all look the same—they’re just clear until we put color on them with a dye. You can’t tell what color a person is from their cells.”

    The young scientist ended the visit by presenting a picture of their mothers cells dyed with many different colors using a lab technique he had invented as a gift.

    We would solve so many of our world’s problems if we only knew this to be true, “When you look close we are all the same; just clear.”

    Is race real? The simple answer is no, not in terms of science.

    Race, like beauty is only skin deep.

    To lead simple rich lives is to live in light of this these truths.

    So why do we still bother with race at all in science? In short, because until we can locate genetic differences that predispose us to disease and develop tests to determine what individuals have them, imprecise clues to heritage are the best predictive tool.

    This is not the best example for many reasons, but it illustrates the point. Let’s say your child has a fever, and blood tests show she is anemic. If you checked the box besides “African” on the race question in your paperwork a doctor would be right in placing the possibility of Sickle Cell Anemia on her list of causes to investigate further. If however, you checked “White/Caucasian” the likelihood of Sickle Cell being the cause of your child’s symptoms is significantly lower.

    This idea that heritage is predictive of disease would hold true for scores of other medical conditions. If however, we knew and could look at a person’s DNA for those genetic changes which cause disease rather than having the patient check a box related to some vague category of inheritance we would be well on our way to individualized medical care and a higher standard of excellence. Not to mention we could do away with those silly boxes on our paperwork and what a happy day that will be.

    For now, this mythical pigeon holing of humanity continues to plague us.

    Is race real? Yes, and the solution is simple, but not easy. The problems race has caused run deep and wide. We all know our cities, towns, places of employment, prisons and schools all reflect problems linked to race.

    In watching the movie Hidden Figures, based on a true story of three black women working for NASA in the 1960’s, I could not help but wonder, “Where might we be today if we but recognized the scientific fact Christoph taught?” How many talents, ideas, and how much potential for good has been lost because we dismiss people because of the level of melanin their genes produce?

    If only we could see, much like the countless tears shed over race, we are all just clear.

    Then and only then will the answer to the question, “Is race real?” be a simple and an easy, “No.”

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  • a rainy day fund

    Are You Ready for Financial Climate Change?

    That’s right, financial climate change is real. It might be sunny today but it’s going to rain soon.

    We have a chalk board in our horse barn where we leave messages. For a while now the words on the chalkboard have read, “Manure happens.”

    This truth alone is why you need a rainy day fund.

    The manure of life comes in many shapes and forms. Illness, accident, death, job loss, divorce, natural disasters, and stuff just breaks whether it is made in China or not. Most people call days when manure like this happens rainy days.

    Hence, financial climate change is proven fact. You need a rainy day fund.

    But how much is enough? No one knows the answer to this but you. Every individual situation is different.

    However, here are some factors to take into account when calculating how big a rainy day fund should be:

    • How long it is likely to take you to find other employment? Some careers are easier to replace than others. You will need to replace your income for this span of time.
    • Would a job loss most likely require a move? If so, this will cost more money.
    • Do you rent? If so, you won’t need as much for repairs of appliances, new windows, or a new roof as you would if you were not renting.
    • Is there a secondary income in your household? How much of your fixed costs would the lowest earners income cover?
    • Do you have debt you will have to continue servicing?
    • How high are your fixed costs? The higher the fixed costs the bigger your rainy day fund will need to be. You did calculate your fixed costs on an earlier Simple Living Rich Life post didn’t you? See some ideas on how to lower your fixed costs here.

    Now that you have your figure in mind, how do you manage to accumulate the savings? These tips work. I know because I had a rainy day fund amounting to ~13% of the total income I had brought in over the previous two and a half years when I got married. During this time my only income was a graduate school stipend. Not a high end income to say the least. This money enabled my husband and I to start out our relationship on solid financial ground, rather than in a hole. Here’s what I did, or should I say didn’t do?

    To create a rainy day fund try eliminating the following:

    • New clothes purchases. I did not buy any new clothes. The only clothes I acquired during this time were a few items my parents bought when they would visit or for Christmas. I could have easily done without even those gifts. Most of us have closets full of clothes, most of which we never wear.
    • Paid TV. No cable TV for me. We didn’t have on demand or any other paid TV options at that time but I would not have had those either I am sure.
    • Eating out. I simply could not afford this luxury. This includes coffee shops and vending machines.
    • Entertainment that cost money. I entertained myself for free with studies, lab work, stomping in the creek behind the University, bike riding, and inviting friends to the sand volleyball pit at my apartment complex. They even brought the ball.
    • The latest smart phone. This was easy. There were no smartphones. But, ask yourself, would an upgrade be of any functional value or would it be more bells and whistles? Most likely the later is the case.
    • No memberships. I used the University gym. Be a little antisocial until your rainy day fund is in place.
    • Vacations. This should go without further comment.
    • Paid subscriptions. Note subscribing to Simple Living Rich Life is free. Do it!
    • Lessons. Horse lessons would come much later in life. If you have children this would include any extracurricular lessons requiring money. Yes, kids can grow up to be normal productive citizens without paid lessons.
    • Paid sports. This was a bit hard as I was a retired college athlete at the time. I did not even sign up for on campus sports due to my student health insurance requiring a waiver to be signed. In short, if manure or rain came in the form of a sports related injury I was stuck with the medical bills. I still cannot believe anyone played under these circumstances. Oh, and kids can also survive and become well rounded without playing organized sports requiring money.
    • Junk food such as potato chips, cookies, and candy. They are all expensive and not so good for you anyway. During those two and a half years I was more than a little frugal with grocery money. However, I did manage to buy a package of Oreo’s as my reward. So yes, I broke my own rule, sort of. I reasoned that if I only ate three Oreo’s a day the package would last about two weeks. My husband still tells me of a time before we were dating that he and two other friends were at my apartment. He spotted me sneaking my daily quota of Oreo’s from the closet. Many years later, he asked, “Why were you sneaking the Oreo’s?” I simply responded, “I couldn’t afford to feed the three of you Oreo’s. Besides how would I explain there was a quota?”

    Finally, remember the manure of life doesn’t stop flying just because you accomplished meeting your rainy day fund goal. It will continue to fly. With this in mind be sure not to get in too deep with your fixed costs making sure you can continue a small monthly payment to your rainy day fund in order to maintain the balance. Rather, think of indulging in non-fixed costs areas you have been neglecting that are more flexible to revert. Activities such as taking a nice vacation, or buying enough cookies for family and friends for example.

    Before we leave I have to say if this all sounds a little dismal or even militant to you, believe me it is not. These were minor sacrifices at a time in life when it was easy to do without. The rewards we have reaped from never putting ourselves in a financial hole through the years following have been immeasurable. Having a rainy day fund brings joy and peace. You might even say it is one way in which money can buy happiness.

    Grab an umbrella or a shovel, because whether you choose to call it rain or manure it’s sure to be coming your way. Your rotten days will be better with a rainy day fund.

    Are you experiencing financial climate change? Is there something different you have sacrificed for a rainy day fund? Share it so we can all benefit from great ideas.

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