6 Reasons Why I’m Glad I Live In A House I Call My Own

On April 30th of this year – 4 month ago already – I purchased a house. In another post at another time I’ll write why I bought a house. Today, however, the purpose of this update is to provide some commentary on the very real, tangible benefits that I’m enjoying now that I live in a home I call my own.

saratoga-interior
  1. The Overall Setting. More than anything else, I like the setting of my new home and the layout of the structure. In truth, the “setting” of the new house isn’t that much different than the old house. It’s still a townhouse and it’s still in the same development. However, where my old rental used to be an end unit right on the major road going through this development, my new home is the second to last unit in the building and I like that better. In addition, the new place is situated far off of the main road and at the end of a cul-de-sac. It’s much quieter than my previous place, which brings me to my next point.
  2.  

  3. Kids… Kids All Over! Look, I’m a fan of kids getting up off their butts, getting out of the house, and running around outside playing. How many more studies do we have to read talking about childhood obesity dooming future generations? When it comes to kids and their health, I think that video games have generally done us wrong as a society. And you might be reading these comments thinking, “What’s the point here, Joe?” Well, the point is that the kids who used to live on my old block were not obese because they were constantly outside playing! And it was annoying!
     
    Let me be clear, though – I’m not contradicting myself with this statement. Yes, the kids who lived on my old block were outside playing and getting their energy out in a healthy and productive way. The issue was that they were always outside and they had that weird thing that kids have in their heads that tells them it’s okay to scream at the top of their lungs any time they’re outside of their houses. That includes the minute that the step off of the bus in the afternoon and, more importantly, the few minutes that they spend waiting for the bus every morning. I don’t have any kids, but I can tell you that the school bus stops on my old street (directly in front of my old end unit, by the way) at 7:57am every morning. I know that time because that’s when the morning screaming would end (and, presumably, start up again on the school bus, but who knows). Suffice to say that one of the best parts of the new house is that there aren’t that many screeching kids running around on my end of the block. It’s… peaceful.
  4.  

  5. Arrogant, Entitled People. Everyone has a version of this story. You know how the story goes: you live in a small neighborhood or on a block where the neighbors all know each other and there’s always that one neighbor. The one who thinks that they are entitled to something a little bit more than the rest. On the block where my old rental unit is located that person lived on the other end of the street. How did her entitlement manifest itself? In general, she believed that she was more important than anyone else. The best example I can give was during one of the major snowstorms that we had a few years ago. Everyone who lived on our side of the block moved their cars to visitor parking so that the snow plows could come through and clear out our spots. That process worked well until Madam Entitlement moved her car into our spots (I write “our” spots because at the time I had roommates)! We left a note on her car asking her not to do that because we needed our spots cleared out as much as she needed hers cleared out. Of course, like the Empress of the Street that she believed herself to be, she left a note back to us explaining that we don’t own those spots and that she has important work to do and needs access to the main road.
     
    I was waiting to read the line in her note saying, “And in case you were wondering, the answer is yes – my feces do smell like the Queen’s roses.” That’s how full of it that woman was – and still is, I’m sure. Getting away from a self-absorbed, self-obsessed fool like that was an added bonus for my move.
  6.  

  7. People With Too Much Free Time.
  8. A closely related type of neighbor to the entitled kind is the neighbor who just has a little bit too much free time on their hands. Granted, I didn’t have many of these folks living on the old block. There was one person, though, who seemed to fit this bill. Whenever there was a bad snowstorm or whenever we had the parking area repaved and had to park on the main road for a few days, she would stand outside of her house and encourage people to call the homeowners’ association to complain. I don’t have a great deal of angst or anger towards someone like that, but I do think that they need to understand reality a little bit better. What constitutes a major crisis in their eyes may just be a minor inconvenience in my eyes. In fact, it may not be a problem at all in the eyes of someone else. It’s all a matter of perspective and people with too much time on their hands have a very bizarre perspective sometimes.
     

  9. The New Place Is Newer! This may seem a little obvious, but the new place is newer than my old rental. It was built almost 20 years after the townhouse that I was renting was built. That means that I have different, better perks over here than I had in the old place. For example, while the old place had one assigned parking spot, my new house has a garage with a driveway that I park in. Another example – the old place had a standard, wood burning fireplace that worked relatively well, but was a filthy mess to clean up. The new place has a gas fireplace. It’s incredible.
  10.  

  11. It’s Mine! It’s pretty cool that I own this place. And yes, I understand that I own everything on the inside of the townhouse and my homeowners’ association owns everything outside of the walls. I’m cool with that arrangement because I get to customize the inside of this place and make it my own. And that’s just what I’ve been doing since I moved in. For example, I’m writing this blog entry from my new home office and I’m putting this office together the way that I want. Before I came upstairs to write in this office, I was downstairs in my living room that is furnished with brand new furniture that I bought and sits in a room with walls that I painted with colors that I chose (okay, my designer chose the colors – I just approved them). When you’ve rented for the better part of the last 15 years, having the freedom and mobility to do whatever you want inside of your own home is pretty great.

There you have it – 6 reasons why I’m glad to live in a house I call my own. In the future I’ll write about the financial impact of the purchase and why last spring was the right time to buy for me. Stay tuned!

Start the Weekend Right Link Series – Volume #2, Edition #1

After a nearly 8 month absence, I’ve decided to bring back the Start the Weekend Right Link Series. There’s just too much awesome content that I run across on a daily basis for me not to share these links. On the topic of there being so much great content out there, if you find yourself visiting several websites each day and you’re looking for a better way to stay up to date on all of your favorite websites’ new articles, then I recommend signing up for a free Feedly account. I don’t get any kickback or reimbursement for promoting their product; I just think Feedly is the best RSS reader on the market and that everyone should use it! If you’re using another RSS aggregator, then consider following JerseySmarts.com at http://www.jerseysmarts.com/feed/ or if you’re already on Feedly, then you can follow us by clicking here.

Anyway, the link series is back. Enjoy the links below and get your weekend started right!

Start the Weekend Right Link Series – Volume #2, Edition #1
5 Things I Wish I Knew Before College, Be Great Daily
One of my younger fraternity alumni started a blog focused on personal development, motivation, and inspiration. He wrote an entry that caught my eye because of its timeliness. With colleges across the nation kicking back into session either this past week or this coming week, I thought that now was the perfect time to share this entry. What are the 5 things that you wish you knew before college?

What If?, Danger & Play
Mike at Danger & Play has some of the best content on the web for men of all ages. This particular entry poses the question – what if? In this short, but thought-provoking read, Mike asks a lot of great “what if” questions. My favorite one was, “What if you live your life with a sense of urgency and purpose?” More people need to live life with a better sense of urgency. The time is now, people!

Great Leadership Isn’t About You, Harvard Business Review
This one is a little bit longer, but it really hits home on one of the core characteristics of great leadership. The article suggests that great leadership is about inspiring your followers to “share your enthusiasm for pursuing a shared ideal, objective, cause, or mission.” Amen! As the title of the article states – great leadership is not about YOU!

The English Major Has Lost Its Way, John William Pope Center
Keeping with the earlier theme of “back to school,” this is an entry about how the English major has lost its way in higher education. My undergraduate degree is in English, but I always knew that English couldn’t be the end of the road. In my graduate studies I opted to get a degree in Public Policy along with two different certifications – one in Public Relations and another in Curriculum Studies. You have to be diversified if you’re an English major. The third to last paragraph of the linked commentary gives a concrete suggestion to improve the English major curriculum, and I agree with the writer.

What’s Wrong With Comcast?, The Atlantic
We all remember listening a few months ago as a customer tried to cancel his service with Comcast and the telephone rep for the cable giant refused to let him do so until the bitter end. It was the very definition of a public relations nightmare for Comcast. In the wake of the call being released, some folks began interviewing current and former Comcast employees to try to figure out what the problem is over there. This article sums up their largest problem – a company that is built on a fragmented structure. Not a good situation to be in. Not good at all.

Building a Better Teacher: An Interview with Elizabeth Green, EdWeek
Normally, I’d stay far away from posting links that direct people to articles on education-based websites. The unfortunate truth is that the public education industry is inundated with extremists and ideologues who are intellectually dishonest and blatantly lie to disgrace the people they assume to be their opposition. And most public school teachers are brainwashed by the propaganda organizations that they call “unions” (particularly here in New Jersey) so it makes having an intelligent conversations virtually impossible. This interview, however, is with an author who wrote a book about which teaching methods work in a charter school in Newark. Incidentally, this charter schools is also one of my clients, so I’m extra interested in their success. In fact, I’m so interested that I’m actually going to buy a physical copy of this book (who buys physical books any more?!) to see what the author has to say.

How Anthony the Developer Lost Over 200 Lbs… In One Year, Nerd Fitness
Sometimes, I’ll spend an hour or so reading through different motivational websites focused on realistic approaches to the world. Many years ago, though, I stopped reading blogs focused on the primary writer’s weight loss journey. Those blogs are a dime a dozen out there, but their abundance doesn’t bother me. I’m bothered by the “if I can do it, YOU can do it!” bullshit that accompanies most of these weight loss journeys. No, idiot. Your readers’ lives are different than your lives. They can’t do exactly what you did because they’re NOT you. A few years ago there was a semi-famous blog written by a guy who lost 125 pounds by counting calories and starting to work out. Big surprise he lost weight, right? And then after he stopped counting calories and working out? He gained 70 pounds back. Now he justifies gaining the weight back as being healthy. Amazing. The article linked here is NOT that website nor is it that guy’s story! This article is from a fun fitness website called Nerd Fitness and it talks about a guy who lost 200 pounds. I’m not suggesting you get inspired from what this guy did because he’s not you. However, looking at the pictures is pretty dramatic and eye-opening.

The Necktie, Doghouse Diaries
One thing I hate about working in an office is that I often have to wear a necktie. I liked the comic that I’m linking here so much that I pinned it to my office wall. Stupid neckties…

‘Six Californias’ Plan May Make 2016 Ballot, USA Today
This article may not be as recent as some of the others linked above, but it is certainly relevant. Particularly in our country, where we’re finally beginning to have a national dialogue about whether a two-party system works best for American and what elements are in place that keep the two-headed monster firmly in control of American politics. The map in this article shows how the state of California could (and should) be broken into six different states.

9 Striking Library Posters from the Great Depression, BOOK RIOT
If you made it down this far, then you already know that I was an English major back in college. You may have surmised from that information that I enjoy reading – which would be correct. One of the book-focused websites that I follow is BOOK RIOT, though not all of their content is focused on book reviews. Take, for example, the entry linked here. This is a post listing nine different library posters from the time of the Great Depression. I don’t know why, but I appreciated these posters – they were fun to look at for a few minutes. I hope you enjoy them!

Again, if you don’t already have one, then I recommend opening a free Feedly account. You can follow JerseySmarts.com on Feedly or you can add us to your existing RSS aggregator. Enjoy!

Words of Wisdom in Sigma Pi’s First Issue of The Emerald

Several weeks ago my fraternity (Sigma Pi) made the entire history of our national magazine (The Emerald) available online. For those who enjoy reading about the history of our organization and learning more about the true foundations of the fraternal movement, this online database is a treasure trove of great reading. As soon as the database was made available I looked up those issues of the magazine which were published after my chapter was initially chartered in 1969 and then rechartered again in 1991. I made electronic copies of the relevant pages related to those charterings and shared them them with my chapter brothers.

As I read through some of the old issues of the magazine I noticed a distinct tone in many of the articles. The tone that many of these articles are written in is much different than what we encounter in today’s writings and discussions in the Greek world. The tone of these articles is stronger than what we read and hear today. It is not an inherently weakened tone nor an apologetic tone. The early writers in our fraternity were strong in their convictions and proud of their membership in Sigma Pi. I imagine that the men who wrote these articles would give a passing chuckle at the heavily biased, anti-fraternity, anti-male drivel that many extreme sources are publishing these days. They’d read an article that talks about the “dark power” of fraternities and pity the writer – not attempt to glean some greater bit of wisdom from this obviously biased perspective.

My long-time readers know that I remained engaged in my fraternity beyond graduation by serving as a local, regional, and national volunteer. And during the 11 years that I’ve spent as a volunteer, I’ve seen and heard a whole bunch. When I began as a volunteer, I joined a national association presumably focused on providing assistance and guidance to fraternity advisors. My membership in that organization lasted about two years. I left that group when I realized that it was not an organization focused on building and strengthening Greek life at the chapter-level, which is the area that interested me the most given my volunteer position at the time. Rather, this was an organization focused on providing university employees working with fraternities and sororities different methods of controlling their students, limiting their university’s liability in worst case scenarios, and implementing more “campus progressive” policies on Greek organizations (i.e. policies that clandestinely break down traditional gender roles by forcing fierce repercussions on men who act masculine as well as women who act feminine).

In short, the strong, masculine perspective that is evident in the writing of my fraternity’s early leaders is absent today. In fact, it’s not just gone – it’s blasphemous on today’s hyper-sensitive college campuses.

I’ve written a commentary about how and why the “campus progressive” mentality was formed and is now spreading in Greek Life. And I plan on publishing that commentary in the near future after I’ve revised it some more. But I thought it would be useful to show you one of the early writings from my fraternity’s magazine to serve as baseline for that future commentary. To that end, I downloaded the first issue of The Emerald and I couldn’t stop reading it. After the opening editorial, I was hooked by the first opinion piece which followed. This piece was titled Measure of the College Fraternity as an Institution and was written by Brother Ralph Stanley Bauer of our Phi Chapter at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

For those of you who are highly engaged in fraternity and sorority life, I think you’ll enjoy reading Brother Bauer’s thoughts which were first published 102 years ago. It is amazing that over a century later, many of the same criticisms stand against our organizations. The difference between today and back then is that the “muck-rackers,” as Brother Bauer calls them, are now empowered and working on college campuses! These muck-rackers are quick to throw away over a century of history in an effort to reprimand college students for a perceived deviation from their strict, mucky definition of Greek values.

Again, I’ve written more on this which I’ll publish here soon. In the meantime, though, I’ll end my thoughts here and yield this space to Brother Bauer. I hope you’ll find his commentary as satisfying as I did when I first read it.

Measure of the College Fraternity as an Institution
By RALPH STANLEY BAUER, Phi Chapter

WHEN a modern and practical man of affairs desires to know whether it is best for his son, a freshman in a university, to become a member of a fraternity, he is likely to ask two questions. One is: What is the demeanor of “frat men” during their careers as undergraduates? The other question that he will ask is: “What do “frat men” amount to after they leave college?” Of these two, the latter question is of the more practical consequence. Fraternities mould men. As they do this work well or poorly, they are successful or unsuccessful. The efficiency of a factory is never determined by the appearance of its product in its unfinished state and when it is only half way through the factory; only the finished product of the factory indicates whether the establishment is serviceable. Moreover, it is not usual to judge the usefulness of a factory by the poor quality of a very small portion of its products, but it is customary to study rather the average quality of the entire output.

Yet there are certain “muck-rakers” who are criticising college fraternities in a manner in which they would not think of criticising other organizations. They forget that the test of the efficiency and usefulness of a college organization is not to be found in the conduct, appearance and demeanor of the student members of the organization. They fail to remember that the test is to be found in the finished product and not in the half-finished material. They say that fraternity men are more attracted by outside amusements than by their studies; that they do not have time to do their class work because of fraternity activities, and that fraternity men are, as a class, sporty. Suppose that, for purposes of argument, we grant all these allegations to be true; does it indicate anything if they are true? Do not these same boisterous, rollicking, fun-loving students become real, live, industrious, useful citizens. In the modern university there is no place for a man who is slow; other students may sympathize with such a man, but they have very little patience with him. Real strenuosity is a part of college life, and it is also a part of business and professional life. What appears to some old fossils to be a sporty and wicked atmosphere is just the kind of an atmosphere that said fossils need to live in for a short time, in order that the stale and sour gases of musty antiquity may be met by a suitable antidote.

These old-time traducers of college fraternities go still further and say that the lives of some college men have been wrecked because of associations formed by them in fraternities during their careers as college students. But suppose even that we grant that this is a fact; have not some persons ruined their lives by forming evil associations while attending Sunday School? Yet, who would dare to argue that, for this reason, the Sunday School should not be accorded a place among our useful institutions?

Educators are agreed that a child is not a small adult and therefore should not be expected to act as an adult would. Neither should the same conduct be expected of young men of ages ranging from sixteen to twenty-six as one would expect of men of forty. Young men of student age need more of recreation, amusement and diversion than do older men. Many of the best forms of wholesome enjoyment are supplied to the student by the fraternity. All this aids in the development of the individual and makes him better fitted to “mix” with other men and take a real place in the world after he leaves college.

We trust that no one will take what has been said concerning recreation and amusement to indicate that the writer has any inclination to believe in the absurd and vicious doctrine that a college man must “sow his wild oats.” No more pernicious proposition was ever put before young men. It is difficult to understand how so base a view of life should ever have gained a footing anywhere in a civilized and Christian country.

If the writer had the space necessary, he would be glad to go into a somewhat full discussion of the reasons why a fraternity man, upon graduation, other things being equal, has received a better training than has a “barb.” Many reasons might be given to show why so large a number of our most successful business and professional men have sprung from the ranks of the college fraternities. Surely, organizations that have produced nearly all of the recent presidents of the United States cannot be wholly bad.

Results count. Vague theories and gloomy foreboding about the “cussedness” of the whole situation cannot impress a man who thinks. Let the great college fraternities of America stand upon their brilliant record of past achievement, and let us hope that the future will equal or, if possible, surpass it in glorious results.

We need more people with this mindset working on our campuses! This is the perspective that our young men and women need to understand. The angry muck-rackers should be shunned from our movement, not employed and empowered by our campuses!

For Those Of You Who Enjoy Playing Around In The Outdoors

One of my friends loves going camping. She and her husband are constantly going away on vacation to exotic places and spending their time away from the office sitting in snowy mountains, tropical jungles, amid the ruins of ancient civilizations, or just hiking the trails along some of our own country’s magnificent natural environments. When you stop to think about it for a moment, America really does have a beautiful landscape which is comprised of a variety of diverse landscapes. We have majestic mountains, grassy plains, scorching deserts, beautiful forests – heck, we even have a volcano over in Washington state!

Personally, I’ve always enjoyed seeing pictures of these places instead of getting out there and experiencing them. And I think the reason for that is because I generally have never had the proper equipment to actually get out there and enjoy the experience. When I see my friend come back from her trips she has bags of hiking equipment and different gear that she uses to make her time in the wilderness not just enjoyable, but safe and productive, too. Even her camera is a top of the line item!

And while anyone can just go to a random store to buy outdoors equipment the truth is that you really need to get high quality gear in order to make your excursion worthwhile. The savvy shopper will find a high quality store like The Clymb and see what they have on sale in their camping tents department. The next step would then be to find the items that work best for the experience that you’re attempting to create. For a guy like me, I’d be focused on my feet. I find that if my feet are getting battered and bruised out there, then I just can’t enjoy myself. I’m sure that many of you are the same way.

I wouldn’t be opposed to even getting a higher performance pair of shoes to spend some time out in the wilderness. So I’m sure it’s no surprise that my first purchase will be from The Clymb’s trail running shoe section! It’s really all about quality for me – particularly when purchasing equipment that is going to have to stand up to the elements.

Since I’m not teaching during the coming semester and since I will have a little bit more free time, I fully expect that I’ll schedule more time to enjoy the wilderness. And with some high quality gear backing me up, I’m sure that my experiences will be just as exciting as my friend and her husband’s experiences!

A Few Words on Treating Drug Addiction and Alcoholism in New Jersey

One of my best friends in the world is a drug addict. Without going into personal details about this person, they came from a home where the parents were divorced. The mother had (and has) a drug addiction and the father likes to drink. The stepmother didn’t have either of those issues, but in the end wound up turning on this person. Through drug addiction, this person wound up turning their back on almost everyone that they knew so that, today, this person sits along in a jail cell without a strong life to return to once the sentence is up.

Why is this person one of my best friends? Well, I don’t really know. Sometimes you just see through all of the addiction and all of the drama that surrounds it and find that you like a person for the human being that they are, right? I guess that’s the root of my friendship with this person – after it’s all said and done, I just like them because they’re a good person at heart.

Stories like this one abound in suburban America. And as a guy who grew up in suburban America, I always wished that there was some type of avenue or route for so many of my friends to have their addictions managed and cared for when they became major problems. And that’s where a group that I recently learned about comes into play: Advanced Health and Education in Eatontown, New Jersey with a specific focus on providing heroin addiction treatment and alcohol rehab, among treatment for other services.

Having a group like Advanced Health and Education in New Jersey is a great option for those of us who know people that really need this type of service. Heroin addiction is running rampant in suburban New Jersey, but particularly in the Jersey Shore area (where I currently live).

Just as Governor Chris Christie mentioned the other day – we need to find ways to help those people in our lives who are addicted to drugs – not continue to lock them up without providing any treatment. Sometimes I wonder what would have become of my friend had they been offered the type of treatment that someone can find at a drug rehab center like Advanced Health and Education. At the very least, that person may not be sitting in a jail cell right now without being provided any treatment for the very real addiction that they suffer from on a daily basis.

If you’re suffering from addiction or if you know someone suffering from addiction or who needs treatment for alcoholism, then consider giving a place like Advanced Health and Education a try. Lord knows it beats the alternative that my friend is suffering through right now.