heatherfromthegrove’s New Year’s Revelation No 7 of 7: The best is yet to come

“We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched.
Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives…not looking for flaws, but for potential.”
Ellen Goodman, American Journalist

Much to the wry amusement of my friends and family members,  “The best is yet to come”  is a mantra of encouragement that I use quite frequently. Especially since the Great Recession of 2008. I believe the saying comes from Robert Browning‘s poem which begin’s with “Grow old with me! The best is yet to be… .”

The phrase is also the title of a 1959 song  written by Carolyn Leigh and composed by Cy Coleman. Although it was originally written for singer Tony Bennett, it was Frank Sinatra who made the song famous. He recorded it in his 1964 album, It Might As Well Be Swing, accompanied by Count Basie and directed by Quincy Jones.  On the 25th of February, 1995, The Best Is Yet To Come was the last song that Sinatra sang in public and the words were immortalized on his tombstone.

I am a “glass is half full” type of person and so it is not really surprising that this is one of my favorite sayings. I truly believe that there is always something to look forward to and that every problem has a solution. We navigate our lives through a series of peaks and valleys. The valleys are made bearable because we know that, eventually, there will be peaks. And oh how glorious are those peaks! Well worth the wait and hardship. Optimism and Hope. May we all continue to have them in abundance.

2017 is going to be a simply “Mahvelous” year. I feel it in my bones. Or is that my early onset arthritis…? Just kidding.  

And please remember to:

Take the time to read (a book),
Walk the walk,
Let it go,
Feed your brain,
Get some sleep,
Be the architect of your own destiny,
and, of course,  rest assured that
The best is yet to come.

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Why this upcoming presidential election is so important

Access to higher education is a right, not a privilege

Access to higher education is a right, not a privilege.

“I think everybody is in agreement that we are a great entrepreneurial nation. We have got to encourage that. Of course we have to support small and medium-sized businesses, the backbone of our economy, but we have to makes sure that every family in this country gets a fair shake.”Senator Bernie Sanders

It is time for change, people. We need to move away from the status quo. The state of the union, as it stands right now, simply isn’t working for most of us. “Most of us” are the Middle Class in America, a class that is still reeling from the aftershocks of the largest economic crisis since The Great Depression of 1929.

“The American people must make a fundamental decision. Do we continue the 40-year decline of our middle class and the growing gap between the very rich and everyone else, or do we fight for a progressive economic agenda that creates jobs, raises wages, protects the environment and provides health care for all? Are we prepared to take on the enormous economic and political power of the billionaire class, or do we continue to slide into economic and political oligarchy? These are the most important questions of our time, and how we answer them will determine the future of our country.”  – from the website of Senator Bernie Sanders

In the upcoming second edition of my book, Casualties of the (Recession) Depression, I address all of the socio-economic problems still facing this country – years after the so-called “Great Recession” supposedly ended. But with every problem, there is a solution.

It all starts with the economy. We need to stop outsourcing work to other countries and support our own workforce.  We need to raise the minimum wage. Healthcare and education should not be considered privileges awarded to only those who can afford them. They are basic rights that we, each of us, should expect to have access to…. without losing the shirt off our backs.

The upcoming presidential election will give the American people the opportunity to effect real change. I hope that they will vote intelligently, and not emotionally. I also hope that people will do their research. This is an important election. Apathy is not an option.

You know where I stand.

 

Coming soon! 

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heatherfromthegrove’s New Year’s Revelation No 2 of 7: “Learn about the world around you”

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This year, my New Year’s “Revelations” are based on some of the witticisms and words of wisdom that my mother and father imparted to me.

When I was young, I used to roll my eyes and shake my head at them – not really heeding their words.

Or so I thought.

They’ve since passed, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss them.

Most importantly, their words – often colourful and humorous, but always spot-on – resonate deeply with me today.

I now share them with you.

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My father used to say:

“If you don’t want to read or learn about what’s going on around the world – in other countries, in other cultures – then, you’re an idiot!”

Those were his exact, emphatic words and they were directed at me. The year was 1974. He was reprimanding me for not showing an interest in an international news story that he was reading out loud to us.  Amazingly, I remember that the article was about Russian novelist/historian and Nobel Prize winner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn being deported from the Soviet Union to Frankfurt (Germany) and stripped of his Soviet Citizenship. Solzhenitsyn had spent 11 years in exile, at a Soviet labor camp for criticizing Stalin. In 1973, he wrote The Gulalg Archipelago (Arkhipelag Gulag) – about the Soviet prison/labor camp system under Stalin. The manuscript, which started to appear in installments in Paris, was seized by the KGB in the Soviet Union.

These were some of the stories that my father tried to engage us with at the breakfast table and in the evenings, after dinner. He would get so frustrated with me when I did not show interest.

But, as the saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Ironically, I went on to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science and history.  I write books that focus on socio-economic issues affecting everyday people, and I tell their stories by placing them in their political, historical and cultural context.

I feel privileged to have had such an intense, intelligent and well-read father. How I wish that he were alive today. Oh, what wonderful, spirited discussions and debates we would have!

I can’t emphasize enough (as he did before me) how important it is for us to learn about (and appreciate) the wonderful diversity and nuances of our world community. We are all inter-connected, to some degree.

With knowledge, we gain understanding.

With understanding, we become enlightened, compassionate human beings.

With compassion, we can help each other and we can effect change – positive change.

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” 
― Augustine of Hippo

Image via Pixabay.com.

The Economic Crisis Through The Eyes Of A Child

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The Second Edition of Casualties of the (Recession) Depression will be coming out late Fall – complete with new and updated socio-economic statistics, additional vignettes and chapters, and sporting a new cover.

This series of vignettes depicts the many faces of the Recession (really a 21st century depression).  These are the firsthand account stories of real people. Their names have been replaced by the generic “he” – “she” – “they” … both to protect their privacy and also to bring home the point that it could happen to anyone, including you or me. In the context of this book, the objective was to record real, and sometimes raw, moments experienced by people who have been adversely affected by this long economic downturn.  By capturing these brief episodes and providing a written backdrop for each year – in the form of an economic and political commentary– the reader can see the transformation and progression of this (Recession) Depression from its conception to its continued existence in the present day.

Here’s an excerpt from the book:

VIGNETTE: Through the Eyes of a Child

She skittered behind the stairwell and sat down. With her arms wrapped tightly around her knees, she watched through the space between the stairs. Her long ash blonde hair cascaded around her like a shawl. Her clear, blue eyes were wide and close to tears. The lady who lived next door was talking with her mother and as they passed by the stairs, the lady spotted her and smiled. She put her finger up to her nose silently. The lady understood and didn’t tell her mother that she was hiding under the stairs. They went into the next room.  

She hadn’t seen her father all morning. The night before, her parents had a terrible fight. They were always fighting. But last night was the worst. They had been yelling at one another and then she heard her mother crying. She had buried her face in the pillow, to block out the sounds. After awhile, everything went quiet.  From her bedroom window, she heard a noise on the back porch. She looked out and down, towards the porch, and saw that her father was sitting on the steps. She wiggled out of bed and tip-toed downstairs. She opened the screen door just enough so that she could see him better.  He was bent over with his hands around his head. He was making a sound that she had never heard before. Daddy was crying! She had never seen her Daddy cry before. Things must be terribly wrong. Her heart started beating fast. She covered her mouth to stifle a cry. Quietly, she closed the door and went back upstairs to her room.  She cried herself to sleep.

This morning, her mother told her to stay out of the way because men were coming to take all their furniture and things away. She didn’t understand why. There were four of them. Big and sweaty, they were taking things out of the house. Nobody noticed her behind the stairwell. She saw them take her princess canopy bed away. Her mouth began to tremble and she bit her lip, to keep from crying. A big man with no hair came out of her playroom, carrying her toy box and on top of the box was her favorite American Girl® Doll, Caroline.  Caroline had blonde hair and blue eyes, just like her.  She gasped.  The big man heard her. He turned around and bent down slightly, squinting his eyes. Then, he spotted her. He saw her staring at the doll on top of the box that he was carrying. He started to turn away towards the front door, but her tear-stained face and big blue eyes stopped him. He looked around. No one else was in sight, or so he thought.  Quickly, he grabbed the doll and slid it under the stairs. He put his fingers to his lips, “Shhh…” and gave her a wink. Then he was gone.  She grinned from ear to ear and clutched Caroline to her chest.

She heard a noise and looked up. The lady next door extended her hand. She put her hand in the neighbor’s and, holding Caroline tightly, she got up from under the stairs. The lady called out to her mother and said that she would take her (and Caroline) next door for some tea and cake. She and the lady had always enjoyed their little tea parties together. She would miss the kind lady when they moved.

As they left the house, she saw the man with no hair. She gave him a shy smile and he looked at her. His eyes were soft and wet. “Maybe he’s coming down with a cold,” she thought.

Copyright © 2013-2014 by Heather Joan Marinos

All rights reserved.

 

When hunger hits close to home… what would you do?

“America is the richest country in the world. And yet tonight, thousands of your neighbors will go to bed hungry.
It may be your child’s schoolmate who is undernourished and has difficulty learning on an empty stomach.
Or it could be a co-worker, a working mother whose low-wage job doesn’t make ends meet.
Perhaps it’s an elderly neighbor who has to make a decision whether to delay filling a prescription or buying groceries.
The faces of hunger are as broad as the faces of America.”
~ David Nasby, General Mills

How many of  us (and our families) could survive on $30 per week?
If we knew a family member, friend or neighbor who was starving, would we give him (or her, or their family) food?
Would we even notice the signs, or would we wait for them to have to swallow their pride and ask?
Some soul-searching questions, indeed.

Sometimes, the only way to fully understand the gravity and indignity of hunger is to walk in a hungry person’s shoes.  A very interesting experiment that would be, wouldn’t it?

Here’s a little food for thought:
http://eatocracy.cnn.com/2011/09/28/the-food-stamp-challenge-eating-on-30-a-week/

And some more: http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/tag/detroit

A book with a local story, but a global message

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Around the world with Casualties of the (Recession) Depression….
… amazingly, the Kindle (eBook) edition is available virtually everywhere!
 

Although Casualties of the (Recession) Depression is about middle-class America, the experiences narrated in this book, along with the issues of recession, hunger, joblessness, homelessness… are experiences and issues that have no geographic boundaries.  They are global.  Especially in today’s world economy. 

There are approximately 870 million people, worldwide,  who are experiencing  hunger. 

Book Details:

Genre: Non-fiction

Categories: Commentary, Economics, Economic Condition, Politics

Topic: Economic crisis in middle-class America. Real people. Real stories. Real issues. Complete with commentary, historical/comparative economic analysis and statistics, helpful resources, and philanthropic programs.

Available (in English) through the following worldwide Amazon sites:

        Europe:

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Image via spartantraveler.com.

Random Acts of Kindness: Paying for People’s Groceries

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For those of you who have ever found it challenging, at one time or another,  to “make ends meet” and for those of you who understand the concept of random acts of kindness… watch this video (click on the link, below)
 
 
Very apropos, given the Thanksgiving season and upcoming Christmas holidays. 
Kindness.  It IS the gift that keeps on giving.

Announcing “Casualties of the (Recession) Depression” on Amazon Kindle!

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My book, Casualties of the (Recession) Depression is now available in eBook format… on Amazon Kindle, is US $9.99 (Paperback edition retails at US $20).

Although Casualties of the (Recession) Depression is about middle-class America, the experiences narrated in this book, along with the issue of recession, hunger, joblessness, homelessness…are experiences and issues that have no geographic boundaries. They are global. Especially in today’s world economy. Therefore, this book is applicable everywhere. As I write on the front cover: “They could be you. They could be me. They could be anyone.”

Here’s who will find added value to buying a copy of Casualties of the (Recession) Depression:

  1. Civics and humanities students/teachers – this book would be perfect suggested reading for the class.
  2. If you are involved with your own organizations, in the fight for hunger, this book would be a good one to use as collateral material for your cause(s).
  3. If you are in government, this book would be good reference/collateral material for your political platform and/or constituency.
  4. If you are involved in your religious community and work with community outreach programs, to fight hunger and homelessness, this would be a good book to raise awareness in your congregation/religious programs.
  5. If you work in the field of hospital administration, social work or advocacy, this book would be an interesting (and valuable) reference to have.

Some of the Amazon customer reviews are on the right sidebar of this blog site.

I hope that you’ll give it a read!

Cheers,

— Heather

Kudos to the Non-profit Organizations and Volunteers Who Fight the Fight… to alleviate hunger, poverty and homelessness

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“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

Anne Frank

 

I have always viewed volunteer workers and non-profit organizations – such as (but not limited to) The World Food Programme, Feeding America and Action Against Hunger/Action Contre La Faim – with deep and profound respect.

It is a difficult and thankless job.

Ahhh, but many of these dedicated men and women don’t view it as a “job”…  nor do they expect a pat on the back, let alone an actual “Thank You.”

Imagine, for a moment, what it must feel like to see hardship, hunger, poverty and sickness… day in and day out. Yet, these volunteers press on… hoping, no, praying that they are somehow making a difference, making a dent in this world epidemic that is Hunger.

Imagine what it must feel like to try to recruit people to help… to contribute their time and yes, their money, to a problem that – like it or not – affects us all.  So many people (too many) prefer to turn a blind eye.  Until it happens to them. And for those raising their eyebrow: it can happen to them. And to you. And to me.  It is never wise to be complacent. As we’ve seen with disasters like Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina, it can happen in a flash.  Here today, gone tomorrow.

So today marks the last day of my 3½-week Help Fight Hunger book promotion.

To say that I am “disappointed” is a huge understatement, but it will not deter me from continuing to contribute my time and writing to helping others, to raise awareness on important issues that ultimately affect us all, and to hope that someone – anyone – will listen and perhaps even join the effort to help those who need our help.

I’d like to take a moment to thank the family members, friends, and colleagues who have been kindly “spreading the word” on behalf of my Help Fight Hunger campaign. Most importantly, I’d like to express my deep love and gratitude to my husband for putting up with all the intensity. 

I hope that I’ve provided you with some informative, thought-provoking blogs on a subject that is discomfiting, but nevertheless very current and critical. 

Thanks for reading.

― Heather

HFH2

Image (t the very top) via erikarachel.com.

Quid pro quo

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Business transactions have always been based on the principle of “quid pro quo” (something for something). Individuals and organizations barter their goods/services in exchange for other goods/services or for monetary compensation.

When there is a fair and equal exchange of give and take, all parties walk away satisfied and happy. However, when the exchange is uneven and unfair, this will inevitably result in dissention and conflict.

This translates to human interaction and relationships ― between spouses, families, friends, and communities. When the “give and take” is unbalanced, problems ensue.

Taking the concept of “quid pro quo” and placing it in the context of philanthropic work, what do philanthropists, non-profits, and community volunteers receive – in exchange for their good work?

First and perhaps most importantly, they get a sense of well-being from knowing that they have helped ease the suffering of another human being. That is, in my opinion, the highest form of quid pro quo.

Additionally, they receive visibility (for themselves and for their cause), potential business opportunities, and additional funding (to further their cause; to sustain their philanthropic efforts).

By reducing and, ideally, eliminating hunger, homelessness, and poverty, we help to make a nation prosper and thrive ― as a whole. We are stronger (as a nation) when we no longer need to allocate funds for assistance. Imagine a country devoid of poverty and hunger…  what a wonderful triumph that would be!

The flip side to quid pro quo is when organizations offer the poor and hungry an opportunity to pay it forward or to work, in exchange for food and board.

Thus, they finally have access to one of the most basic rights of all: the right to human dignity.

And if that isn’t quid pro quo, I don’t know what is.

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From Aug 14-Sept 7, purchase a copy of  Casualties of the (Recession) Depression, and for every $20 book purchased directly from me, through my website, I will be donating $5 from the proceeds of each book sale to either: Feeding America (US), Action Against Hunger (Canada), or The World Food Programme (Global). The purchaser chooses one of the three. As I’ve stated before and clearly state on my website, this promotion does not apply to books purchased from third party distributors, such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

 

Image (t the very top) via bubblews.com.