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Real Estate: Self-Representation

Unpopular Opinion: I think everyone needs to invest in a real estate course and learn what they need to know to do what they want to do – rent, own, invest, etc. – in their local market. This doesn’t mean you have to represent yourself in your deals. It does however, make it more likely for you to know when and how you are not being well represented.

I had four listing agents for my first resale in NYC. During the tenure of three of the agents, I was in real estate school in AZ. I had literally gone along with things suggested by the agents that I assumed was a ”professional knowledge” thing, that was nothing of the sort. Real estate agents are just people with their own opinions and biases just like you. More than likely, they are more concerned with their best interests than yours. Who knows what they consider to be their best interest on any given day dealing with you?

I’m absolutely certain there are excellent real estate agents in the world who truly strive to be good representatives of their clients and are respectful counterparts in a transaction. I have not had the honor of working with one. In either of the two states, I’ve bought and sold homes in.

FSBO’s (for sale by owner) are laughed at by professionals. They’re derided. As an agent selling my own property, I was scoffed at repeatedly. Another agent actually told me it was illegal for an agent to sell their own property. It’s not. One of my former brokerages made it impossible to remain with the agency if you sell on your own instead of listing with them. The average homeowner has the option to sell their own home or hire someone to do it for them, but a real estate agent can only sell through their agency? Nah. I didn’t get into real estate to have my options restricted. On property I own.

What I will tell you as a new agent with a clientele of one, myself, I am my best representative. I was the best representative of my properties. No one know the home better than the homeowner. Even if you work with an agent, your job is to make sure they market your property well. Only one agent of the six I’ve worked with got a better number for me than I got for myself, but she didn’t close the deal. She dropped the ball and told me to my face face, in front of her broker, that she did her job my getting me the offer. With my limited real estate knowledge (still in RE school at that point), I told her, “Your job is to close the deal.”

Agents don’t get paid for offers. They get paid when their brokers get paid. Their brokers get paid at closing. No close, no pay.

I went through two more agents after her before getting my license in NY, joining an agency and listing my own property. Listing with your brokerage as an owner/agent does have some benefits. In New York City, there’s no public MLS. Agencies market properties to each other. Agents build networks and databases for marketing units or buildings. It’s easier to be seen via an agency’s platform. I was in contract within a few weeks of listing my own property with my agency. The buyer had expressed interest to one of my former listing agents. Had even made a low offer, which I rejected. When I relisted my property, they reached out again and we met in the middle on price.

For my AZ resale, I had one agent before delisting and going FSBO. He fielded an offer. It was low. I nudged him to follow up. I got the sense he thought I was being unrealistic in my expectations. Honestly, I think he was going by the book. He was focused on comps and the comps on the block didn’t support my pricing. This is where personal knowledge of your property and neighborhood comes in.

The two recent sells on my street hd been quick and urgent. The first one may have been fear of market collapse or perhaps the owner was over-extended. A lot of homes in this community are second homes before they become primary residences.

The second home that sold under market felt trapped by the comp of the first sale. They were also on contingency with the builder for a larger home down the street. They were at risk of losing the lot they wanted, so they were desperate to close fast.

I wasn’t in a hurry. I had a low number I didn’t want to go below. The offer my agent got was about $30k below ask and $20k below my low number at the time. The house wasn’t showing, meaning either agents weren’t aware it was available or it simply wasn’t being shared/marketed by y agent. Tucson had very low inventory at this time. Other properties in the area were getting offers within a week of listing. I stayed listed for three months before canceling the listing. I rested during the holidays and relisted on Zillow in January.

The offer I accepted came in $500 below my floor and $10,000 below my ask. Decent numbers but not the best for the times. I hadn’t kept my eye on the market. The absolute lack of inventory in the Metro Tucson area meant I could’ve netted $30-50k above my ask had I been more patient and discerning. As it was, the offer I closed on was $30,000 higher than the offer my agent brought me months prior and $9,500 higher than the highest cash offer from a corporate cash buyer. Not to mention the 4-5% commission fees saved for any of the offers.

Representing myself has earned and saved me tens of thousands of dollars per transaction. Because proof is in the pudding, I don’t see myself using an agent unless it’s absolutely beneficial to me.

For example, I’m planning on buying investment properties in a state I’ve never owned in before. The properties are city-owned, deeply discounted and comes with performance requirements. The city also requires licensed agents to process the application. No problem. I’ll hire an agent. The city as the seller, pays the agent’s fee. If I choose well, I may have someone to navigate a new market with me. If my agent streak continues as it has been, then I’ll have another cautionary tale.

Speaking of cautionary tales, the buyers of my AZ home and their agents are intergalactic level assholes. Like truly, I’ve never encountered the audacious level of disrespect and entitlement as these four individuals exhibited throughout the course of the transaction. I already shared their numbers were within spitting distance of my range, so in my mind,not enough to to trash the deal over. However, their treatment of me was so insulting, I asked them to cancel the contract twice. I simply was not comfortable dealing with them. In Arizona, sellers can’t cancel purchase contracts unless there’s outright fraud. I suspected they were misrepresenting themselves and their intentions but it didn’t amount to the level of fraud. Essentially, I asked repeatedly for verification of identity and funds. Their agent ignored my requests. I ended up contacting their banker, whom I don’t know and who could say anything on the phone, but he claimed they were legit and he had verified identity and funds. He also forwarded a chain of emails which mollified me a bit. I was assured by my broker at the time that the title process would shake loose any discrepancies. Title was a breeze. These people weren’t.

Because of this experience, the next home I sell for myself, I will not pay for the buyers agent. If I am FSBO, and the buyer wants an agent, then the buyer can pay for their own agent. In my mind, I paid money for licensed professionals to disrespect me during the resale of my AZ home. The state board says their behavior (more than shared here) is neither an ethics violation or a professional standards violation. One broker told me this is what I get for representing myself. Another said, next time you’ll hire someone to represent you, won’t you? Yet another said, why don’t you believe in the system? Each of these people make money off of agents listing and closing properties with their firms. That’s the only way they remain profitable entities. Me selling outside of the agency is of no value to them. That’s a blaring intrinsic bias. I had to stop and ask myself, “Who does their advice benefit?” Then more specifically, “How does this advice benefit me?” It didn’t. So I had to continue to move in a way that benefited me. Honestly, this is how I’ll be moving for the foreseeable future.

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Kingdom of Heaven (ACAD: Matthew 13)

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears[a] listen!”

Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets[b] of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says:

‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn — and I would heal them.’

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away.[c] As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with[d] three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet:[e] “I will open my mouth to speak in parables; I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world.”[f]

Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears[g] listen!

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

“Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” When Jesus had finished these parables, he left that place.

He came to his hometown and began to teach the people[h] in their synagogue, so that they were astounded and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor except in their own country and in their own house.” And he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.

 


Source: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2013&version=NRSV

Footnotes

  1. Matthew 13:9 Other ancient authorities add to hear
  2. Matthew 13:11 Or mysteries
  3. Matthew 13:21 Gk stumbles
  4. Matthew 13:33 Gk hid in
  5. Matthew 13:35 Other ancient authorities read the prophet Isaiah
  6. Matthew 13:35 Other ancient authorities lack of the world
  7. Matthew 13:43 Other ancient authorities add to hear
  8. Matthew 13:54 Gk them
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Give Yourself Permission to Be Uncertain

This is about fragility, vulnerability, uncertainty, poor decisions and giving yourself permission to do things over when you’re in a better mental state.

#life #permission #doover #selfhelp #selfreflection #fragility #vulnerability #uncertainty #harvest #harvestlife #evolution #women #woman #womanhood #harvestlifeblog

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Film Review: Queen & Slim

As I left the movie theater after watching Queen & Slim, I spoke with a friend who asked me what I thought of the film. I prefaced my comments with, “It was good and disturbing.” A couple of days later, my aunt asked me if I liked it and if I would buy it or see it again. Pensively, I responded, “I liked it. I no longer buy movies. I thought about seeing it again but the subject matter was a bit intense for me.”

One of the sound bites in one of the trailers calls the two protagonists the Black Bonnie & Clyde. Many other reviews are leading with that misleading comparison. There’s no crime spree. There’s no pleasure taken in hurting others or breaking laws. The film is about two Tinder users who meet for a date. Viewers suffer through their very awkward conversation with them. If the film ended at the restaurant we would all be sure that these two young people parted with no intention of ever seeing one another again.

The pace of the whole movie is smooth and unhurried. So much so that I grew tense anticipating expected anticipatory moments. However, Queen and Slim remain mostly unhurried and unbothered throughout the film. Their lack of urgency truly bothered me. Honestly, it wasn’t until the end that I understood what they knew from the beginning: none of us are getting out of this alive. We all rush through life consuming experiences, emotions, people, and opportunities while not really being present. Ignoring the poignancy of now in a headlong rush for a goal or a hope.

This film is both a snapshot of oppressive America and a love letter to Black People. My summary of the overall message is: the biggest threats to the power structure, world order, global oppressive systems and the overall ruling class is 1. A Black Woman who stands up for a Black Man and 2. A Black Man who carries a Black Woman (holds her in his arms). Deadly threats both. The whole history of this country and colonial systems around the globe have been based on making sure neither of those two things happen freely, naturally or often.

Community

It would be easy to say Queen & Slim is a film about Black People. It’s more insightful to articulate how the whole film was about humanity and our varied nuances. It showed how people rally behind anything that gives them a reason to stand on their feet. It showed how people are willing to help, sometimes at a steep cost to themselves, just because someone is in need. It showed how some people take advantage of others for personal gain. It showed how we can grow in love and admiration simply by proximity and shared time. It showed how hate and fear is an infection that spreads like wildfire. Yet compassion was also sprinkled throughout the film with slightly subtler flare. 

I thought the film was disturbing because it was so real. Being pulled over by an aggressive police officer. Deciding to fight for your life rather than being killed for someone else’s pleasure. Seeking refuge. Trusting strangers. Going from someone simply living your life to national symbols and targets overnight. We’ve seen these actions played out repeatedly in the news, on our timelines and in our neighborhoods. Yet as familiar as it all is, Queen & Slim did a good job of not painting everyone in primary colors. There were kind and compassionate police officers, as well as lazy and uninterested, conflicted and compromised cops. None of those cops took away from the largest presence of police officers in the film being those whose “fear for their lives” justified their use of deadly force.

Family wasn’t prominent in the film, but family was certainly part of the fabric of the story. From early on, we knew how important Slim’s family was to him and how disconnected Queen was from hers. Family relationships were fraught with tension. Safe havens erupted in unnecessary violence, but the support was always there. It was the protective acts that proved love despite the distance of time and space.

Black people recognized Queen and Slim every where they went. They were embraced as they were and praised for what people thought they were. Resting in the bosom of the Black community could have been a theme. Until it wasn’t. What’s betrayal without access and knowledge?

Love & War

The most disturbing part of the film was the jolting inter-lacing of two scenes. Queen & Slim on the run ran into themselves and each other. Their coming together in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nature, was extremely tender and lovely. Unfortunately, the viewer didn’t get to watch this scene play out in peace. The screen cut to a protest against police brutality that was building in anger and intensity. Every few seconds the viewer was jolted from the natural serenity of two people coming together in love to the violence of the tools of oppression (police officers) and the oppressed charging towards a collision.

It was painful to watch because the truth is we have to find our joy in chaos. Violence and oppression don’t take breaks for self-exploration and human connection. If we don’t stop where we are and enjoy now, experience one another now, decide to grow in understanding and compassion now, we will learn that tomorrow may be too late.

Queen & Slim

Queen & Slim could have been their Tinder handles or the nicknames assigned to them by an adoring public. Two people clashing in the night who eventually ended up clinging to one another. Isn’t that the story of any woman and man learning each other? First circling in suspicion, then dancing together. This was a story of the evolution into the fullness of womanhood, manhood and vulnerability. Our lives are more than our circumstances. We can choose who we will be in every moment we have breath. We can change what’s of value and importance to us as we move through life. We can live fully in the purpose of the moment, in the now, unbothered by what may or may not be our future. Faith & Joy could have just as easily been their names, it would be an equally fitting title for the film.

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Living without permission

I’ve been feeling like a rebel in recent years. Marching to the beat of my own orchestra. Listening to the voice whispering to me through the wind. Choosing to grant myself permission to live on my own terms. Deciding to embrace the fear of doing such even as I continue to forge ahead. For a spell now, I’ve been bombarded with examples on why living without permission is so important for our overall well-being.

Guy

I have a male friend who has had an extremely hard time in New York City since he moved to the city fifteen years ago. We have periods of connection when we check on each other before falling off again. Shortly after I returned to New York City to relist and market my apartment myself, we spent a day together in my empty Harlem apartment. We caught up on years of missed conversations and hardships. By the end of the evening I became frustrated with him. The common theme throughout his constant hardship was his undying belief that others would look out for him and his interests therefore there was no need for him to take precautions for himself. He repeatedly put himself in situations that were not only unfavorable towards him, they were often dangerous and left him at the mercy of people who had no stake or concern for his well-being. Alternatively, when he was blessed with good work environments (perks, benefits, kind managers, etc.) he abused their generosity. My strong admonition was that he needs to make better decisions for himself.

It astonished me how much power he gave others over his life, livelihood and well-being. It sounded as if he didn’t make a move unless someone with no responsibility to him was ok with what he wanted to do.

He became a real estate agent a year before I did. He stayed with that agency for a whole year without doing anything, not even an open house, because they wouldn’t help him or answer his questions or give him his pocket card (proof of profession and associated agency in NYC). When we first spoke about this, I was in Arizona and had been a licensed agent for four months. In my first month, I hosted no less than ten open houses for other agents, most of whom I still haven’t met. I was genuinely perplexed by Guy. When I asked him why he didn’t simply change agencies if help was so important for him, he responded, “I didn’t think I could.”

Real estate agents are independent contractors. The only agents who may have difficulty switching firms are those who have property listings. Listings belong to the agency, not the agent. Sometimes agencies will allow you to pay a fee for your listings to take your clients with you. If you have done absolutely no business for an agency, you could literally walk out the door in the middle of a conversation and nobody will be calling to check on you. So for Guy to not even have this minimum amount of initiative to look after his professional interests as well as his ability to provide for himself sort of blew me away.

Colleague

Last week, I met up with a former corporate colleague for dinner. We last saw each other the day I thought I had finally moved from New York City for good in February 2018. We had a good catch up. I shared some of my recent hardships concerning the delayed sale of my NYC apartment and how being in limbo through a long transition between two lives in two states has really shaken me loose from people and things I had long resisted letting go of. I shared that one of the ways I plan to commemorate the end of my life in NYC and the beginning of my life in Southern Arizona was by cutting off my hair and starting from scratch. I viewed it as a way for me to free myself to let go and grow.

Colleague immediately said, “No! Don’t do that! As a friend, I’m telling you that won’t be a good look. Don’t do it.”

I bit my lip, but the words on the tip of my tongue were, I’m not asking for your permission. I wasn’t even asking for your opinion. Instead my head tilted to the side and with a bemused look on my face I told her, “This isn’t a beauty decision. It has nothing to do with how I will look.”

“Still – don’t do it.

“I’m doing it.”

“Don’t do it.”

And around we went for a few rounds until she convinced herself that I didn’t mean cutting everything down to a buzz cut. A short cut was fine, but a buzz or bald look wouldn’t do. I hadn’t really thought about how short I would cut so I let the conversation fall off there, but it amazed me that a casual work acquaintance felt comfortable telling me what I could and couldn’t do with my own hair.

Grandma

Over the holiday weekend, I received a call from one of my aunts. She shared a story about my Grandma who has been suffering greatly from various health issues for the last decade. A few years ago, she was diagnosed with early onset dementia. Around that time she lost the home she had been living in for over thirty years which led to her being bounced from relative to relative. She is now in the fifth household in as many years. Grandma is a very strong-willed woman with a violent streak and a horrendous (though funny-to-me) potty mouth. When I visited her a couple of summers ago, she was completely subdued and scared to speak openly in front of her then “caretakers”, her youngest daughter and son-in-law. They had been abusive towards her which was the reason for my visit. My intention was to take Grandma home with me but she didn’t want to leave her hometown or her great-grandbabies. However, I let her know the choice was hers and it shouldn’t be made in fear. She chose to stay. A few months later she chose to move in with her oldest living daughter, the one who called me. They didn’t last long under the same roof and grandma was soon packed up and moved next door to my cousin’s house where she’s been for the last year. It was this cousin who received a call from senior day care informing her, “Your grandmother got into a fight today. You have to come pick her up.”

Sometime before the fight, Grandma had reported to her daughter and granddaughter that another woman (who is also suffering from dementia) in senior day care had been slapping her and pulling her hair. Both my aunt and cousin were horrified to hear this and both adamantly told her the next time that woman put her hands on her she could hit her back. Who knew Grandma would ever need permission before hitting someone back!? But she did. The day my cousin got the call, my grandma’s bully had pulled her hair hard and slapped her across the face. According to the day care workers, the next thing they saw was grandma slapping the woman back and choking her out. I’m told it took two workers to separate them.

Grandma is dependent on a walker. She’s had several strokes, she wobbles when she stands and half of her body has to be maneuvered by hand. I had picked her up from day care on my last visit and know what the set-up is. They seat everyone at a long table in the middle of the room. My questions to my aunt were, how was Grandma choking this woman out? Were they both on the ground or was Grandma balancing her weight against the woman’s throat? She can’t move without her walker. How long did it take for her to turn around, get up and get to the woman? Sadly, my aunt didn’t have my desired details.

All that said, Grandma has obviously been experiencing a great deal of abuse. My comfort here is that she tells people about it and so far we’ve helped her to help herself a bit. On the other hand, I’m extremely saddened that she has loss her voice to a great degree and her sense of autonomy overall. The woman I grew up knowing and whose roar mine mimics would have never waited for permission to defend herself.

Me

Though I’m able to identify instances of permission expectations now, I’ve lived most of my adult life seeking permission like so many others. Permission in the form of acceptance, understanding, appreciation, acknowledgement, support and validation. We live in a global society where people think they have the right to minimize others and keep them in boxes for no other reason than their own experience of privilege. Privilege via hierarchy, status, appearance, position, proximity, birth order, relationship, etc. I can’t count how often I succumbed to the preferences of others to my own detriment, but I know I began fighting that conditioning before my tenth birthday. Thirty-four years later I’m still fighting to understand what it truly means for me to live as I believe, as I want, as I plan, as I hope and as I am able to provide for myself. As many lessons as it takes, I will continue to seek only my own permission to live my best life as my best self.

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No hero is coming to save me.

Culture: The customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people or other social group

Culture is an interesting thing. We get inundated with messages as we go about our days and lives. Yet most of the messages we consume and live are not really meant to do us any good. They’re intended to distract us, entertain us, aid our dream and fantasy formation. We are marketed forms of escapism twenty-four hours a day. Unfortunately, we don’t process the escapist marketing as illogical goods, or ideas with no practical application, or as fraud or even as useless rubbish.

My whole life has been marked by stories of heroes with superhuman powers. I grew up with Christopher Reeves’ Superman and Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane. A line that has walked with me throughout my life was delivered by Lois after Superman caught her after a fall from a skyscraper, “You’ve got me, but who’s got you?” Every time I meditate on this line, the same thought comes to me: “You may have saved me but who’s gonna save you?” The underlining premise of the idea of Superman is that he doesn’t require a savior. Even when soundly defeated, he rises again and again stronger and more determined. But Lois Lane was able to see beyond that projection. She was always aware of his vulnerability not just to kryptonite but by widespread human destruction. 

Hero: a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements or noble qualities. 

I don’t remember the first time I saw Superman the movie, but it was first released when I was three years old. I spent a lot of my childhood waiting for Superman to swoop in and save me from the freefall that was my life. 

Enter Saturday morning cartoons during my adolescence. Superpowers became a bonding experience (X-men), a beauty and fashion exposition (G.E.M), a universal endowment (He-Man), a centering connection to a greater body (Thunder Cats). The narrative became one of not just individual greatness but a greatness that multiplied in partnership or a collective. For many years I thought my siblings and cousins were my partners and collective. But life will teach you things you are always ready to see. Most of my young adulthood was spent waiting for family to champion me.

Enter the working woman who’s determined to have it all. Claire Huxtable, Maggie Seaver, Elyse Keaton and Aunt Viv. We’re shown them all managing post-adolescent children in extremely hectic households while maintaining not only their careers but lovingly demonstrative marriages. Before they hit the screen they had built-in support systems – a partner, teen/adult children and sometimes a housekeeper. These women didn’t get into messes they needed saving from. They were the wise counselors, trusted confidants and heroes of their households. I spent my twenties and thirties trying to get to a point to begin building towards these fictional images.

As I look back on a life heavily influenced by narratives of superpowers, super transformations and collectives as a multiplier, I have to verbally tell myself: no hero is coming to save me. No one is going to show up at my door and swoop me and my troubles up into their arms. No family is going to adopt me fully into their tribe and share the burden of my worries. I am not going to return home tonight to a partner and children who alter the focus of my reality. The burdens, worries and reality are all mine to deal with. Alone. On my own. There’s no hiding. There’s no sharing. There’s no real way to stay balanced. It’s the nature of the world that we are distracted from.

In the center of these moments of realness is the knowledge and understanding that I am endowed by the life of Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit to show up for myself. I believe this is what we are being distracted from: the power we have within ourselves to right our corner of the world. To improve our existence by aligning with the Spirit that created us all. If we maintain a focus outside of ourselves it’s hard to recognize our own internal power. Without recognition, there is no focus or development. The world will keep us distracted. Perhaps my superpower is learning to occasionally quiet the world and amplify my spirit. 

We already know what to do, but we have to maintain a line of communication with the Spirit of Wisdom and Knowledge. One of my favorite reminders in the Bible takes place during the Exodus. The Israelites are fleeing the Egyptians. Moses makes a great speech about how there was no need to worry because God was going to fight their battle and defeat their enemy. God stepped in and said, “Nah. Why y’all crying out to me? Keep moving forward!” This is me moving forward.

As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward. But you lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the Israelites may go into the sea on dry ground. Then I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and so I will gain glory for myself over Pharaoh and all his army, his chariots, and his chariot drivers. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gained glory for myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his chariot drivers.”

Exodus 14:10-18

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All Is Meaningless (ACAD: Ecclesiastes 12)

Remember your creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come, and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return with the rain; in the day when the guards of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the women who grind cease working because they are few, and those who look through the windows see dimly; when the doors on the street are shut, and the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low; when one is afraid of heights, and terrors are in the road; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along and desire fails; because all must go to their eternal home, and the mourners will go about the streets; before the silver cord is snapped, and the golden bowl is broken, and the pitcher is broken at the fountain, and the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the breath returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher; all is vanity.

Besides being wise, the Teacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs. The Teacher sought to find pleasing words, and he wrote words of truth plainly.

The sayings of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings that are given by one shepherd. Of anything beyond these, my child, beware. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.

Ecclesiastes 12:1-14 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage?search=Ecclesiastes%2012:1-14&version=NRSV

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All Is Meaningless (ACAD: Ecclesiastes 11)

Send out your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will get it back. Divide your means seven ways, or even eight, for you do not know what disaster may happen on earth. When clouds are full, they empty rain on the earth; whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie. Whoever observes the wind will not sow; and whoever regards the clouds will not reap.

Just as you do not know how the breath comes to the bones in the mother’s womb, so you do not know the work of God, who makes everything.

In the morning sow your seed, and at evening do not let your hands be idle; for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.

Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.

Even those who live many years should rejoice in them all; yet let them remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity.

Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Follow the inclination of your heart and the desire of your eyes, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.

Banish anxiety from your mind, and put away pain from your body; for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.

Ecclesiastes 11:1-10 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage?search=Ecclesiastes%2011:1-10&version=NRSV

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All Is Meaningless (ACAD: Ecclesiastes 10)

Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a foul odor; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor. The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of a fool to the left. Even when fools walk on the road, they lack sense, and show to everyone that they are fools. If the anger of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your post, for calmness will undo great offenses.

There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, as great an error as if it proceeded from the ruler: folly is set in many high places, and the rich sit in a low place. I have seen slaves on horseback, and princes walking on foot like slaves.

Whoever digs a pit will fall into it; and whoever breaks through a wall will be bitten by a snake. Whoever quarries stones will be hurt by them; and whoever splits logs will be endangered by them. If the iron is blunt, and one does not whet the edge, then more strength must be exerted; but wisdom helps one to succeed. If the snake bites before it is charmed, there is no advantage in a charmer.

Words spoken by the wise bring them favor, but the lips of fools consume them. The words of their mouths begin in foolishness, and their talk ends in wicked madness; yet fools talk on and on. No one knows what is to happen, and who can tell anyone what the future holds? The toil of fools wears them out, for they do not even know the way to town.

Alas for you, O land, when your king is a servant, and your princes feast in the morning! Happy are you, O land, when your king is a nobleman, and your princes feast at the proper time— for strength, and not for drunkenness! Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks. Feasts are made for laughter; wine gladdens life, and money meets every need. Do not curse the king, even in your thoughts, or curse the rich, even in your bedroom; for a bird of the air may carry your voice, or some winged creature tell the matter.

Ecclesiastes 10:1-20 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage?search=Ecclesiastes%2010:1-20&version=NRSV

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All Is Meaningless (ACAD: Ecclesiastes 9)

All this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God; whether it is love or hate one does not know. Everything that confronts them is vanity, since the same fate comes to all, to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to those who sacrifice and those who do not sacrifice. As are the good, so are the sinners; those who swear are like those who shun an oath. This is an evil in all that happens under the sun, that the same fate comes to everyone. Moreover, the hearts of all are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. But whoever is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. The living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no more reward, and even the memory of them is lost. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished; never again will they have any share in all that happens under the sun.

Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has long ago approved what you do. Let your garments always be white; do not let oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that are given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.

Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful; but time and chance happen to them all. For no one can anticipate the time of disaster. Like fish taken in a cruel net, and like birds caught in a snare, so mortals are snared at a time of calamity, when it suddenly falls upon them.

I have also seen this example of wisdom under the sun, and it seemed great to me. There was a little city with few people in it. A great king came against it and besieged it, building great siegeworks against it. Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man. So I said, “Wisdom is better than might; yet the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heeded.”

The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouting of a ruler among fools.

Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one bungler destroys much good.

Ecclesiastes 9:1-18 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage?search=Ecclesiastes%209:1-18&version=NRSV