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Are You Ever Really Ready for a Baby?

Libby is a jack of all trades, master of… well, you know how the saying goes. Media consultant by day, mommy by night, you can usually find her with a glass of wine in hand, provided the kids are in bed!

My husband and I are currently locked in the battle of the century. In one corner, you’ll find my husband, happy as a canary with his one son, his one daughter, and his one dog; in the opposite corner, you’ll find me, yearning with every fiber in my being to add a third child to our family. Yes, I’ve got baby fever (don’t stand too close, I fear it’s contagious). Ten years ago, when we were first married, my husband and I found ourselves in a similar position. Were we ready for a baby? How would we know when it was time to add to our family? And now – a decade (and two kids) later – it’s baby debate 3.0 in the Balke household.

Not Taking it Lightly

Having a baby is serious business – and I do mean “business.” Experts estimate that the average American family will spend just shy of a quarter-million dollars to raise a child from birth to age 18, a number that doesn’t even include college. The simple act of having a baby is full of potential fiscal landmines: prenatal vitamins, stocking up your child’s nursery, parenting & childbirth classes, maternity clothes… the list is infinite.

My husband and I – typical “Type A” personalities – wanted to go about having a baby the “right” way. To us, that meant 3 things:

  1. Being happy in our relationship (for us, that’s marriage, but I know that’s not the case for everyone)
  2. Being conscious of a child’s impact on our careers
  3. Being financially sound

Points 1 and 2 were fairly easy for us in those halcyon days of our mid-20s, but Point 3 was a bone of contention. What did it mean to be “Financially Sound”? Did it mean having our emergency fund fully loaded? Did it mean already paving the way to a smooth retirement? Did it mean owning our own home – and if so, did it have to be a starter home or our dream home? The questions were endless.

When we ultimately decided we were ready for a baby, we were both in fairly secure careers, owned a starter home, and had a nice emergency fund in the bank. We felt ready.

When we got pregnant with our second child a few years later, I had just quit my full-time job, we’d just paid off a huge construction loan, and our emergency fund was feeling the pain. We felt intimidated.


Now, as I fight for a third, I’m working full-time in a far more exciting (and lucrative) career, we’re living in that dream home, and our extra income goes to our retirement fund. We know we’re not ready.

And that’s the bottom line: being “ready” for a baby isn’t about checking off all the boxes. Parenting hood isn’t about whether you’re in the black, or in the red, or by how much. Becoming somebody’s mother or father is a far more emotional journey than that. It’s why even the most “prepared” couples will tell you that, in hindsight, they weren’t really ready for a baby. No one can predict the emotions they’ll feel the first time they hold that child in their arms – and that’s true whether it’s your 1st, 3rd, or 10th child.

As the commercials say… having a baby changes everything.


Even Small Time Bloggers Can Make Money Blogging

Libby is a jack of all trades, master of… well, you know how the saying goes. Media consultant by day, mommy by night, you can usually find her with a glass of wine in hand, provided the kids are in bed!

Whenever I first tell people about my blog I always like to wait to see their reaction. In just a few seconds I can determine exactly which direction the conversation is headed.  It’s all in their expression.

Two Types

You see, in my experience there are two types of people. The first type is firmly planted in what I call the “employee mindset” and they see anything outside a nine to five job as either bullshit or a scam. They realize there are a lucky few who come up with a great idea that earns them a fortune, but they don’t believe that can realistically happen to them or anyone they know.

This type of person greets any talk of entrepreneurship, small business opportunity, or side hustle as either a waste of time or a scam.  They tend to roll their eyes with superiority or humor you with a half-hearted “Well, good luck with that.”  You can almost hear them thinking “What a LOSER” to themselves.

On the other hand, there is another group of people that have the exact opposite reaction.  As soon as they hear about your online income stream their ears perk up and their eyes open wide.  They’re full of questions and want to know all about it…how you got started, the costs involved, the learning curve, earning potential, and whether or not your method would be a good fit for them.

Obviously, talking with someone who has an entrepreneurial mindset is much more fun than someone with an employee mindset.

Will You Strike It Rich As A Blogger?

No matter how hard you work and how many hours you spend toiling away at your blog, you can’t expect to become rich and famous as a blogger.  For every Pat Flynn or Darren Rowse with their legions of followers, there are thousands of struggling bloggers toiling away in anonymity.  They don’t get mentioned in the Wall Street Journal or on Good Morning America, and they may never be able to quit their day jobs and live off their online income.

But that doesn’t make them a failure.  Even an average blogger who only puts in a few hours a week can earn a few hundred dollars a month in online income.  And while that may not seem like much, it can be enough to make a big difference in your life.

Just imagine having an extra $500 a month to live on.  You can put that money towards paying down your debt, sock it away in an online savings account, or invest it in a Roth IRA.

Or you can use it to enjoy some of the finer things in life.  If you enjoy cooking you can afford to spend a little on fancy ingredients or an expensive bottle of wine to enjoy with dinner.  If you like traveling, you can afford to go on a once in a lifetime vacation every year!

With a little more work and a bit of luck you may find yourself earning $1000 or $2000 a month…and that is a lot more common than you might realize. So while that is still not enough to live on full time, it will certainly be enough to change your life for the better.

Are you a blogger?  Have you ever considered starting a blog to supplement your income?

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Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Working with a Great Broker

Is this a good time to look at refinancing your home loan?

It could be, if your reasons for refinancing are right. If you want to use some or all of your home’s equity to pay off high-interest credit card bills, you could be setting yourself up for problems in the future. Credit card debt is unsecured; your mortgage is secured by your real property. Miss paying a credit card bill, and the consequences are not dire. Fail to pay a mortgage payment or two, and you could lose your house.

On the other hand, if you refinance your home in order to obtain a lower interest rate or to move from an adjustable-rate loan to one that remains at a steady rate you can afford, this might be the ideal time to look at refinancing. According to Australia’s Reserve Bank, interest rates are currently the lowest they’ve been since 2009.

Be financially prepared before you secure a home loan

Don’t be fooled into thinking you can afford more of a loan than you really can. Make an honest appraisal of your income and debts. There’s no point in refinancing your home loan if you can’t make the new payments. Remember, the American housing market tanked a few years ago due in great part to the fact that many, many people obtained loans they could in no way afford to pay back.

Work with a great broker

A savvy real estate broker can offer reliable advice well in advance of an actual home purchase. Mortgage brokers have access to lenders you might not be aware of. The right broker will take time to explain every phase of the mortgage process in terms you can understand.

It’s worth the time it takes to find a mortgage broker you feel comfortable with. If you have family members or friends who have recently secured a mortgage or gone through a refinance, ask them which mortgage broker they worked with. Your house is probably the biggest financial investment you’ll ever make. An experienced broker can help you find the mortgage that’s right for you.


A Case Study in Living Beyond Your Means

Libby is a jack of all trades, master of… well, you know how the saying goes. Media consultant by day, mommy by night, you can usually find her with a glass of wine in hand, provided the kids are in bed!

Living Beyond Your Means

Three years ago, a friend of mine – pregnant with her second child – decided her starter home wasn’t big enough for her growing family. This friend has what you might call a case of “Affluenza” – she’s got a serious commitment to keeping up with the Jones’. So she and her husband started the process of buying a house.

They wanted all the bells and whistles: a large home on a large lot in a great neighborhood near great schools. Unfortunately, their eyes were bigger than their pocketbooks; they couldn’t find a home that suited all their “wants” in their price range. Rather than settle – or stay in their starter home until their budget allowed them to afford their dreams – they took a chance on a foreclosed home.

The home, as well as the surrounding property, was in shambles. The interior hadn’t been updated since the 70s; the exterior, a densely wooded lot, hadn’t been kept up in years. The pool out back looked like a scene out of one of those “When all the people die and nature takes over” documentaries.

But they were committed to buying a house come hell or high water (actually, funny note here: the house was in a flood zone, and they face HUGE annual flood insurance payments), so they put in an offer. After several months – foreclosures are notoriously hard to buy in any type of fast or easy manner – the home was theirs. And that’s when the real work began.

Although they got it for roughly a third under market value, they knew that their new home was nowhere close to fulfilling their dreams at that point. They embarked on an expansive home remodel, starting from the outside and working their way in. The disgusting swimming pool – a safety and health hazard for their now two young children – was the first task. During the work, it was discovered that the fiberglass lining had a crack in it; rather than give up on the idea of having a pool, they chose to sink another $20,000 into the project to rip out the old liner, install a new liner, as well as brand new filtration and a solar heating system for it.

That same summer, my friend pulled her older child out of his preschool and decided to homeschool him. She said money wasn’t a factor; I didn’t believe her.

The next year, they started to tackle bathrooms. But they didn’t have enough money to finish the project, so they only updated their first floor powder room and the upstairs hall bath; the family shares that one full bath, and doesn’t use the on-suite master. They had to turn off the water to that room, because the fiberglass shower leaks, as does the toilet.

The next year, they moved on to the kitchen, while simultaneously doing work on their floors and deteriorating plaster walls themselves.

This year, my friend and her husband learned that the foundation on their home is sinking – something that shouldn’t happen with a 50-year-old house. Instead of moving ahead with their home remodel, they’ll be sinking big bucks into repairing and solidifying the foundation. My friend told me, “This really hurts our 10-year plan to get this house livable.”

My Opinion

My eyes nearly popped out of my head. 10-year plan???? I don’t know about you, but when I think about making a home “livable” for my family, I think in terms of months, maybe a few years, not decades. My friend has spent tens of thousands of dollars already, and obviously anticipates spending much, much more over the next seven years. Of course, my practical mind keeps thinking, “If they had just stayed in their very ‘livable’ starter home for a few more years, they would have been able to afford a home that met all their requirements, without spending all the time and money to renovate a money pit.”

The moral to my story? I think this is a prime example of living beyond your means. My friend couldn’t afford to live in the type of house or neighborhood she thought she deserved, so she bought the cheapest house in the neighborhood. That would have been fine, if the cost to bring that house up to the neighborhood “standard” wasn’t costing her a fortune – and chewing away at whatever money she saved buying a foreclosure.

What do you think? Do you think she’s living beyond her means? Do you think she should have compromised? Why or why not?


What’s the Smarter Money Move?

Libby is a jack of all trades, master of… well, you know how the saying goes. Media consultant by day, mommy by night, you can usually find her with a glass of wine in hand, provided the kids are in bed!

When you’re a financial blogger, it’s tough to admit that sometimes you haven’t been as wise with your money as you should have been. A while back, I mentioned that my family was feeling a little Disney rich and cash poor; and with our big trip literally just days away, we’re feeling the financial strain.

My Situation

My husband’s locked-in, annual raise is less than 6 weeks away – but between now and then, we have another big bill to deal with: the first tuition payment for my son’s preschool. And here’s the kicker: if you pay for the full year’s tuition up front, you get a 5% discount. But there’s a problem: right now, I don’t have the extra money in our day-to-day account to pay for it all up front in cash, like I want to do. I hate losing the 5% discount – for his program, it would amount to roughly $150.

What’s a discount-loving mom to do? I’ve got a couple of options:

  1. I can cash in some of my savings bonds. My grandmother gifted me with a saving bond for every birthday, religious holiday, and graduation from the time I was born until I graduated from high school. Most were only $25 bonds, but they definitely add up. Only a handful have reached full maturity; the rest still have interest to earn – but that amount is just $214.50, and some have as long as another 10 years before they hit their full value. At a 1.19% interest rate, I know these bonds could be doing more “work” for me elsewhere.
  2. Selling some of our stocks. When my daughter was born six years ago – on the same day that Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy – my husband and I started thinking about jumping into the stock market. When she was a few months old, we bought our first stocks that weren’t part of our 401k or Roth accounts. We only invested a few thousand bucks, but those investments have done exceptionally well in the time since. We don’t really consider them part of our retirement; they’re more of a “rainy day” fund. However, these stocks are solid earners, so I’m not thrilled with the idea of selling, especially since I’d be looking at capital gains taxes at year-end.
  3. Reduce my 401k contributions for a few months. I realllllly don’t like this idea; even when I was only working as a full-time freelancer and my husband was making $32k a year, we still managed to fund our retirement accounts each month. However, if I scaled back from my current contributions for a few months, I’d be able to save up the money for that tuition payment without having to pay taxes on that cash (like I would from selling savings bonds or stocks).

So what would you do if you were me? What’s the smarter money move? Or should I just give up on the 5% paid-in-full discount and pay the monthly tuition instead?


Bonuses For Using Credit Cards

I was having a discussion with some colleagues, who also work in the personal finance industry, about the merits and non-merits of using credit cards. A couple of members in the discussion pointed out a few positive aspects of using credit cards. Namely any bonuses or rewards you can receive for using the cards.

Besides the ease of use and not having to carry wads of cash around when one travels, one of those participating in the discussion likes to use a particular credit card they have for the frequent flier miles they receive. British Airways have partnered with American Express to offer frequent flyer points. These points can be redeemed for flights or upgrades. Some cards like the British Airways American Express offer one (1) point for every £1 spent. Others such as the Virgin Atlantic credit card through MBNA, offer two (2) points for every £1 spent.

One very interesting aspect to this is that my colleague who was participating in the discussion, travels a lot for their job, and they use this credit card to pay for all their business related expenses; of which their employer reimburses them for. However, they still get the points and subsequently the frequent flier miles, which they can redeem later for personal use.

A pretty good situation for them if I say so myself.

Many credit cards do offer some forms of bonuses or points as an incentive to use the card. These points can add up and for some people be quite useful in making future purchases or for travel. The bonuses can also be companion passes, and upgrades to business class. For some of the cards the points do not always need to be redeemed for travel or airfares.

I saw where one credit card company were offering cash back rebates on every purchase. They were offering a £3 rebate on every £100 spent using the card. American Express has a cash back programme where they offer 5% cash back on all purchases during a three (3) month period. Again, these can add up.

One fundamental key here to remember is to not carry a balance each month on the card. All those that were a part of our “merits of credit cards” discussion, did agree that carrying a balance negates any positive merits or bonuses you may receive. Interest rates on most credit cards are high due to the nature of the type of credit they are; even low rate cards can still have an interest rate which can add up if you carry a balance each month. In some instances you may be better off looking for short-term loan options, such as eCashWindow.

So a different perspective on credit cards and their usage. It can also have an influence on which credit cards you may decide to apply for, or use.


Discover Fraud Protection… They’re Not Kidding!

From moneyaftergraduation.com.  Hilarious!

Libby is a jack of all trades, master of… well, you know how the saying goes. Media consultant by day, mommy by night, you can usually find her with a glass of wine in hand, provided the kids are in bed!

A few weeks ago, a good friend of mine – we’ll call her Sarah – got the type of phone call every financially-responsible person dreads. A collection agency phoned to let Sarah know that due to her failure to make payments on her wireless service, her account had been sent to collections. But Sarah didn’t have a wireless account with the company that had referred her to collections; she’s been the victim of identity theft.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, nearly 17 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2012. That basically means that 7% of American adults had their identity stole in some way, shape, or form in just that year alone. That’s a pretty terrifying thought.

Love Letter

I’d never been a victim of identity theft… until yesterday. And it’s not so much the crime that left me in awe, but the way in which it was handled by, of all things, my credit card company. This is a love letter to that company:

Dear Discover Card,

When I logged on to my account yesterday to see that somebody had made several hundred dollars worth of purchases from a series of online retailers I’d never heard of, I was terrified. I had visions of financial ruin in my head, and was nearly paralyzed with fear. Instead, I managed to call your 1-800 number. Within a minute, I was speaking to a customer service representative, who immediately transferred me to a fraud protection specialist. The latter informed me that because Discover Card has a 100% anti-fraud guarantee, that I wouldn’t be charged for any of the fraudulent purchases. Furthermore, your employee closed the compromised account, opened me a new one, helped me switch all my automatic payments over to the new account, and launched an investigation into the fraudulent purchases… all in under 12 minutes.

I’ve spent more time in line at the pharmacy; more time waiting for my toddler to go #2 in a public restroom; more time trying to navigate my health insurance provider’s website. Yet in just 12 minutes (11:38, to be exact), you managed to not only calm all my fears, but resolve the situation.

Customer service is a rare thing these days, but yesterday, you proved to me that it still exists. So thank you. Because you took what could have been a scary situation and turned it into a chance for me to applaud your company for doing things the right way.

Yours sincerely,


What You Should Do in Case of Identity Theft

So what should you do if you find yourself, like I did, a victim of identity theft? First, call your credit card or bank to dispute the charges. Ask for a copy of your dispute in writing – you’ll need that if you plan to notify the police of the fraudulent activity, which you should, if for no other reason than to get it on the public record.

If your case of identity theft was launched, like mine was, over the Internet (I’d used a popular online website – which shall remain nameless – to order a slipcover for a loveseat the day prior, using the compromised card; it was the first time I’d ever shopped at this site, and I’ve got a feeling the two things are not merely coincidence), now’s the time to check your computer’s anti-virus software to make sure it’s up to date – that way, you reduce your chances of becoming a victim a second time.


The Ice Bucket Challenge: A Lesson for Haters

Libby is a jack of all trades, master of… well, you know how the saying goes. Media consultant by day, mommy by night, you can usually find her with a glass of wine in hand, provided the kids are in bed!

I spent the better part of my 20s wearing a “Livestrong” band on my left wrist – not because I was particularly into cancer research or awareness, or even because I was a fan of Lance Armstrong (back in the days when people would actually publicly admit to liking the now-disgraced Tour de France champion).

No, I wore the bright yellow band because it was the thing to do; I also spent much of my 20s drinking out of a Nalgene water bottle and wearing New Balance sneakers for the same reason. I paid $1 for the Livestrong band from a guy who was selling them in the student union at college, and aside from that, I never donated a single penny to Livestrong – or any other cancer research organization, for that matter.

The Ice Bucket Challenge

So when I first saw all my friends dumping cold water on themselves, their spouses, and their children – all in the name of “charity” – I figured it was another fad, just like the Livestrong bands. And I wasn’t impressed.

I haughtily told anyone who would listen – my frozen, soaked friends; the clerk at the grocery checkout; my waiter at the great burger place in town – that when I got tapped for the Ice Bucket Challenge, I was going to take the moral high road and donate the $100 to ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) rather than taking “the easy way out.” (If you’re not familiar with the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS, you can visit the ALS Association’s website here for more details.)

I nodded my head in agreement when I read Facebook posts from friends who wrote things like:

Please stop pouring buckets of ice water on your heads and just give a few bucks to a charity (any charity) instead!”

Comes to a Head

And then my best friend in the whole world challenged me, on the very same day that a man I work with reminded me that his father was quickly losing his battle with ALS and likely wouldn’t make it to Christmas.

My husband called me a humbug, and he was right. In my effort to take what I saw as the “moral high road” – skipping the challenge and donating directly to the ALS Association instead – I was forgetting what the challenge was all about.

What the Ice Bucket Challenge is REALLY About

It’s not just about raising money (although that’s a major element – the New York Times reports that the ALS Association’s fundraising for the first 3 weeks of August has gone up nearly 1000% compared to 2013 donations for the same period). The challenge is really about imprinting ALS in your memory. You might forget how you felt after writing a check to charity, but you’re far less likely to forget a bucket of ice water dripping down yourself. What the Ice Bucket Challenge is doing – and doing effectively – is imprinting ALS on our brains; it’s making a disease that’s horribly debilitating, often overlooked, and largely misunderstood a part of our collective discourse.

So I sucked it up, and let my husband (with the help of my 2 kids) pour a vat of frigid water on my head over the weekend. My kids thought it was the funniest thing they’d ever seen me do (it probably was), and my husband insisted that I challenge him in turn. At the end of the day, we were both cold, wet, and $200 poorer – but our hearts were infinitely warmer and richer.


Arthur Gill is a keen traveller, writer and gardener. When he’s not tending to his geraniums, you can find Arthur tapping away at his laptop writing finance and consumer affairs blogs for some of the UK’s most authoritative websites.

Money 300x199 Have short term lenders been a help or hindrance in the economic crisis?

The economic crisis that hit our shores so mercilessly in 2008 made life extremely hard for millions of hard working people across the UK. Finally the grip of austerity has begun to relinquish, leaving many of us to pick up the pieces and start on the arduous road to financial stability. But out of adversity, comes opportunity, and while many businesses were fighting to survive, there was one innovative new industry that begun to flourish, filling the void left by established companies that were unwilling to trade.

While the banks shut up shop, it was short-term lenders that proliferated across the high streets of the UK, adding to the bleak landscape created by discount stores, pawn shops and other enterprises born out of austerity. Peer-to-peer organisations and crowd funding became popular methods of raising commercial capital, while payday lenders provided hassle-free loans to help private individuals meet their financial commitments.

Courting controversy

Few industries have attracted as much vitriol as the payday lender. While in some instances this has been justified, in others it seems wholly disproportionate. When compared to the banks for instance, which caused the very economic crisis which gave birth to short-term lenders like Wonga in the first place, you can’t help feeling that the press have a hidden agenda. Has anything the payday lenders have done come close to the PPI mis-selling scandal, Libor rigging, the recent business loan mis-selling saga, or even the catastrophic mismanagement which resulted in the hugely cost taxpayer bailouts? No, not even close.

The perception of short-term credit providers as organisations that prey on the poor has long been pedalled by the press. However, in the dark days of credit crunch Britain, when the only alternatives were criminal loan sharks wielding baseball bats, many of us were grateful for a legal source of short-term credit that could not be found elsewhere.

Preying on the poor?

In 2012, Wonga alone provided four million loans to one million borrowers. If the service provided by short-term lenders is so exploitative, so immoral, why is it that so many of us use this service not just once, but repeatedly, in fact an average of four times a year?

The reality in many cases is that, if payday loans are repaid within the agreed period, they actually represent a cheaper source of credit than an unsecured bank overdraft. So why aren’t the banks being taken to task for the dearth of affordable short-term credit?

It is a common accusation that payday lenders are preying on the poor. But payday lenders are merely providing an alternative to criminal backstreet lenders; a legal and closely regulated alternative. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, one of the payday lenders’ fiercest critics, warned that shutting down payday lenders could put the poor at the mercy of ‘thugs with baseball bats’. So what’s the solution.

Closer regulation

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) began its regulatory reign of the payday loan industry in April 2014, having replaced the Office of Fair Trading. The City regulator has already made great strides in cleaning up the industry by introducing two measures to protect customers from spiralling levels of debt.

Following on from the work started by the OFT and in anticipation of the FCA’s strict new regime, many less scrupulous payday lenders have already taken their leave from the industry. Of the estimated 210 payday lenders operating in 2012, a third have failed to apply for permission to operate. 30 further payday lenders have also had their licences revoked by the OFT, leaving a more select group of lenders that are committed to playing by the rules.

With few viable alternatives and proposed measures to cap the overall cost of a loan due to be discussed over the summer, it remains to be seen how the curious case of the payday lender will be solved.

Have you ever taken out a payday loan? How did you find the overall experience? Did you consider the alternatives before contacting the payday lenders? We’d love to hear from you, so please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.


IMAGE SOURCE – http://pixabay.com/p-2179/?no_redirect



I Am LeBron James


Libby is a jack of all trades, master of… well, you know how the saying goes. Media consultant by day, mommy by night, you can usually find her with a glass of wine in hand, provided the kids are in bed!

My bags were packed; the car was loaded; the directions – obtained via a map from our local AAA office – were on the dashboard. The four most transformative years of my life were mere moments away; I was headed off to college, and I sure as heck wasn’t coming home.

My Roots

I’m from Cleveland, Ohio; my parents are from Cleveland, Ohio; my grandparents – all four of them – were from Cleveland, Ohio. When my great-grandparents stepped off the boat in New York – one set coming from Wales, the other from jolly old England – they headed straight for the rust belt, straight for Cleveland, Ohio. I have roots here, but at 18 years old, those roots didn’t matter. They didn’t matter four years later when, after graduating from college, I stayed as far away from my birthplace as I could. And even when I started a family in my late 20s, I still didn’t see any reason to come home.

And then something changed. I found myself reading the local newspaper – The Cleveland Plain Dealer – even though I lived hundreds of miles away; I started cheering for the local sports teams – the Browns, Indians, and Cavs – even though they were all mired in decades-long slumps; I found what others might consider superfluous reasons to visit my family and friends who still lived in Northeastern Ohio on a more regular basis. Then one day, somewhat out of the blue, I told my mother – who still lives in the house I grew up in – that we (at this point my husband, myself, and our two young children) were coming home; I hadn’t even discussed this with my husband. I just knew my time away from my hometown had come to an end. I didn’t just want to go home; I needed to go home.

Understanding Lebron James

When LeBron James announced his Decision 2.0 a few weeks ago, I knew exactly where he was coming from – literally. I know the area he grew up in (not a great part of Akron, Ohio); I knew where he’d gone to school (a friend of mine was his 12th grade English teacher, his second year out of college); I knew the home he still kept in Bath Township (literally a stone’s throw from where I live now).

But I identified with King James on a deeper level, too. I knew what it was like to grow up in a part of the country that outsiders consistently look down upon. I knew what it was like to take advantage of the first big opportunity to get away, and to look back on that place that had given you life – and so much support – with nothing but scorn. I knew what it was like to vow that I was never coming home.

And, perhaps more than anything, I knew what it was like to realize that the very same place I couldn’t wait to leave was also the place I couldn’t wait to return.

LeBron is right: in Cleveland, we work hard for everything we have. We endure long, cold, miserable winters, just for an opportunity to bask in the sun. This summer, the sun started shining a little brighter. This winter won’t be so unbearable. We’ve recaptured a little bit of Heat from South Beach.

Our prodigal son – like so many of this city’s sons as daughters, myself included – has come home.

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