All posts by Matthew

Does Living In Unfavorable Weather Make You A Better Neighbor?

credit abcactionnews.com
credit abcactionnews.com

I’m an Arizona native. During my time living in this state I have been able to make several observations about social behavior in the area. One such observation has do with the way neighbors tend to interact  with each other on a consistent basis.

During my time as an adult I’ve had the opportunity to live in an apartment complex and 2 houses. Let’s set aside the apartment living, as based on demographics and transition it would stand to reason that the tenants may not have a chance to get to know each other very well.

Our first house in Chandler was for a 9-year duration, and the second has been 6 years now. While we realize that it isn’t the 1950s, it was slightly disappointing to not be welcomed to the neighborhood by anyone on our street at both houses. So we went ahead and put some effort forth to meet a few of the neighbors. Those conversations were nice, cordial , and fairly brief in nature. Afterwards whenever we would see those neighbors, either while pulling into the carport or garage or working out in front of their house,  a somewhat forced “hi” with the wave of a hand followed.

Over time we noticed that not much changed with the social behavior of the neighbors. No one really seemed to know each other, despite many of the residents having lived there for a period of years. It was very uncommon to see neighbors visiting with each other in front of one of their homes, or people knocking on each others’ doors to borrow a cup of sugar or some other household item.

This prompted the question – “Why?”

Could it have to do with how nice the weather is in Phoenix most of the time? (yes, we do hibernate in the summer but it’s pretty darn nice out for 9 months of the year) What about the fact that Arizona has one of the lowest percentages of natives? (think about the last time you found out someone was born here) Then you’ve got a decent amount of folks migrating here from the midwest and California – could that have something to do with it? Are we all just too busy to talk to our neighbors?

I’m no expert in human behavior & interaction, but it seems that the weather may have something to do with being disconnected from our neighbors.

Let’s look into this a bit further:

Think about places where the weather is pretty much awesome year-round. Of course these places tend to be on the coastlines – San Diego, Miami, Los Angeles. Mind you these are big cities just like Phoenix and the suburbs are probably better in the neighborly category, but would the average person know who their neighbors (even just 1 or 2 of them) are in terms of first names, what’s going on in their life, kids names, etc?

Probably not.

Everyone these days is busy raising a family, working full-time, trying to provide a living, so that can’t be the difference. What about technology & people being glued to their phones? Again, everyone has access to the same products & technology so that can’t be it.

Growing up here this was not an issue. My wife (who is also an Arizona native) remembers having all of her neighbors’ addresses and phone numbers hanging on the kitchen wall for easy access to everyone in the family. People knew their neighbors and kids played in the street. Because you knew your neighbors, you trusted your kids in the street. You knew your friends all “watched out for each other.”

Nothing against the above-mentioned cities because they are all great in their own way, but I believe the reason they aren’t considered neighborly has to do with the fact that there really is no need for them to know their neighbors. Typically you have no harsh weather or natural disasters to contend with, and thus do not need that kind of help or support network to assist if/when something weather-wise happens.

Those who live in the midwest have a better reputation for being neighborly.  Because of harsh shows, tornadoes, and other inclement weather, it’s important to get to know those around you because you never know when you’ll be in a bind and require help.

Do you think people are generally neighborly where you live? Comment below & let us know where you’re located.

 

 

 

Why Chandler Needs A Regular Event with Food Trucks

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Photo credit Cameron Moraga. http://cameronmoraga.tumblr.com/

 

For the last 15 years I have called Chandler, Arizona my home. I’ve built my adult life here, moving to the area just 2 short years after I married. We moved from Alma School & Elliot to Alma School & Queen Creek within a month of our 2nd child being born. I’ve invested substantial time and energy creating an ideal life for my family.

We’ve seen people and businesses come and go, but through it all there are many things that Chandler has been very strong in – quality of life, education, family life, and real estate.  I have enjoyed calling this city of 270,000 fellow residents home.

However, there is one area that has been noticeably absent from our city, and perhaps it existed before I moved to Chandler in 2000. What is it you ask?

A sense of community

While Chandler IS a community, having a sense of community is something completely different.  Sense of community has been defined as as

a feeling that members have of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and to the group, and a shared faith that members’ needs will be met through their commitment to be together.” (McMillan & Chavis 1986)

While there is no doubt that there are specific blocks or neighborhoods within Chandler have this sense of community, if you are a long-term resident here, you may have come to notice that this phrase doesn’t describe our city as a collective whole. Think about it…

Do you know your neighbor’s names? What’s going on in their lives? Their kids names? When was the last time your interacted with a neighbor beyond a customary wave while pulling into your garage?

I would venture to guess that a very low percentage of Chandler residents would be able to fill in the blanks to these kind of questions. And I am not referring to just your immediate neighbors, this is just the easiest example to illustrate the point. And believe me, I get it. People work long hours and are tired at the end of the day and just want to get home & spend quality time with their families.

But, there has to be a solution. I believe bringing a regular food truck event into our city could start to create a potential chain reaction of building into a larger sense of community.

How can food trucks help foster a sense of community?

It’s the most simplistic of human rituals: breaking bread together. Not only are people excited to patronize food trucks, but the regular-attendees would see and get to know each other better over time. People that turned out would have similar interests and passion about the event itself as well as the community.

While Chandler certain has its share of community-related events that are well-intentioned and plenty of fun (Ostrich Festival, Chandler Block Party, BBQ Festival, Jazz Festival, etc), they haven’t created this kind of neighborly-spirit that is conducive for getting to know other residents on a more personal basis.

Would you be interesting in having a regular event with food trucks in Chandler? Make sure you comment below AND “like” our fan page Chandler Wants Food Trucks

A Sunday Afternoon at the Train Park

image6If you are a parent in the Phoenix area and haven’t had the opportunity to take them to the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale, you are really missing out on a special treat.

We always manage to have a wonderful time whenever we make the time to bring our boys. The park, located near the very lush McCormick Ranch area, has so much to offer in the way of family togetherness & enjoyment.  It’s an idyllic place to go to just enjoy your family and take in the niceness of everything that’s around you.

Let’s start with the trains of course! Scattered around the park are real-life size train cars, which appeal to the eye and remind us of a simpler time when people used to travel long distances by rail. The boys love to gawk at how large they are, and they always prompt lots of different questions.

Then there is the grounds, which are well-manicured, tidy, and expansive. The grass is gorgeous and there is plenty to walk around and see. Scottsdale really spends good money to make sure the park is looking at its best at all times, and visitors appreciate it.

image2 (2)And then there’s the carousel. Singing its mostly Disney tunes, during the carousel ride time seems to stand still and all you want to do is watch your children & hope they can stay this small forever. If the parents aren’t on the carousel with their kids, they are standing over on the side taking pictures or video to capture the moment.

If you’re in need of refreshment, you can head on over to the snack bar building. From hot dogs to ice cream, the shop has lots of reasonably-priced treats to offer, as well as merchandise like Thomas the Train products.

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Their newest addition seems  to be the model train building, located in the northeast portion of the train park. Here you can look at all of the miniature trains that zoom around the tracks amongst various types of terrain and locations, both past and present.

There’s a massive playground area, which is ideal for letting the kids play and burning off all kinds of energy so they tucker out later. A kid couldn’t possibly be bored here, as there are just too many things to do.

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Last but not least is the ride-on train, probably the park’s most popular feature. You can ride in a mini-sized train (and stick the kids in the caboose if you like) and be whisked around the entire park and through a dark tunnel. During Christmas time, there is a spectacular visual feast when they gussy up for the season with colorful lights and impressive decorations.

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Every time we go we wonder why we don’t visit more often – we always seem to return home with smiles on our faces.

Have you visited the train park in Scottsdale? What is your favorite part?

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My Wedding Engagement Story

Ah, what it was like to be kids once
Ah, what it was like to be kids once

My wife and I have been married for 16 glorious years as of this June 6th (yes, we married on D-Day). From time-to-time we get asked about our engagement story, so I thought it appropriate to share here on my blog for your enjoyment. The date was October 15,1997

Here’s how I planned it:

My wife worked at a church in Glendale and she lived in Mesa, so she would be arriving around 9pm at my house in Peoria. My plan was to hide in her car trunk at the church, with a note for on the door to get in and put on the blindfold I had provided her. Then I would hop out of the trunk, get in the driver’s seat, and drive her to Sahuaro Ranch Park, a beautiful park in Glendale. Once we got there I would escort her to a gazebo surrounded by flowers and get down on one knee – the whole 9 yards.

Here’s how it ACTUALLY went down:

She arrived early and sick! At 7:45 after leaving work early she knocks on the door because she wasn’t feeling well (which rarely happens by the way!) I answer the door in my dress pants, shirt, and tie and we both have a look of shock on our faces. Mine being: what are you doing here? And hers being – what are you still doing in work clothes? (I was interning at Merrill Lynch).

We went in to the house where my equally surprised stepmom greeted her. I change back into more appropriate at-home attire and we decide to watch a movie. Funny enough, the title of the film was “Indecent Proposal”. Once the movie ended it was time for her to grab another tissue from the Kleenex box for her cold. Little did she know that I had put the ring box directly behind the upsprouted tissue, which was revealed once she pulled it up.

Tia started crying more once she realized what I had been trying to do.  The ending is like I planned: me  on one knee and she said yes!

I think our engagement story ended up exactly as it should have. We love to get dressed up and have special times together, but the trueness of our relationship is when we are just comfortably hanging out at home, with our absolute selves (and usually watching a movie).

Married friends – what was your engagement story like?  Please comment below!

About Negativity

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Was chatting with a friend of mine today who runs a successful Disney blog , about people. Share with him that I am in the process of being more active with my blog efforts, and wanted to know if he had any wisdom or words of advice. The conversation took a very interesting turn when he started discussing the kinds of people that read Disney blogs. The majority of them & their readership tend to have very negative slants and comments.

Could this be true?!

People that supposedly love what Disney stands for are attacking each other’s opinions and beliefs and Disney ideals? I couldn’t believe it.

Then I got to thinking about the pervading mentality of most people, and decided that is wasn’t so far-fetched. Most people are generally negative. What fascinates me is that the internet and social media tend to amplify one’s personality: if you are generally positive you may come across as being over-the-top on Facebook status updates, whereas if you are generally negative it seems as if everything is going to hell in a hand basket.

So why are people so negative?

Lots of reasons. To understand this we really have to delve into a psychological level overlooked and understood by most, but it’s really pretty simple. You see, where-ever you are in your life today is the total culmination of all of your experiences, but more importantly, your interpretations of those experiences, to date. And there isn’t much that you can say to change my mind about this truth.

The problem is that we rarely take the time to step outside of ourselves and look at our own behavior objectively. Although we have NO problem judging or criticizing others when there is an opinion that may conflict with our own.

So even if you deny it, there is no doubt that the sum total of all of your teachers, friends, parents, church leaders, classmates, colleagues, work associates, people that have spoken to large audiences, the media, your spouse, kids, and so on have brought you to become the person you are today.

Who are you hanging around on a consistent basis? Are they positive and affirming, or do they have an edge, a sarcastic side, and mostly find what is wrong with things?

I assure you this is not mean to be a motivational post, although if this does that for you, wonderful. Just an observation in people’s behavior in relation to who they are, what they have, and the impact and influence they have on other people.

So as I begin my journey of personal blogging, rest assured that I will never go down the road of negativity. First, life is too short to be negative – no one is getting out alive. And second, negativity has an insidious energy that eats away at all that is good. Do you remember the last time you felt energized? elated? on a life high? I do, and there are few feelings in this world that are better than that.

On the other end of that is feeling drained, defeated, tired, depressed – no one wants that yet there is so much of it in our world! And remember, although we live in a highly-negative world, you can create your own positive space within that world. A world is made up of individual people, that make their own choices and decisions as to how they wish to behave. Now most people don’t even realize they are being negative, they just say they are being realistic or something like that. It’s subconscious and lines the walls of our personality, so watch out!

What are your perceptions of people – do you believe that most people are good and helpful or constantly looking for how to cut down others so they can feel better about themselves? Please leave a comment below.

 

 

 

Working With Preschool Children

Pre-school creations
Pre-school creations

This week I was parent helper at my son Miller’s preschool class.  I have to admit that I went into in with a less-than-excited attitude. Although I am a parent, I tend to have a high degree of impatience and expect a lot more from others than I know I should.

My job was simple but had a lot of moving pieces. First, I would instruct the children to color their Green Monster face with a marker. Each child was given an 11″x14″ sheet of paper to make their creation. Next, cut out the nose and mouth and glue to the appropriate area on the face. After this I gave them 4 circles – 2 white and 2 yellow. Those were to be the eyes (glued down of course) and stacked on top of each other and then they would use a sharpie to make pupils. For hair there were 5 strips of purple paper they would adhere to the monster’s head, and then the finishing touch was to lick 5 small marshmallows and place them across the monster’s mouth, signifying its teeth.

What fascinated me was to watch the kids as they worked. Some worked quickly and efficiently, others more deliberate, and a few of the children needed constant assistance throughout the project. Some of the kids cut outside or inside of the lines, colored with different degrees of brush strokes, or got glue on themselves.

Children have such different learning styles. I found myself adapting to each child’s situation, and I found it to be pretty telling about life. I wonder if I came back and visited each of these people in say 30 years from now, if they would still have the same tendencies as they showed that day.

I observed varying personality traits in each of the preschoolers – some were shy and reserved, others were constantly talking & updating the others of their progress, and some were very focused on the task at hand.

At the end of the day I was able to remove myself from the equation and just appreciate people and their different approaches to life. It’s always nice to learn, and it can definitely change your perspective to learn from those that are less than half of your height. 🙂

 

 

Battling Depression and Anxiety

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credit Anne Lowe on publicdomainpictures.net

Hearing the news of Robin Williams passing yesterday, which was most likely due to suicide, greatly impacted me.  As I watched countless updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram I found myself  disturbed, inspired, saddened, confused, and upset.

As the world paused to remember this great and wonderful man who entertained millions, I couldn’t help but to reflect back on some of my experiences dealing with depression and anxiety just a few years ago.

At times I recall it so vividly and it seems that I was a completely different person at the time. When reflecting back it was as if I could float outside of my body and observe how different the person I am today differed from the person I felt subjected to be at that time.

While many medical professionals (and the public for that matter) like to treat symptoms or the effects of an illness, I have always been of the belief that it’s best to take a look at the root cause and how to fix it. To take a look at what I believe the cause was, it’s best if you understand my personality.  I’m a pretty intense guy and I tend to feel lots of differently emotions on a daily basis, so I may be the type of person that has a proclivity towards being anxious or depressed. This intensity can also mean very high highs as well, aka the roller-coaster effect.

At the time I had a rough couple of months financially. I’ve always been on a commission-type of income, from waiting tables in college, to marketing financial services to selling real estate. It seemed my marketing efforts to find clients were not panning out. And despite having a fairly successful 3  years in real estate, it seemed that the business had dried up.

“…how different the person I am today differed from
the person I felt subjected to be at that time.”

Now my self-employed friends might be able to relate to this better than most, but when you feel like you aren’t providing for your family the way you could or should be doing, it messes with your head. Gradually over a period of time I kept feeding myself subconscious negative messages, which only compounded and grew in strength. I eventually got to the point where I was scared to take any positive action to generate business, because I somehow knew that it just wouldn’t work out.

I felt like the world was against me, when in reality the world
doesn’t really care what happens to you. It merely conforms
to your perception of it.

My thoughts were incoherent and scattered. I couldn’t put things together in my mind anymore in a way that made sense, and I actually found myself intently having to think about what I was going to say before I said it, even in simple conversations.

Simple daily tasks became formidable challenges which I felt hopeless to overcome. My brain built up anything I would normally do habitually into something that was the equivalent of moving a mountain.

There were memories of me waking up in the morning, looking up at the ceiling, wondering why I would even bother getting out of bed. When I came home from work each day all I wanted to do was get back into bed, shut my eyelids and hope things would get better, although there was no reason to believe they would. What was the point? No one cares anyways and my life doesn’t make any difference. More than once my thoughts drifted to the pistol in my bedroom and contemplated just ending it all.

What a pack of lies.

The depression and anxiety impaired my ability to be a good parent and husband. Although I wanted to be with my boys and wife, I wasn’t really able to be there 100% mentally because I constantly had these negative thoughts in the background trying to stomp out any personal joy I may have experienced.

In social settings I felt I had to wear a mask, because who wants to have a conversation with someone that is wallowing in a river of self-pity? Looking back, I think some people may have known what I was going through.  Because when you feel something internally it’s very difficult to hide those feelings from others, as they generate a certain type of energy.

So what turned it around for me? 

I knew this wasn’t going to be permanent (even though it felt like it would) and that I could pull out of it , but I needed help because whatever I was doing wasn’t working. Through my church I located a psychiatrist who was able to prescribe some medication that would help alleviate the intensity of my negative, crippling thoughts, and “stabilize” me more so that I wouldn’t keep creating a deeper downward spiral. The doctor said i had Generalized Anxiety. Gradually over time the prescription worked, and eventually I phased off of the medication completely.

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If you know me, you know how much I love movies and am always looking to relate life experiences to them.  It kind of felt like Bradley Cooper’s character in the movie “Limitless”. And how he used the thought-enhancing medication to improve for a period of time, and once he was in a place where he felt he was comfortable enough to manage himself again, he weened himself off of it.

Remember, it is never too late to get help. There is always hope. You can start by calling the Suicide Prevention LIfeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit their site at  suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Have you had any experiences with anxiety or depression or know someone that has? Feel free to leave a comment below.

 

 

 

What’s Your Spend-Ability?

Credit http://discusseconomics.com
Credit http://discusseconomics.com

Trends and people’s behavior are fascinating. They reveal what people believe, what kind of action they take, and how they go about living their lives.  Looking at trends and behavior help us identify what is important to people, which is a reflection of who they are.

Recently I had a conversation with my wife Tia about how people spend their money that looked fitting to share with you. Now please understand what this post is NOT doing – judging. As a general rule-of-thumb it’s easy to make observations of others and less of ourselves, so please take the article in stride.

Entertainment

Take for instance that we have these friends who love to go to concerts and sporting events. They have season tickets to the Arizona Cardinals, and are constantly at one music event or another. Having a good time away from home on a consistent basis is important to them.

My wife and I fit a little different mold – we’d rather take that money and spend on a 1 or 2-day staycation for our family at a local resort, like the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. There is just something we inherently value about down time and relaxation – doing nothing in a nice place.

We also value family vacations and leaving town completely to new destinations. To us it’s all about experiences, and less about the “stuff”/tangible items. The saying “you can’t take it with you” is very real for us, but what is left behind at the end of your life is the memories and experiences you have created with those you love.

Cars

Other friends choose to buy big fancy expensive vehicles, upwards of $50,000 or more, with all the upgrades known to mankind. And that’s great! Glad they see value there. To me, vehicles are a necessary nuisance. Something that can get you from point A to point B.  We have 2 vehicles, a 2011 Toyota Camry and a 2005 Dodge Caravan. While my wife is more than ready to trade-in for a nicer “mom-mobile”, she understands (thankfully) my view to wait.

The van is paid for and we still have about 2 years left on the car loan. What’s important to me about a vehicle is that it’s reliable and lasts a long time. One of the most frustrating things for me is vehicle maintenance. I feel like my life is passing me by when I have to go in for an oil change. Certain models require more maintenance, and interestingly enough, some very expensive vehicles require more maintenance. I guess that’s the tradeoff for image?

Houses

This is a big one for me, not only just because I am a REALTOR ®, but because it is THE biggest single expense for the average household. In the days before I got my license, our real estate professional pressured us into getting a bigger, nicer house than what we wanted simply because we could afford it. That didn’t sit well with me, and it still gives me a sinking feeling today. Not sure how other people think it’s in their place to tell me what I should and should not purchase.

As a result of not listening to that advice, we have never short sold or been foreclosed on. During the 2004-2006 Phoenix real estate market run-up many people got in over their heads & lost everything over the next several years.

So we live in a good, nice neighborhood. It’s not the fanciest or gated or on the water, but we enjoy it. We are happy with our standard of living, and having a manageable house payment allows us to do other things and not feel stressed out, especially because I’m on a commission-only income.

Savings

I’ve always been a saver, even when those around me would suggest I do different. I probably do it to a fault and overcompensate by saving and investing more than needed, but I value getting free at some point and do not wish to rely on selling homes or the government to support me. Hopefully this will happen sooner than later! As a result I am rarely put into a position that I “have” to make a sale , which serves no positive purpose to either me or my client.

Insurance

Most people are insurance poor. We know this because most of the time when we see people die prematurely on the news there is a gofundme site started to take care of final expenses. Life insurance doesn’t have to be ridiculously expensive – go with term, which takes care of you for a specified period of time. Ideally you are saving & investing money that you can live on in the *likely* event that you live until retirement.

This doesn’t just go for life insurance, but health (which is the United States is a total mess but that’s for another post), auto, home, and disability. Most people don’t find this out until they need to file a claim and it’s too late.

Miscellaneous

I could site plenty of other examples like my friend who is the most frugal teacher on the planet, but loves sunglasses and probably owns a good 15-20 pairs of them. Another friend saves money to go on multiple Disneyland trips a year, because he values those experiences with his family.

Although my life isn’t perfect, I like to think it’s pretty darn close. People’s money habits tend to either enrich their life or make it tough to bear.

What kind of money habits do YOU have and what do you enjoy spending your discretionary income on? Please leave a comment below!

 

 

 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was a great film, which was slightly impeded by a few negatives. In this episode we pick up where Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the 2nd chapter, leaves off.  In order to understand where we start here I do recommend seeing the 2nd one if you haven’t. It is this reviewer’s opinion that Dawn is superior to Rise.

The humans come out on the other side of the Simeon flu virus, which is decimating the population around the globe. We focus on a group of survivors in the San Francisco area, the same location of the second chapter. The humans are living in the remains of the city, and the apes live in the forest just outside of it.

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The movie shows us the constant struggle for the humans and apes to build trust with each other and co-exist peacefully.  And even, what happens when people & apes within their own factions start to divide.

The movie starts off on the right foot, with a compelling first few scenes, including a media blitz covering what is happening around the globe and the apes’ quest to locate food.

Dawn is a much darker version of the previous movie, and is setup in a post-apololyptic fashion, as humans look for ways to survive.

Action sequences are absolutely fantastic, didn’t feel very much like CGI at all. The detail given to the physical characteristics of the apes was incredible. Nothing was left out, and expressions were flawless.

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Probably the best overriding theme of the movie was its stance on morality. The choices made by the primary characters would often change or bring to light new choices. Showed us that being moral is more often than not a moving compass.

Others themes in the movie included trust, leadership, interdependency, mutiny, fear, and family were thought out and planned very well, and clearly conveyed in the scripting and acting.

Gary Oldman shined in his role as Dreyfus, one of the leaders of the humans. Oldman never ceases to amaze me with his compelling brilliance as an actor. Keri Russell did a great job acting Ellie, a nearly-unnecessary role as the concerned wife, and had to endure several pointless lines of dialogue.  Jason Clarke portrayed Malcolm, our main human character, and his portrayal was compelling as he tries genuinely to bridge the gap between the species. Andy Serkis once again astounds us with Caesar, the ape who leads his colony and shows us that making the tough and right decisions are not always the most popular.

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Some of the best scenes were the ones between Caesar and his son, who thinks he knows his way, but then has trouble finding his allegiance through the film as new information comes to light. Also when Caesar returns to his old home and how the memories come flooding back.

Soundtrack was well-written and flowed with the harmony of the storyline. Possible Academy Award nod here for editing.

The negatives in the movie were some cheesy, unnecessary, inconsistent, overlong, and clichéd scenes with predictable lines. How do you have a completely abandoned city with no storage in the house you live in? The scene where Malcolm & Ellie converse about their plans and their son listens in.  A decent number of long and slow scenes, where audience en masse decided to take a take a bathroom break. These do not diminish the movie, but are small drawbacks.

Overall, I definitely enjoyed the movie, thought it was better than the last one, and there were only a handful of things that prevented it from being a 10.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes scores 8/10 stars

Did you see the movie? Please share your comment below.