For most Americans, no school education is complete without having read at least one or two literary works from the master of the macabre, Edgar Allan Poe. While he wrote many pieces during his lifetime, he’s probably best known for his short thrillers like “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Raven.”
Because Poe seemed to gravitate toward the darker side of life in his writings, most people assume that this prolific author was — to put it politely — a little weird. Part of this assumption is because his arch enemy and rival, Rufus Wilmore Griswold, wrote Poe’s posthumous biography, and he wasn’t kind about it. In truth, Poe wasn’t weird, although maybe a tad eccentric. And here are four things you probably didn’t know about Edgar Allan Poe.
The “Allan” was added later to his name
Poe was born Edgar Poe to two Shakespearean actors who traveled the countryside to perform. Sadly, his parents both passed away by the time he was four years old. This left him and his siblings orphans. The children were split up, and Edgar went to live with a rich tobacco merchant by the name of John Allan in Richmond, Virginia. But this wouldn’t be a happy ending. Although Allan was Poe’s benefactor, he wasn’t benevolent. The guardian refused to fully cover Poe’s educational expenses, causing the young writer to drop out of college. And according to records, Poe was excluded from Allan’s will — even though Allan’s illegitimate child, whom the merchant had never met, did receive an inheritance.
He married his first cousin
Yes, we know, this sounds gross, and given their age difference, the whole thing is highly problematic through a modern lens. But in the 1800s, marrying first cousins and the concept of child brides were not only legal but a common practice. Shortly after Edgar’s falling out with his former guardian, John Allan, he moved to Baltimore and relied on the kindness of his biological father’s relations. One particular aunt, Maria Clemm, took Poe in and treated him as if he were her son. He soon fell in love with Clemm’s daughter, Virginia.
Even though there was a 14-year age difference between them, Poe married Virginia when she was 13 and he was 27. He moved his wife/cousin and mother-in-law/aunt to New York with him. The trio lived in Manhattan and traveled to Philadelphia for a while before settling in the Bronx.
He spent time in the Bronx
Long before DJ Kool Herc put the “Boogie Down Bronx” on the map as the birthplace of hip-hop, it was a sleepy country region that served as the home for a variety of people, including Edgar Allan Poe. In his final years, Poe and his wife rented a home in what is now known as the Fordham section of the Bronx. The couple had moved from Manhattan in the hopes that the relaxed setting and cleaner air would help his wife recover from tuberculosis. Unfortunately, it didn’t, and she died in 1847. After Edgar’s passing in 1849, the city created Poe Park in 1902 across the street from his cottage.
The park served as a popular spot for live events and concerts. It was located on the busy Kingsbridge Road that was eventually widened to reduce congestion. At this time, Poe’s cottage was relocated to inside the park to protect it from any future threats from surrounding redevelopment efforts. Today, the cottage is part of the Historic House Trust and, depending on who you talk to, is still haunted by Poe’s ghost.
He made writing a feasible career in America
While Edgar Allan Poe never reached major financial success with his writings, he did gain substantial fame and proved that being a writer was a worthy profession. Many of his works were published while he was alive, and he even managed to win awards for many of the pieces he penned. By many literary and historic standards, Poe serves as the nation’s first critically acclaimed author. And thanks to his fame, he was able to lobby for better pay as a writer — something that writers today still struggle to achieve.
So who was Edgar Allan Poe?
Poe, much like anyone else, was a complex figure. Yes, he tended to write in the Gothic style that was popular at that time. But just because he gravitated towards darker materials didn’t mean he was disturbed or strange. When you look at the entirety of his biography, his storyline and experiences aren’t much different than many other highly creative people. Edgar Allan Poe was a man who experienced great tragedies and frustrations throughout his life. Yet he turned those pains into source material for a body of work that is still celebrated and studied today.
The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. 1 Corinthians 8:2
We’ve been encouraging you this week to seek a better understanding of your children. We readily admit, however, that no matter how hard you try, your kids will still surprise you. I (JCD) remember calling home years ago from an out-of-state speaking engagement. Danae, who was then thirteen, informed me that she was going to be running in the 880-yard race at a track meet that Saturday. I gasped. “Danae,” I said, “that is a very grueling race. Have you ever run that far before?” She admitted that she hadn’t, even in practice. Though I advised against it, she decided to run in the race anyway.
Well, you can guess what happened—she won the race. The following year, she triumphed in the 880 again, setting a school record in the process. Now I began to get excited. The kid has talent, I thought. She’ll be a great runner someday. Wrong again. Danae ran three more races, winning two of them, and then lost interest in track. So much for fatherly wisdom.
Even if you dedicate yourself to knowing and understanding your children, you won’t always succeed. God has designed our ever-changing sons and daughters as complex, unique human beings. Parents must take to heart the Scripture that says “A patient man has great understanding” (Proverbs 14:29). Your ability to recognize who your children are—and who they will become—will only occur with generous measures of patience and reliance on the Lord.
Before you say good night…
How often do your kids surprise you?
Are you patient in seeking to understand your kids?
Heavenly Father, we know we must rely on You as we seek to know our children. Grant us patience when our understanding seems inadequate. Enable us to enjoy even the surprising moments with our precious children. Amen.
Today’s reading is drawn from Proverbs 1:1-7.
How It Works
Good decisions require accurately processed information. Technology has made getting information easy. Computers crunch data and give it to us in digestible bits, but the human mind must still analyze that data and make the decisions. The writer of Proverbs knew that people must make good decisions, so he urges us to attain wisdom and mental discipline and to understand words of insight.
A leader must develop a disciplined and prudent character so that they will do what is right, just and fair. The rub comes when the leader doesn’t know what is right, just and fair—or when any conceivable decision appears unjust, wrong and unfair. That’s why the unsophisticated need prudence. The young need knowledge and discretion. In fact, everyone needs to foster learning and seek guidance on a daily basis.
Proverbs isn’t a decision-making textbook, but this wisdom-packed book is God’s gift to help us to make the best decisions possible. Proverbs 1:1–6 informs us that the proverbs to follow will help the reader to develop the requisite mental sharpness to process complex information. Even though technology helps us to gather and manipulate information, a sharp mind must still apply solid logic to that information in order to make good decisions. The proverbs help us to accomplish this goal in a godly manner. They sharpen the mind and reveal God’s insight to ensure that our decisions may be in sync with his eternal perspective.
Read these verses again, this time including verse 7. Then study Proverbs as a foundation for exceptional decision making.
Your ultimate success in everything you do is determined by the small seemingly insignificant choices you make every day. Your success on a relationship is dependent on the little things you say and do for your partner every day. Your success in business is dependent on the little things you do to keep your customer happy.
Success in life is found in the little mundane things you do every day.
One of the keys to implementing modest advantage in your life is creating an action plan. Whether it is working towards financial freedom, developing a closer relationship with God, losing weight, sending out an email to your contact list about a new book or putting together a presentation for prospective investors, we all need a way to help us in completing goals, tasks and projects.
These tasks may seem like they don’t require much thought at first glance but occasionally we may find ourselves overlooking an essential step that can derail our efforts.
Action plans are useful as they will help you see each task laid out for you. That way you are able to finish activities in an organised matter, know what you need to outsource or drop altogether.
Relationship Action Plan
We have different priorities in life and depending on those priorities; different people mean different things to us. For instance, if you are about to get married, the most important relationship is your partner, he is probably the one you invest most of your time preparing for marriage. If the most important thing in your life right now is setting up a new business perhaps the most important relationship will be mentors, investors and other networks that help you start a business.
Fundamentally there are questions you have to answer to help you in defining your relationships:
What are my goals?
What relationships do I need?
What value do these relationships add in my life?
What do I bring to the table?
How do I nurture these relationships to grow?
As much as you have priorities, you need to keep contact with all the relationships in your life from partner, family, friends, and colleagues to support groups. Once you establish what percentage of your time goes to each relationship, decide how you are going to apportion that time to all relationships. For instance if you have 30 hours every week for relationships, decide what percentage goes to family, friends, life partner, business partner etc. To help you prioritize without neglecting others, let’s classify relationships into 3 categories:
Critical: These are your most important relationships in moving your life in the direction that you want it to go. They could be life partner, prospective investors, business partners, mentors etc. It all depends on where your life is at now. If you are forming new relationships for this, be strategic in your choice but don’t get stuck looking for perfect contacts.
Necessary: These are continuing relationships that are a larger part of who you are. They could be family, close friends, colleagues, neighbours, support groups, ministry etc. Spend time with them as part of a larger group so that you can be most efficient.
Other Contacts: This includes everyone else you know. They include old friends, business contacts, customers, mentees, old classmates etc. Never lose a contact so in as much as you can make sure you keep in touch through emails, social networks and a phone call once in a while.
For each category, get into the habit of always asking what you offer to each of them. If it’s a spouse, is he a happier person for knowing you? If it is an investor, are you giving them what you promised? If it’s a customer are they getting value for their money?
To solve the time constraint always blend in your professional and personal contacts into groups. Then set daily, weekly and monthly standards and embed them in your calendar.
Health and Fitness Action Plan
By now you know that taking care of our bodies through proper diet and exercise is a form of respect to your body and the generations that precede you. It will be a great honour to those whom you owe your nativity when you pass them strong genes that are not worn down by neglect and lifestyle diseases.
So, where to start? First of all, sit down and write out an action plan of what you are going to do–it doesn’t have to be anything long and complicated, just some key points to get you started. Health and fitness means different things to different people perhaps your health and fitness goals involve weight loss.
To get to that goal, the following next actions will guide you:
Set a weight loss goal. Decide exactly how many pounds you want to lose and by when. Be realistic, you cannot lose 60 pounds a month without compromising your health but anything between 15-30 pounds per month is acceptable.
Choose a weight loss program that works for you. Make sure your weight loss program is based on calories–both consumed and burned–that way you can track your progress. Apply the modest advantage concept. By reducing 150 calories per day (equal to just one sausage), the result after two years is a spread of about 60 pounds. Everything you do has a modest advantage effect. As you choose a program, think about how you will keep off all the temptations in the house. Think about other aspects of your life that might be causing you to comfort eat. Why do you eat? What triggers you to comfort eat? Is there anything you can change?
Gather knowledge on your chosen program. Learn how many calories you are required to consume every day. Learn how many calories you burn from your exercise routine. Learn about nutrition to make sure you do not deprive yourself of essential nutrients in the name of weight loss. Get to know which foods contain what nutrients against their number of calories. Information is power.
Figure out what works for you. Do this by analysing yourself, your capabilities, and your schedule, if you know you cannot run 5 kilometres every day, don’t flatter yourself with a plan that you won’t keep. You would rather get exercise for 20 minutes every day for one year than burn out after a month for trying to exercise 2 hours every day. In your plan curve out ways of fighting the temptations e.g. clearing out the fridge and getting rid of all those cookies, chocolates and treats on your shelves.
Once you have your plan in mind put it on paper. Set yourself a realistic goal weight. If you’ve got a lot of weight to lose, break it down into smaller milestones. Plan your meals for the week–there are a lot of low calorie meal plans you can get online. Set yourself some exercise targets. This can be anything from “go swimming twice a week” to “Aerobics 3 times a week”.
Here is an example of a work out plan:
Be mindful of your portions. You could break your meals in five small potions rather than three large portions. Avoid snacking because the content of your means is equally as important. Eat organic foods, keep fresh and stay away from processed foods in as much as it is possible. One of the downside of refined foods and sugars is that they go right into the blood stream unlike unrefined foods which the body breaks down and only takes up what it needs. I know you have heard it a thousand times but I will say it again: you are what you eat. Plan your meals for a week: make good daily food selections. Limit fatty foods and carbohydrates, increase vegetables, healthy grains and lean proteins. Make sure your meal plan and work out plan are aligned to your weight loss goal.
Your Meal Plan can look something like this:
Find a buddy with a similar weight loss goal. You could find a local exercise buddy and motivate and encourage each other to lose weight or join an online weight loss programs.
Commit and follow through. If you desire to live a long, healthy life that is free from lifestyle diseases, if you want to be well every day then you have got to commit to a healthy diet and exercise. Is there anything that is working against your plan? Make sure you take care of it before it sabotages your goals. Create daily action points that get rid of bad habits. There are no quick fix solutions; you have got to put in the work. You may not see the results in a week or a month but you have got to believe in the process. You may not see your bamboo tree blossom, but know that if you keep putting in the work, you will see the results eventually.
Stuck in a job that is not satisfying to you? You work hard each and every day and are not able to get to where you want to be or do what you are most passionate about. Well, maybe it is time to get one that actually makes you look forward to waking up in the morning. The following steps will lead you to the job that you want.
Decide exactly what kind of a job you want. If the job doesn’t already exist, perhaps you can create it.
Choose the company or individual for whom you wish to work.
Learn everything there is to know about your prospective employer e.g. work ethics, organisation culture, policies, the industry etc.
What can you offer this prospective employer? Analyse your unique skills, talents and most importantly, your HABU. What value can you add in his company? Write down all the benefits your prospective employer will get from hiring you and write them down in form of a plan.
Once you have written down your plan (professionally), present it to the relevant person with confidence and authority, and he or she will do the rest.
Every company is looking for employees who can give something of value — ideas, concepts or networks. Every company has room for one more person who has a plan that adds value to that company.
Spiritual Action Plan
God expects us to grow spiritually and that requires a deeper understanding of what it means to be a Christian, expanding our knowledge of his word and living day to day according to his word.
The key to spiritual growth is God’s work in your life as you choose to seek His kingdom first.
This spiritual chart will guide you towards spiritual growth in each category of your relationship with God:
Holistic Life Action Plan
By now we understand the butterfly effect. All the components of our beings are interconnected. What happens to one part of us will ultimately affect the other parts as well. Therefore, living a holistic life means that all the components of our life are taken care of. It is a very simple concept that most of us forget probably because we live in a fast paced world.
From the time we wake up to the time we go back to bed our lives evolve into a hurried surge to prepare ourselves, get to work or school, run errands between lunch breaks, grabbing a quick bite to eat back to work (usually from a fast food), leave work late and grab some junk for dinner because we have no time to cook or take inventory of what is really important to us.
Our lives are in such a fast lane that we have no time to exercise or go to the gym, and then pretty soon the stress of all these weighs us down.
Taking an inventory can be one of the most important and mind blowing tasks you can ever engage in. It will give you a picture of all those components of your life you have been overlooking as you live life on a fast lane. You will see things that you had no idea you were doing or how much it really adds up.
I challenge you to take inventory of how you spend your time. For one week, track what you do from the moment you get up to the time you go to bed. What do you listen to on your way to work and back? How many hours do you spend on the road? When you get home, do you jump on the couch and watch TV for 4 hours until bed?
Now track where you spend your money. For one week, write down every penny you spend and you will be shocked where it goes. The point of doing this is that is sheds some light on what is really going on in your life. It puts a perspective on what is really important to you. Do you like what you see in how you spend your time and money? Are you satisfied with your life? If not, then you need to make some changes:
Take control of your life; don’t just allow it to happen.
Identify what is really important to you. Identify your talents and most importantly your HABU.
Create goals on exactly what you want to achieve in your life in the long term.
Breakdown the long-term goals into short-term tasks and middle-term milestones. If you want to be a writer then your long term goal may be to write 3 books in five years. Your short term tasks maybe to write a chapter a day while your middle term milestone may be to write the first book in two years.
Invest in your goals, learn as much as possible about what it is you are trying to achieve and find networks of support. Then determine the actions you need to take to get to your dream life.
Commit, follow through and believe in the process.
Here is a sample life plan for you:
By now you must have identified a pattern in the action plans. No matter what you want to change in your life, the modest advantage principles are the same. The premise of the modest advantage remains: Find what you love to do, learn how it’s done and take daily positive steps doing it until it comes to pass.
I pray that God will help you understand that the destiny He has in store for you is a settled issue–all that you require to achieve your purpose has been given to you by Him. The only person, who can determine whether it works out or not, is you. Not any devil in hell or some aligning of the stars. When you see this truth, it makes it easy for you to take up all life’s challenges with confidence.