Dec 29, 2009

Worse Than Sugar

I read that General Mills is reformulating their cereal marketed to kids 12 & under, to contain less than 10 grams of sugar per serving.

Two things came to mind.

First, I remembered a discussion in my Earth Science class in the 70s. "Ecology" was a new word, and Woodsy the Owl was telling us daily, "Give a hoot! Don't pollute!" Unleaded gas was just coming to the pumps, and we were encouraged to buy it for our cars. Why, we wondered, did unleaded cost more?

Why does it cost more to NOT put something in?

The answer, of course, was that the lead served a function which now has to be performed by another ingredient, which costs more. "Forget that," we said, as we pumped leaded gas into our cars for thirty cents a gallon.

Second, I applied the scenario of substitution to the sugared cereal. Sugar serves a function in cereal that now has to be performed by another ingredient - but what?

I have not found that information in any of GM's press releases. You can bet I'll be watching, though. There are things worse than sugar.

Another consideration: a "serving" according to GM is 3/4 cup. Serve that to a 12-year-old boy and see how far you get. Although, if the cereal has that much sugar in it, maybe you just want to put on a pot of quick-cook oatmeal and add some milk and sugar yourself. More filling. More healthy. As much or as little sugar as you like. And you can pronounce everything in it.

To whom are you going to show your love by preparing a healthy meal today?

Dec 25, 2009

News Flash: I'm the Parent

Every time I hear a parent or teacher take a vote, I cringe.

Sure it's nice to be democratic if you're choosing what flavor of ice cream to buy. Matters of discipline and education are not, in my experience, best left to popular vote.

"Time to go to bed now, okay?" That little word at the end just ended your authority and asked for a vote.

"Let's take out our math books, okay?" You either are or are not going to work on math. Whose decision is that to make?

"Put your jacket on, okay?" Why, oh, why are you asking for the child's vote? One of you is the parent. If it matters, TELL him (nicely), "Put your coat on. We're leaving."

TELL him, "It's bed time. Kiss me night night!"

TELL your class, "Open your math text book to page 212."

Assert your authority. One of you is the leader. Only one. Who is it?

Who will you lead to excellence today?

Dec 24, 2009

Visiting the Birthday Boy

It's Christmas Eve.

Many people who only attend church twice a year (Christmas & Easter) will be there tonight/tomorrow. Some regulars hate attending on holidays, for that reason. It's too crowded, can't find a place to park, someone's sitting in "my" pew... Can you imagine what the church could do if the Christmas & Easter brigade showed up 52 Sundays a year? They'd have to build new churches! They'd have new members in their classes and meetings and faith formation. They could - gasp! - impact the world for the Kingdom of God!

Oh wait, wasn't that the idea a couple thousand years ago?

Sadly, some don't attend church, even on Christmas. Other church members failed to meet their needs (who is your Source and Supply?) or the preacher asks for money (the electric bill keeps coming whether you're there or not) or the leadership has disappointed them. I am disappointed in human leadership, too, but consider this ancient wisdom, from Father Salvatore Rosa:
St Francis de Sales lived in the Fifteenth Century when priests were notorious public sinners. They clergy of his time were so brazen and bold in the evil lives they led, that people stopped going to Church. St. Francis said that the way these priests were living was a great scandal, and that they were guilty of spiritual murder. By their sinful lives they were killing the faith of many people.

However, he said to the people, if the priests’ sin is that they are giving scandal, your sin is that you’re taking it. If the priests’ sin is that they are committing spiritual murder, yours is that you are committing spiritual suicide. You use their sin to excuse yourself from living your religion. You stop going to church, you stop praying, you stop confession and communion. You say, “Well, if they can act like that, then why should I be good?” You use their sin to give yourself permission to sin. That’s spiritual suicide.

Teens will say "I don't get anything out of it." Guess what - you're there to give (thanks) not to get. "They built a new building and that was ridiculous," says another. Well, attend the church council meetings and make your points known. It's like criticizing politicians and then staying home on election day. Criticizing is easy...

I don't know why people change churches, the joke goes. What difference does it make which one you stay home from?

By the way, there is only one Church.

What eternal Truth will you be seeking today?

Merry Christmas.

Dec 21, 2009

The Ones Who Make Our Lives Easier

A previous post talked about teacher gifts. What about the other people who make my life better & easier? I'm talking about the people you don't think too much about. You only notice if the job DOESN'T get done. If the budget allows, a little Christmas cash is most welcome by those who quietly and efficiently take care of things for you.

I don't have to go buy a newspaper at the store or corner. I have a great newspaper delivery guy. My newspaper is faithfully on my front lawn every morning when I wake up, rain or shine, clear or fog. He's as dependable as the postmen of old.

No traveling to the PO unless I want to. I have a mail carrier who is faithful. That carrier has a sub who wishes to be full time, but is working part time, on the regular's off-day, for years until a full time spot opens up. Rural carriers and their subs use their own vehicles. (You don't have to live on a farm to have a "rural" carrier deliver your mail. Some cities only have rural carriers. It's just a category name.) They get mileage, but they're lucky to break even. Car break down? You better rent or borrow one and get in there to deliver the mail or lose your job.

Monday is recycle pickup. Sure I pay fees to the utility company for water/sewer/garbage, but the guys out in the rain sorting out my bottles from cans make me appreciate my indoor job.

Wednesday is trash day. Stuff at the curb just "magically" disappears. Amazing. Who takes care of that?

Church secretaries have those church bulletins ready to hand out on Sunday morning. The pew pencils are sharpened. The dishtowels in the church kitchen are laundered.

No trophies. No accolades. Just working people faithfully doing their job each day. Each of them contributes to my convenience.

A thank you and a little cash is such a welcome gift. You might just make someone's day. Like they've made yours all year.

Whom are you going to slip a note and some cash this week?

Dec 13, 2009

The Right Way to Give, part III

Many Christmases ago, there was a family at church with a mom, a dad, and two precious little girls. The dad lost his job. Shortly after that, the mom was diagnosed with cancer and had to have surgery. Everyone at church was so moved by the family's plight, that they wanted to help this nice family.

Well, not exactly.

What they wanted to do was buy Christmas gifts for the little girls. And they did. Dolls and strollers and games and winter coats and bikes and dresses and video games filled the foyer of the church. Whee! Those little girls had more toys than a toy store! Gifts were piled higher than the girls were tall.

And the parents still couldn't pay their water bill.

What might have been a better gift? Cash. Groceries. Anonymously paying the family's utility bill. Did you know that anyone can walk into the utility company with a name and/or address and say "I want to pay this person's bill"? You don't have to be the homeowner. They'll take your money.

It's fun to buy toys for other people's children. Paying someone else's water bill isn't "fun." Sometimes, though, meeting basic needs is a better gift.

You weren't giving for the recognition anyway, were you? Were you?

Whose basic needs will you quietly meet today?

Dec 10, 2009

The Right Way to Give, part II

Parents, today's gift-giving wisdom is regarding teacher gifts.

Most students love to give their teacher presents. It might be a special drawing, a valentine, or a bona fide Christmas gift. If your child wants to give his or her teacher a gift this year, then I praise you for raising a generous child. Children do not accidentally become thoughtful of others. You have been modeling generous behavior for him or her.

That said, every teacher I know (hundreds) has enough tchochkes, lotion, and candles to last her an eternity. What do they want? When polls are taken, the most requested gift is - a gift card.

It doesn't have to be much. Even $5 or $10 is a lot to them. Teachers aren't paid much, so a gift card to Walmart or Target is especially useful. Bookstores and office supply stores are also welcome choices. She can buy something she needs for the classroom, or something personal for herself or her family. Many teachers like pizza delivery (for those evenings when there are papers to grade & no time to cook), dinner out, or Starbucks.

Gift cards are not tacky. They empower to the recipient to decide what she most needs/wants.

Empowerment is an awesome gift.

If the budget allows, you might consider token gifts (giftcards) for the support staff who do not get the recognition that teachers traditionally get. Is there a teacher's aide in the classroom? Ask your child. He knows. Are there enrichment teachers, such as computer, art, music, or P.E.? Ask your child if there are other school staff members whom he would like to remember, such as receptionists, custodians, cafeteria ladies, bus drivers, or librarians. These folks interact with your child on a daily basis, yet are often left out of the gift-giving loop.

Sure, with an unlimited budget you could buy gifts for every employee at the school, but most of us live within limits. We have to choose and prioritize. Talk to your child about those adults who are most influential in his life. You will not only learn who works at your child's school, but you will learn more about your child. That's a gift money can't buy.

To whom will you give the gift of empowerment this Christmas season?

Dec 9, 2009

The Right Way to Give, part I

Every time Oprah gives away cars to members of her audience, I wince. First, the cars are donated, so it costs her nothing. She gets to be the Fairy Godmother, giving away stuff. Ford gets the publicity. What do the recipients get?

Suppose you live in Chicago. Downtown Chicago. And you happened to get Oprah tickets. And you are given a free car. Whee! Praise Oprah!

What then?

Now comes the hangover. Do you have a driver's license? Get one of those. Register the car with the DMV to get a title. Get tags on the car. Couple hundred dollars. Call your insurance agent to insure the car. Couple hundred dollars a month for a new car in a bad zip code. Park the car... where? In a rented space? Couple hundred dollars a month.

Now this "free" car is costing you three or four hundred dollars a month, maybe more, plus annual tags. What kind of gift is that?

Oh wait, don't forget the IRS. How many of the "winners" have to sell the car to pay the $7000 tax on the "gift" in the first place.

Gifts that require financial obligation and maintenance are no gifts at all.

What "free" gifts are you rethinking today?

Dec 3, 2009

Insurance: A Special Place in Hell

I truly believe there is a special place in Hell for insurance executives who profit at the expense (and misery) of those they "insure."

First off, understand that the whole insurance industry is based on extortion and gambling. If you want to borrow money to buy a house, you have to pay "protection money" to the insurance company, or else the bank calls the mortgage & you lose the house. Gambling I've already written about in the post called "Insurance - Bet You Won't!"

Today I read that State Farm and Alfa are dropping wind coverage along the Gulf Coast. (Can't you hear them? "We only want your lucrative car insurance, not anything that might actually cost us a claim!") I wish I could start a business and tell the state regulators what income I demand to make. Those Skyboxes at the Sugar Bowl cost a pretty penny, I bet.

One mom shared with me her insurance woes. This one is about dental insurance. Her family has federal dental benefits. Her family has dental insurance. Premiums are deducted every payday. She had a toothache. She went to the dentist. He had her in the chair for less than 5 minutes, took an X ray, and sent her to an endodontist. Then he sent her a bill for $82. After insurance.

The endodontist had her in a chair for 5 minutes, took an X ray, said the tooth was abcessed and should be pulled. He gave her a prescription for antibiotics and a bill for $40.

Now she's out $122 plus the cost of antibiotics, the tooth has not yet been pulled, but last I heard, she was asking Santa for a pair of pliers for Christmas.

What good is insurance if you still have to serve your family Ramen noodles for 3 weeks, just to save up for advice, let alone treatment??? She can't afford to have the tooth pulled by a dentist, because it just isn't in the budget. The family budget is so tight, her daughter is getting underwear for Christmas. Actually "fixing" the tooth is beyond the realm of financial possibility. Even with insurance.

You have to wonder what the insurance executive, with his $24 million pay, will get his children for Christmas? I'm betting it's not pliers and underwear.

Next time you see someone missing a tooth, don't judge. They probably have the same insurance this mom has.