Dec 19, 2010


At one time, everything I owned fit into my Buick.

In 1994, I spent 10 days in Europe with just carry-on luggage.

Life is simple if you don't have so many things to worry about. Let it go. It's just stuff. Why are you keeping it? Broaden your focus and see that there are far more important things in the world than owning stuff. One of my favorite verses in the King James Bible is Genesis 45:20. "Regard not your stuff."

If your hand isn't open to let go of the thing you have, then your hand isn't open to receive the thing that God wants to give you.

The thing that is most valuable is not always tangible.

What are you going to give away today?

Dec 6, 2010

War: What is it Good For?

1964. Lyndon Johnson. War on Poverty. We still have poverty.
1971. Richard Nixon. War on Drugs. We still have drugs.
1971. Richard Nixon. War on Cancer. We still have cancer.
2001. George Bush. War on Terror. We still have terror.

The President's War Powers enable him to enact administrative laws under the Executive Branch departments without Congress ever having declared "war."

I guess it means he gets to spend a bunch of money on say, social programs or imperialism, without waiting around for a Congressional vote.

How convenient.

Nice gig, if you can get it.

Nov 16, 2010

Mark of the Beast

Yeah, I'm on Twitter. Today I said (among other things):
Naked body scans + passenger backlash = "safe flier" id/card/chip. Thesis + Antithesis = Synthesis. Anyone else seeing a little 666 here?
Since Twitter is limited to 140 characters, and Blogspot is limited only by my imagination, I'll expand on that thought.

Let's say that a certain country's government wants to expand its powers while simultaneously restricting the power of its citizens. Let's say that the government was in charge of creating a "bogeyman" to take the blame for a supposed terrorist attack on its own soil. Let's say that the people reacted in horror to the attack, not knowing that their own government was behind it. Let's say that the people begged the government to "protect" them from the bogeyman. Government says, "ok, we'll protect you, but it will mean you have to give up some of your freedoms," and the people say "take them! take them! We want to be safe!" So the government happily complies with the people's wishes.

The people have given up the freedom to travel freely. Fliers are subject to indignities such as having their toothpaste confiscated, having to take off their shoes, now full naked body scans. The TSA took nail clippers away from my 83 year old dad in a wheelchair. Who's the real threat here?

My point? The government wanted an end result (power.) They created a problem (fear of terrorism) and then offered the solution people demanded ("security.") They ended up with what they wanted from the beginning.

Benjamin Franklin said, "Those who would give up liberty for safety deserve neither."

And the 666 Beast thing? I see the Mark of the Beast all over the id card/chip. If you want to be identified as a safe flier, you'll have to have their brand. As for me and my household...

The laws of sowing and reaping still apply.

What precious freedoms do you have left today?

Nov 3, 2010

Do The Right Thing

I worked at a school today where I have waaaay more volunteer hours than paid hours, and those paid hours are a laughable pittance, so I consider that a "labor of love" as well.

Some of the other teachers were very unkind to me. "They're under a lot of stress," said the principal.

I still manage to be kind, even under stress. I still manage to smile and say "Hi," even when I have a lot on my plate. I still manage to thank the people who make my life easier and better.

My children will still see me doing the right thing. My children will still see me volunteer, be kind, smile, say hi, and say thanks. They just may see me do it at a different school, however. Maybe it's time to stop casting my pearls before swine.

Whose life will you make better today?

Oct 25, 2010

Making Do

One motto of the Frugalista is "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." This is good advice, not just during a "Great Depression," but for any working (or unemployed) folks in today's economy.

Let's face it. The rich are the only Americans getting richer. The rest of us are on the hamster wheel, spinning ever faster just to keep up with what we had years ago. Forget getting ahead - some of us are happy just to keep the electricity on for another month.

Our children are seeing what happens when the magic money tree dries up. No, Honey, no electronic toys for Christmas. Would you like a new pair of school pants? And Honey better be grateful that the school pants are new, not holey, patched hand-me-downs. That's about as good as it gets.

Turn out lights. Use both sides of the paper. If you break a pencil, you sharpen it, not throw it away. You wear one pair of shoes until you can see your socks through the bottom. You learn to live without. How did our grandparents live their whole lives without cell phones, but our kids can't go 14 minutes without one?

I haven't had an oven all summer. We still ate. We just didn't eat things that had to be baked. I have a stove top, crock pot, microwave - wouldn't Ma Ingalls have loved those conveniences? How spoiled do you have to be, to not be able to function without a gas range? Yet some are so spoiled. Freezer-to-oven is the only way they know how to cook. They don't realize that doing without is a great opportunity to try new recipes and techniques.

We made do. We ate. We tried new things. Truth is, you'd be amazed to learn what you can do without. If you don't believe me, ask the Hurricane Katrina survivors. They, and other disaster survivors, have learned what is really important in life.

Making do is a good lesson to teach your children.

What will you teach yours today?

Oct 15, 2010

Something for Nothing

I read in the paper where the Mobile County Public School System mandates that teachers give students at least a 50%. No student can get a zero. They get numerous opportunities to take and retake tests. The catch phrase is "No Student is a Failure."

Depends what the meaning of "is" is.

The administration has confused their "who" with their "do." If I do not work, I do not get paid. It does not mean I'm a failure as a person and have no right to oxygen. It means that I have done nothing and my reward equals my effort. This is how the real world works. Should we not be teaching this in school, or has common sense and logical consequences taken a back seat along with fine arts, Family & Consumer Science, and other necessary (elective) classes so that more time can be spent raising standardized test scores?

Kids learn that showing up earns them a passing grade for no or next to no work. You show up, you pass. You're "entitled" to a diploma.

Next thing you know, they'll be handing out Nobel Peace Prizes just for showing up.

Oh, wait. Never mind.

What will your children earn by working today?

Oct 4, 2010

Six-Day Mail Delivery

Here are some (excerpted) stats from

1775 - Benjamin Franklin appointed first Postmaster General by the Continental Congress
1847 - U.S. postage stamps issued
1855 - Prepayment of postage required
1860 - Pony Express began
1863 - Free city delivery began
1873 - U.S. postal cards issued
1874 - First commemorative stamps issued
1896 - Rural free delivery began
1913 - Parcel Post began
1918 - Scheduled airmail service began
1950 - Residential deliveries reduced to one a day
1963 - ZIP Code inaugurated
1970 - Express Mail began experimentally
1974 - Adhesive stamps tested
1982 - Last year Postal Service accepted public service subsidy
1983 - ZIP+4 Code began
1992 - Self-adhesive stamps introduced nationwide
2007 - Forever stamp issued
It seems to me that if the USPS were to stay viable into the next couple of hundred years, a few things need to change. If the last public subsidy was 1982, why weren't the federal mandates ended at that time, too? They tell USPS what they must do, and what they can charge, but won't subsidize the mandates? And people get mad when stamps go up two cents?

Congress mandates universal delivery (even to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, which has to be done by pack mule.) If delivery were privatized, only people in cities would get delivery at all. Those in remote areas would have to come to town to get their mail.

Congress mandates 6-day delivery. I still can't figure that one out. 200 years ago, US Mail was the only means by which people communicated with loved ones far away. Today we have options about which Benjamin Franklin didn't even dream! My daughter texts me from a mile away. One friend phones me from 3 miles away. I get emails from another friend a thousand miles away. I'm on Facebook with a friend across the Atlantic Ocean. My daughter Skypes with her friend in Japan.

Do we really need six day mail delivery? Congress, it seems, is still in the 18th century by refusing to repeal this archaic regulation. (Speaking of archaic, we won't even get into the fact - right now - that the USPS still uses carbon paper.)

I love stamps. They're like little works of art. I love finding a handwritten note in my mailbox. I want the USPS to succeed. I want Congress to back off and let them do so profitably. I think I'll write my Congresscritters a handwritten note and ask for their cooperation in this matter. I'll mail it via USPS.

To whom will you write a note today?

Oct 2, 2010

The Walmartization of America

Walmart hires inexperienced part timers. Pay is low. No insurance. No retirement. No unions. The goal = maximize profits.

Charter schools hire inexperienced teachers. Pay is low. No insurance. No retirement. No unions. The goal = maximize profits.

USPS has a hiring freeze on "career" positions. Only hiring part timers. Pay is low. No insurance. No retirement. No unions. The goal = maximize profits.

Anyone else seeing a pattern here?

Sep 25, 2010

Teacher Bashing

Did you watch Oprah on 9/20/10?

"Microsoft founder Bill Gates, D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and acclaimed director Davis Guggenheim joined daytime host Oprah Winfrey in her Chicago studio Monday for the first in a two-part series on fixing our nation's failing public schools. "

The way to "fix" schools, according to these so-called experts, is to get rid of tenured teachers. The teachers are ineffective, they say. Let's get rid of the ones who can't bring up test scores. Let's get rid of tenure because it's impossible to get rid of ineffective teachers.

H'mmm. The problem with their "cure" is two-fold. They're defining effectiveness by test scores, which have little or nothing to do with actual learning. Second, tenure protects teachers from the whims of administrators like Rhee, who haven't been in some of the classrooms most of the "ineffective" teachers work, and it protects teachers from students who lie. Which is just about all of them.

The only people who got rich on NCLB are the consultants and testmakers. The only people hurting under NCLB are the kids and teachers. Now they want to get rid of teachers? And replace them with what? Inexperienced, untenured teachers who will last a year or two before they quit in despair? Oh, that'll raise your test scores. Not.

The way I see it, the whole media parade of teacher-bashers is aiming for one goal: union busting. They want to decimate the unions & tenure, so they can pay teachers less. Corporate schools hire nonunion, inexperienced (cheap) teachers, make big corporate profits for the shareholders of the corporate school.

Um, like the Walton family, the Gates Foundation, maybe? Surprised? I didn't think so.

What teachers helped YOU with actual learning, and which of them will you thank today?

Sep 15, 2010


תודה Toda = Hebrew for Thank You.

Woke up in a warm bed, with a loving husband, in a climate-controlled house. I have children & pets who think I'm great, most of the time. ;-)

I have a car that runs, food in the fridge, a job, decent health, enough money to pay the bills.

Clean water arrives at the turn of the faucet. My house is as clean as I decide it should be. My life is not in imminent danger by human enemies or natural means. I'm humbled by the opportunities I have been given, not shared by the rest of the world.

Toda = Thank you.

I am grateful to God for my many blessings.

For what are you grateful toda-y?

Sep 9, 2010

Would You Reapply For Your Own Job?

Peggy Castellano wrote an article about Freemont HS in South Central L.A. where the "suits" are so desperate for a sound byte that explains the students' low test scores, that they're firing all the teachers and making them reapply for their own job. This will supposedly weed out the ineffective teachers. Oh really?

I tutor math. I can work with a child in junior high for less than an hour to be able to tell you in which grade the ball was dropped. Math troubles start well before high school. Math builds on what you learned the year before. For example, if you failed to learn times tables in 3rd grade, you won't understand division in 4th. If you don't recognize multiplication factors, you won't grasp GCF, Greatest Common Factor, in 5th. If you don't learn multiples (again, the times tables) you won't recognize LCM, Least Common Multiple, in 6th.

If high schoolers are failing math, don't blame the high school teacher. He has to teach the state-mandated curriculum. He does not have the hours in a day to start at times tables, where the ball may have been dropped, and work up to Algebra I. That all should have been done in lower grades. Students in Algebra should be READY for Algebra.

LAUSD is wrong to think that firings will solve the problem. Unless the only problem they're really trying to solve is how to save the suits' jobs.

With whom will you practice times tables today?

Sep 5, 2010

Keeping Secrets

I've told my children from the time they were toddlers/preschoolers, "We don't keep secrets. If anyone ever says 'Don't tell your mom; it's a secret,' the first thing you do is tell Mom, because we don't keep secrets."

We do, however, keep surprises: a birthday surprise, a Christmas surprise, a surprise party.

Kids know what a surprise is. Giving them two different words helps them make the mental distinction on when they should tell, and when they should not.

What safety lessons are you teaching your child today?

Aug 31, 2010

What They Do With It

So you give your child a cell phone, and what does she do with it?

She talks to people of whom you don't approve.

So you give the beggar a dollar, and what does he do with it?

He spends it on alcohol and drugs.

So you leave the waitress a generous tip, and what does she do with it?

She buys cigarettes and a lottery ticket.

So you give the government your hard-earned tax dollars and what do they do with it?

They fund programs with which you vehemently disagree.

So what do you do?

You do the right thing. You can't control how people use what they're given. If you know that giving was the right thing to do, then let it go. What happens to it after that is not your concern. Keep doing the right thing.

And then let it go. You did your part.

To whom are going to be generous today?

Aug 25, 2010


It makes sense to watch prevailing interest rates. My CDs aren't paying doodly-squat, but mortgage rates are very low, so we're refinancing the house. We are locked in at 4-1/4% right now. Our old mortgage was at 6-1/2%. I always go for fixed rate loans. I don't like the idea that the rate could skyrocket (and with it my payment) from year to year. I want to know what it is and keep it there for 20 years.

In exchange for our paper shuffling (gathering, copying, and signing documents, mostly) we get to save almost a hundred dollars a month for the next 20 years.

Not bad for a day's "work."

Maybe it's time for you to ask some questions about your existing mortgage.

What bank will you call today?

Aug 16, 2010

Coming Food Shortage?

Russia is having such a bad harvest, they are not exporting any grain the rest of the year.
German crop report: down 12%.
Australia reports the worst locust plague they've ever seen.
One fifth of Pakistan is under water.
Drought last spring in South and Southeast China ruined almost 2 million acres of crops, while recent flooding in Northeast China has ruined 22 million acres of crops.

You can't eat gold. If you are comfortable with the amount of your holdings that are in paper, precious metals, and other non-edibles, maybe it's time to stock up on canned goods and rice.

Just sayin'.

Disclaimer: do not take my advice. Listen to your investment professional, not a blogger.

Aug 5, 2010

Government Punishes Good $ Decisions

I looked online to see what the Income Eligibility Guidelines are for free and reduced priced lunches in public schools. They've not been published yet for the 10-11 school year, but I was directed to the usda page that talks about it. I clicked on the 09-10 form, figuring that the amounts wouldn't be very different.

It seemed like normal Government-ese until I started skimming down the definition of "income." Check out this one:

(14) other cash income.
Other cash income would include cash
amounts received or withdrawn from
any source including savings,
investments, trust accounts and other
resources that would be available to pay
the price of a child’s meal.

Let's say I used to be employed. Let's say I put money away for a rainy day. Let's say that now I'm out of work. My good financial decision to save during the good times is being punished. My savings is considered "income" and my children are not eligible for reduced price lunches for no other reason than that I exercised wisdom and good financial sense.

If I had blown every cent when I had the chance, whether on cigarettes, alcohol, gambling, or drugs, I'd be rewarded with reduced priced lunches.

Something's rotten. I didn't cause it, and I can't cure it, but I know stink when I smell it.

What stink can you smell today?

Jul 30, 2010


Loyalty: a sense of obligation to stay together, to work together, to work it out.

I have heard a lot of complaints lately from employers, that they're not seeing the kind of employee loyalty they used to, back in the day. The ones doing the complaining are usually the 50-and-up crowd, who remember a time when companies took care of their people, and the people stayed with the company for their entire career.

When did that change? In my household, it changed 11 years ago.

My husband is a faithful man. He is faithful to me, and to his employer. He worked for a corporation for almost 22 years. He gave them 100%, every day, day after day. He did everything with excellence. He went above and beyond. He worked overtime. He answered calls while on "vacation." He was as loyal to them as anyone you've ever known.

Then, there were rumors of pending layoffs. His bosses told him he wouldn't be laid off. They needed him. He was going to be transferred to another city. He didn't look for or apply to internal job postings because he didn't know he was supposed to. He was told he was going to be transferred. He believed his bosses. I researched and corresponded with school districts in that city, mentally preparing to uproot my household and move to where I knew no one.

Then he was laid off. He got one day's notice. On his last day, they didn't even buy him a sandwich from the deli. And it was too late to apply internally. If he wanted to apply for any other company position, he'd have to knock on the front door like any other outsider. Even after having given them 22 years (more than half) of his life.

His loyalty counted for nothing.

And companies wonder why employees aren't loyal any more? Multiply this man times many thousands. Then tell me whether you have EARNED the loyalty you seek.

The street runs both ways.

You gotta give it to get it.

Who has been there for you and deserves your loyalty today?

Jul 28, 2010

Toxic Mothers

When I was growing up, I thought all mothers were like mine. I don't know why I thought this, other than that I had no reason to believe otherwise. My friends' mothers were pretty much like mine. They wanted to know where we were going, with whom, and they did not ask us what time we'd be home; they TOLD us what time to be home. They made us eat our vegetables and would not let us see R-rated movies. That's what moms are supposed to do, right?

When I was in my late 20s, I worked with girls who were nothing like me, and I found out that there were mothers who were not like mine.

One girl had to call the Men in White Coats to come and get her mother, because the woman was certifiable, a threat to herself and others. My coworker was lamenting that the company insurance would not let her add her mother as a dependent, because she was supporting her mother.

Another coworker got a bill for hundreds of dollars charged to "her" account at a local department store. This girl did not have a charge account at this store. It turns out her mother had used her information and opened the account, followed by a shopping spree. This girl now had to pay the bill, because in order to dispute the debt, she'd have to press charges against her mother and she couldn't do that. So she resigned herself to working more hours to pay off her mother's spree.

I wrote a letter to my mother, telling her how very much I appreciate all she did for me.

More recently, a friend shared horror stories about her mother. The woman, trying to frighten her daughter into getting "saved," would hide, leaving the frightened girl to believe that Mother had been raptured and my friend was left behind. How sick and pathetic is that?

Today in Dear Abby, I read about another toxic mother.


DEAR ABBY: My 89-year-old mother has always been difficult. She not only never loved me, she treated me as if she didn't like me, either. She told me she didn't send me a birthday card on my birthday last month because "What was it supposed to say -- what a 'wonderful' person you are?" My children visibly winced when they heard her say it and worked extra-hard to make sure my day was special.Abby, I have cancer. My prognosis is questionable. I was supposed to have been dead seven years ago -- but I'm managing. My problem is, I recently was told that my mother has been keeping in touch with a single friend of mine from years ago, and they are making plans for her to marry my husband when I die! A few other so-called "friends" are in on this. This last betrayal is incredibly hurtful. Where do I go from here? -- J.C. IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR J.C.: Where do you go from here? As far away from your toxic mother as possible -- and on to a long, and hopefully complete, remission!

I have to second Abby's motion. Sometimes the only cure for contact with toxic people is to avoid contact. Even if she's your mother.

What will you say about your mother today?

Jul 27, 2010

Childhood Obesity

My friend Lylah Alphonse writes for the Boston Globe. Today she posted an article about childhood obesity as a social issue. She's a great writer, and I look forward to her articles. I appreciate her asking my opinion on various subjects. She writes about topics that are dear to my heart, so it's hard for me NOT to have an opinion. (I think I gave her about 6 pages which had to be edited down considerably...)

Because it's such a great, debatable topic, I'm going to borrow it for my blog post today. Is childhood obesity a parenting issue or a social one? I can see that it's both, but I'm putting more emphasis on social.

If you see an obese child, you rarely blame the child. You blame the parent. Children can't drive themselves to the grocery store, and don't hold jobs with which to pay for unhealthy food. Children don't choose portion sizes. Parents can sign a child up for sports, or not. There's so much more to it than that, and every parent knows it.

Children wield enormous power over parents' buying decisions. Eric Schlosser, in Chew On This, says that children are responsible for more than $500 billion worth of spending. And don't think McDonald's doesn't know it!

How is it I spend less every time I go to the grocery store by myself? I usually don't come home with junk unless someone is with me, nagging or begging for it. It's my job to hang tough. It's my job to say no. It's my job to move ever onward in the face of fatigue, from working multiple jobs to make ends meet, to be just a little bit stronger against begging children who want to eat at McDonald's when I've had the kind of day where I don't feel like cooking anyway, healthy or otherwise... hang tough, hang tough. And do it again tomorrow.

In Lylah's article I talked about taxes and regulations raising the cost of food sky high. This is definitely a social issue. What about Corporate greed? Greed is another social issue. Corporate greed demands expediency and uniformity in fast-food offerings. If the nutrition is stripped out along the way, so be it. Corporate greed demands hormone-induced beef and dairy cows to put out greater quantities of meat and milk. If the hormones cause early maturity and other endocrine issues in children, so be it.

There's precious little I can do to influence the cost of the food I eat. I can't control the hearts of men who demand more productivity and higher profits at the expense of human life and health. I can only do the best I can with what I've got. And hang tough. And do it again tomorrow.

About what wise decisions are you hanging tough today?

Jul 21, 2010

Fun Math Game

Today we played War. Yeah, the card game.

Preschooler played "normal" war. Each player flips a card. Whose is bigger?

Grade schooler played addition war. Flip two cards. Add them. Now add my two. Whose sum is bigger? (This also works for subtraction & multiplication.)

Middle schooler played "Integer War." Flip two cards up. Black are positive, red are negative. Add them. Now add my two. Whose sum is bigger?

Another variation for 5th or 6th grade would be to increasing the flip number to three or more, and work on order of operations (red are multiply, black are add), squaring, or using the smaller of two as an exponent for the larger.

If you want to throw some physical exercise into the mix, lie down, keep the cards in your hands & do a sit up before you can play your card(s).

Who says you can't have fun learning, especially in the summer, when you get to make up your own rules?

What fun rules will you make up today?

Jul 15, 2010

New = Better?

The tech crowd goes wild every time Steve Jobs burps. The NEW iPhone4 must be better because it's NEW. Ooops, sorry about that antenna thing...

Politicians love to run on the concept of NEW. Throw the incumbents out! Elect me instead! We need NEW ideas, NEW leadership! If it's been there a while, like last year's handbag, it's just not as good as this year's model, right?

Look at the incumbents themselves. They often brag about the NEW laws they passed, the NEW roads and bridges they built. Why? Because nobody gets excited about maintaining the infrastructure or enforcing existing laws. There's nothing "whee!" about quietly doing with excellence the job you are called to do.

People want "whee!" Politicians know this.

Some very good incumbents were voted out in this week's Baldwin County primary runoff election. Incumbents, quietly doing their job with excellence, raised the creditworthiness of our county in an economic climate where almost nobody could accomplish that feat. Even when the "old" was excellent, the financially illiterate people threw the baby out with the bathwater, because all they saw was the football coach's endorsement, and the word NEW. The accomplishments of the incumbents were not enough for "whee!" the people.

The law of reaping and sowing still applies. People get the government they deserve.

I'm still carrying last year's handbag. It's not "whee!" but it quietly, excellently does the job it was created to do. I'm ok with that.

What old, reliable things will you hang on to today?

Jul 14, 2010

The Reality of Blended Families

Any parent will tell you that parenting is the hardest job in the world.

I'm here to tell you that the only job harder than that is parenting someone else's children.

Parenting, if done right, involves instilling young minds with values, morals, a code of behavior, a system of knowledge and beliefs. What happens if you marry someone who has children who arrive, baggage in hand, with someone else's values, morals, knowledge, and beliefs?

Don't think for an instant, now that you have revealed that your system differs from his system, that he is going to fall down in gratitude to you for showing him the error of his ways. The child will perceive you as an outsider, who's trying to come in and move him out of his comfort zone. How dare you?

Even if you're right and he (and the biological parent) are just wrong, wrong, wrong, don't expect the truth to be met graciously. Don't be shocked when they resist your ideas. Expect resistance. Mentally prepare for it. Truth is almost always met with resistance, initially. However, truth, like sunlight, never goes away. You can shut it up for a while but it always comes back.

Persistence is the key. Eventually wisdom will catch up with their emotions, and the children will discover which system works for them. You might even get a thank-you, some day.

Stick with it. Don't quit. If you're right, keep being right. The payoff will not come soon; it's far down the road.

But worth it.

In what truth will you persevere today?

Jul 12, 2010

Math is Everywhere

Math is Everywhere.

Do not depend on a calculator to do your thinking for you. If you have basic (8th grade or better) math in your head, you have a treasure that no one can take away from you, and you're much less likely to be cheated by those who want your money. Here's a hint: everyone wants your money.

Math is something you can use, every day. It's everywhere in your home, your car, your work, your play.

How do you halve or double a recipe without knowing math?

How do you figure the square yardage to buy carpet for your room without knowing math?

How do you calculate if the smaller or larger jar of peanut butter is a better deal without knowing math?

How do you balance (and not overdraw) your checkbook without knowing math?

How do you figure out how many miles per gallon your car gets without knowing math?

How do you figure out a baseball player's batting average without knowing math?

In what ways are you using your treasure today?

Jul 9, 2010


"Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use." - Emily Post

There are children who somehow grow up, never having learned that they are not the center of the universe. This always astounds me, as I can't see any parent deliberately crippling their child's social growth. When parents cater to Beauregard's every whim, without teaching the niceties of "please" and "thank you," they are raising, perhaps without realizing it, a little tyrant.

What child wants to play with a kid who always has to be first, have his way, get what he wants, when he wants? What child wants a playmate who never takes turns, shares what he has, or seems to appreciate anything given him?

I blame the parents. Where does a child learn manners? At home, mostly. What about the other influences, like tv? When my older boys were growing up in the 90s, The Simpsons was a popular tv show. We didn't watch it, because the tv children were rude. What ever you grow up with, you think is normal. I didn't want my kids thinking Bart's behavior is normal or ok. If Bart Simpson were a guest in my home, I'd show him the door and tell him don't come back. Why on earth would I allow him "in" my home via airwaves? I don't want that example set for my children. That's my right & responsibility as a parent.

If you are not modeling the behavior you wish to teach, you are teaching something else. I ask my son to vacuum the living room. I say please and thank you. Yes, I could as easily bark an order for him to do it. But if doing it the "nice" way works, why be angry? Will he respect me more if I'm angry all the time? He might act like it, but deep down, I don't think so.

Ten or twenty years from now, he'll thank me for teaching him manners. And he'll chew and swallow before he does so.

For whom will you model good manners today?

Jul 8, 2010

Seed, Time, and Harvest

I have many seeds planted.

I'm waiting for the harvest. Actually, many harvests. I'm trying to be patient. I'm trying not to complain while I wait, because it takes so long...

You can't plant an apple seed in the ground and expect to have apple pie for dinner. Actually, you can't grown apples at all in the south. Bad example. Try again. You can't plant a watermelon seed in the morning and expect to eat watermelon for lunch. Because all the watermelons are seedless and you can't find a seed to plant. (True story.) Ok, forget that one, too.

You don't need a story. You know exactly what I mean about having patience enough to wait for the harvest to manifest.

If you're intuitive, you also know that metaphorically speaking, this post is not about fruit.

It's about jobs.

God has a good plan, and I cannot wait to find out what it is.

Ok, I can wait.

For what good thing are you waiting today?

Jul 5, 2010

What Every 3rd/4th Grader Needs to Know

I tutor Math. Kids struggle in upper grades, often for no other reason than someone dropped the ball in the lower grades. Math is cumulative. It builds on what you learned the year before. Therefore, every child I meet hears me talk about times tables and how to learn them easily.

Here's my speech:

How many of you have a tv? Good - most of you. Ok, how many of you have a tv with a remote control? Ok. On your remote control is a button called mute M-U-T-E. At my house we call it the "shut up button." (Those commercials are loud!)

Here's what I want you to do. Put your flashcards on the table, next to the remote. You're sitting there watching iCarly, and a commercial comes on. Pick up the remote, mute the sound, and flip through your flash cards during the commercial, about 2 or 3 minutes. Oh look, the show's back on. Set your cards down, turn the sound back up, watch iCarly. Next commercial, do it again.

If you will go through your flash cards every time there is a commercial on, I promise that you will know them all within 2 weeks.

(end of speech)

I used flashcards to memorize various formulae for a test. I flipped through them when I was at a red light, at a basketball game (when my son was on the bench) or in line at the post office. We're not talking higher level thinking, just memorizing.

Times tables flashcards are about $2 at Walmart in the book & magazine section, but I saw some in the $1 section of Target last week. I may go buy up every pack they have so I can hand them out...

What good advice will you share with children today?

Jul 3, 2010

Glitz vs Natural

There are two categories of children's beauty pageants: glitz and natural. The glitz pageants don't pretend to be normal, uh, I mean natural. Makeup, big hair, fake lashes, fake teeth, rhinestones, and all the rest really take "playing dress up" to an extreme.

Natural pageants are more toned down. They only wear enough makeup to look good without looking made up.


Yeah, the natural contestants wear makeup. Maybe skip the flipper, but don't kid yourself.

I wouldn't compete with a just-washed face. They'd laugh me out the door with my "last place" ribbon. The only question then, is, how much can I get away with? Afterall, I don't take out the trash without wearing my eyeliner, so a "just-washed face" is downright indecent to me.

My gray hairs don't bother me (I've earned every one of them!), but some things (like my eyes and lips) just need a little help.

And I'm not too proud to admit it.

What are you not to proud to admit today?

Jul 1, 2010

This Is The Part Where You Say "Hello!"

There was an episode of Wife Swap where instead of moms trading houses for a week or two, the dads did. The country dad went to live in a New York highrise, and the Manhattan dad went to the farm in Texas. They both did alright. I was pleased to see that these were "normal" dads, trying to be a dad in a world that is not his own. No whining or drama like you often see from the moms.

The stunning part was when they returned home. The Manhattan family ran up to their dad, hugged him, greeted him, happy to see him.

The Texas mom didn't get off the couch. Dad came in saying "Well, I'm home!" and she said something like "ok," never taking her eyes off the tv. I wanted to cry. Could she not have at least said hello? Did her mama never teach her manners, or is their relationship in that much trouble that she cannot be bothered to get off the couch any more?

I came home yesterday, and there were little people (not my own) in my kitchen. I greeted them warmly. "Hi, how are you? Good to see you!"


"This is the part where you say, 'Hello Mrs. Connie.'"

Nothing. They just looked at me.

I sent them out of the room. I was hurt & angry. Later, we had lessons in manners:
When an adult in authority speaks to you, you answer.
You don't go into someone's home as a guest and then disrespect your hostess.
We don't expect you to talk to strangers, but you have known me for years.

Maybe I hit on something. The woman on the couch has known her husband for years. Complacency might have set in. Good relationships don't happen by accident. It takes daily work. Couch woman was lazy. No excuse. For her, or for the children.

It costs nothing to be polite. It does, however, take effort to get off the couch.

For whom will you get off the couch today?

Jun 27, 2010

My Husband is Not a Billboard

In the morning, I like to get up before everybody, drink coffee, and read the paper. On Sundays I read the ads also, and this morning one in particular caught my eye.

Bass Pro Shops had T shirts on sale. If it wasn't this one, it was something like it.

My first thought was, "How much is Bass Pro going to pay me to advertise their store on my body?"

If you go to the store you'll see hundreds of these. I guess somebody buys them, but not me, not us. If you want me to be a walking billboard, show me the money.

Remember Coca Cola clothing from the 1980s? I didn't think you would. It didn't last long. I guess people didn't want to be walking billboards then, either.

What will you stop giving away for free today?

Jun 18, 2010

War is Hell (So is Moving)

If you're thinking about moving, here is some friendly advice:

If you want your friends to help you, have cold drinks. Especially if it's over 100 degrees outside.

Take your cat somewhere. Board it. Get a friend to keep it for a day or two. Something.

Every box can say "Misc" if you want, but one. Label the box that contains the fire extinguisher.

Trust me on that last one.

Jun 10, 2010

Calendars & Date Books

I live & die by my calendar. The children know that if an item is not on the calendar, it doesn't happen. If you have a meeting to which you need Mom's Taxi, it had better be scheduled.

Not that we don't have room for spontaneity, but when you have so many people going so many different directions, why take chances?

I keep appointments both on my paper calendar and on my cell phone. I can pull up a day on my phone, and see at a glance what I've got scheduled that day. I can even set an alarm so I don't forget any of these appointments.

My phone died a few days ago. The touch screen went out. No calls. No texts. No calendar. The phone was under warranty (for a couple more weeks) and AT&T was nice enough to swap it out for new.

One problem. The new phone didn't have my photos, my ringtones, or (gasp!) my calendar.

Always keep a paper back up. Electronics are fragile. Phones get dropped, lost, or stolen. Don't depend entirely on your electronic organizers. IT Gurus talk about "redundant backups" of data. That means that files on a computer, if they are important, are backed up several times, so that if one of the backups is unavailable, for any reason, the files are still recoverable.

My calendar items are recoverable. Disaster averted. Thanks to paper.

What old fashioned communication will you bless today?

Jun 8, 2010

Summertime, and the Livin' is...

by George Gershwin

Summertime and the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is HIGH
Oh your Daddy's rich and your ma is good lookin'
So hush little baby, don't you cry

One of these mornings
You're goin' to rise up singing
YES, you'll spread your wings
And you'll take the sky
But till that morning
There's a nothin' can harm you
With daddy and mammy standin' by


My summer doesn't look like this. Ok, we can sleep in a little. If the fish are jumping, it's to get out of the BP oil spill. The cotton isn't high until about October. Daddy sure ain't rich. Mama, well, beauty moves from the face to the heart as we age.

Music is about dreams. It can inspire us to want something better. I want something better. There will come a day...

What better thing are you counting on today?

Jun 1, 2010

Computer Viri & "Protection" Money

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I have long believed that the people who sell virus protection software write the virus programs from which they protect you. How else would they know what anti-virus programs to sell you?

I was proven right yesterday when I learned that one of my computers was infected with something called bankerfox.a. It's a popup that tells you you're infected, then asks you to download their protection software - for a price.

Hey, buddy, give us your money, and we'll make sure ya don't get hoit - heh heh.

Cosa Nostra much?

I read about this virus on a number of sites but was just unable to fix it myself. I sent the computer to my guru who can clean it up for me.

It saddens me that those who are so technologically gifted use those gifts for "the dark side." And if I'm going to have to pay someone to clean up the computer, I trust my guru a whole lot more than I do the guy who gave me the virus in the first place.

Lots of people claim to want to "help" you. Who gets your money today?

May 30, 2010

Classroom Crowding

I hate to get on my soapbox about the olden days, but as teacher positions continue to be cut, classroom sizes continue to increase. I am reminded of my first grade classroom at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic School.

There were 20 girls, 20 boys, and Sister Lois Ann.

You didn't mess with Sister Lois Ann.

It was a different world then. Children obeyed their teachers, because they knew they'd get in trouble at home if they did not. Today, parents have been known to cuss out teachers who dare to expect a standard of behavior or academic achievement. As a teacher, I hope I wouldn't take it personally. It's not wrong to raise the bar high.

I've taught classrooms of 38 students. I've had visitors admire my classroom control.

I learned a lot from Sister Lois Ann. Even if I didn't know it at the time.

What, in retrospect, did you learn from your early teachers?

May 27, 2010

Makeup Rules for Small Town Girls

1. Bright red lipstick is just not appropriate unless you're over 40.
2. Put on eyeliner first, then drink coffee.
3. Don't skip the makeup thinking, "It's only Walmart." You WILL run into someone you know.
4. If it's after church on Sunday, be especially mindful of #3.
5. If you go to "Glamor Shots" or a similar photography place on the day of your Senior Prom, thinking you can get your hair & makeup professionally done, be aware that they don't style the back of your head.

May 24, 2010

I'm Invisible to Teens

Teenagers don't see me.

It's true. I stood in front of a classroom door, watching hundreds of kids pass by. I was invisible.

They do not see me, they do not make eye contact, they do not smile, and they do not speak to me. They speak to each other, so I know it's not a physical perception problem. The problem is me. I'm an adult. They don't need me, therefore, they don't see me.

I've instructed my children to be the "Tenth Leper" so to speak. Be the one who is a little different, a little better, than their peers. Be the one who writes a thank you note to the teacher at the end of the term, letting him/her know that you appreciate what you learned. Be the one who makes eye contact in the hallway, perhaps a smile or a nod as you walk by. It costs nothing, but it does something important.

It makes you memorable.

A few years from now, when you want a job reference or a letter of recommendation for a scholarship, who are you going to ask to write one? Your teachers. Don't wait until the last semester of your Senior year to make all nicey-nice and suck up right before you need them. Teachers can smell fake a mile away.

If you have built a reputation for being excellent by starting years ahead of time, the adults in your life will remember that you were the one who was excellent in the sea of mediocrity that fills the school hallways.

You don't build a reputation over night. You build it day, by day, by day, little by little. By doing the little things. Like acknowledging people in your life.

Who are you going to acknowledge today?

May 14, 2010

Undercover Edu-Boss

Yeah, I'm on Twitter. It's a good way to stay on top of breaking news and trending topics. I also have a personal learning network of incredible people who are gracious enough to share amazing resources with me. We often get some good discussions going. Sometimes I get on a roll and cannot confine all my thoughts to a single 140-character tweet.

Having watched the show "Undercover Boss" (and loving it!!!) I got into a series of tweets with another educator about having the Undercover Boss pretend to be an entry level employee in an education setting. He/she wouldn't last a week. My tweets:

I want the undercover edu-boss to teach 2nd grade math with no workbooks. I want the undercover edu-boss to serve 500 meals in the cafeteria & clean up after, minus one worker and no supply budget. I want the undercover edu-boss to teach HS Eng in an inclusion class where no one is able to be quiet for more than 10 seconds.

I want the undercover edu-boss to sit at the receptionist's desk and call 42 subs before he/she can find one to take this class.

I'm just tired of them cutting at the bottom instead of the top. They have no clue.
Baldwin County is getting a new Superintendent. God bless him with wisdom. I hope he starts his new job by spending time at the bottom. He'll learn a lot more there than in the ivory tower.

What are you learning at the bottom today?

May 11, 2010

Tell Me Something Good

There is a young man I see from time to time. Each time I greet him, I ask him to "Tell me something good." He often says he doesn't know anything good. Maybe he thinks I want to hear about good grades, or something like that. Maybe he's not sure what I want to hear, so he claims not to know anything.

What I want to hear is something good.

After many encounters with no satisfactory report, I finally asked him, "Can you not see that the sky is blue? The sun is out? Do you not hear the birds singing? Do you not smell the gardenias wafting on every breeze? Is the earth not still spinning on its axis? There's plenty of good. Open your eyes!"

I'll be curious to learn what good thing he has to report at our next meeting. And how I might respond if he, once again, denies knowing of anything good. Especially now that he knows there is no wrong answer.

There is no wrong answer.

What good things can you talk about today?

Apr 26, 2010

I Care More Than You!

"I love mankind; it's people I can't stand." - Linus VanPelt

Thinking requires less work than doing. "Loving mankind" reflects intentions or altruistic feelings. Feelings are fickle, fleeting, and frankly aren't worth a hill of beans.

True love involves work. You DO things for the people you love. And sometimes for the ugly people, the mean people, the ones who do nothing and never will do anything for you. That's love.

It's easier to care about the Rainforest than to clean your room. Caring doesn't involve work.

It's easier to wear a pink ribbon, and feel self-righteous about it, than to empty the puke pail of a breast cancer patient on chemo.

But nobody sees the puke pail. People SEE the ribbon. It shows how much you CARE. It does not, however, show how much you DO. If you need an audience, then reexamine your motives.

"The proof of love is in the works. Where love exists, it works great things. But when it ceases to act, it ceases to exist." -- Pope St. Gregory the Great

What are you going to DO today, to show your love?

Apr 25, 2010

The Whiner's Club

When I was young, I thought it would be cool to be a psychiatrist, because of their phenomenal hourly rate of pay. As I acquired wisdom, I realized that I had no interest whatsover in listening to people complain, no matter what the pay. Maybe they don't really listen. I don't know, but it's not something I could do. After a while I'd lose patience like Jesus at the Pool of Bethesda (John 15:1-8) and ask, "Do you really want to get well???"

There can be some therapeutic value to having others share your tale of woe. It's nice, I suppose, to know you're not the only one suffering a particular fate. A program called "Rainbows for All God's Children" exists in schools purportedly to help children deal with loss. ("Boo hoo, my parents are divorced." "Boo hoo, mine are too.")

Whatever. Let's get on with our lives instead of celebrating our victimhood, shall we?

Shel Silverstein wrote a poem called "Complainin' Jack" that sums up my feelings pretty well:

This morning my old jack-in-the-box
Popped out - and wouldn't get back in the box.
He cried, "Hey, there's a tack in the box,
And it's cutting me through and through.

"There also is a crack in the box,
And I never find a snack in the box,
And sometimes I hear a quack in the box,
'Cause a duck lives in here too."

Complain, complain is all he did -
I finally had to close the lid."

My kids are pretty good at complaining. Sometimes I just have to close the lid because I can't listen to it any more. When they have kids, they'll probably say idiotic things like "When I was your age..." because as you grow wisdom, you see what others are doing wrong.

Except they see it as you, complaining.
And they shut the lid.

What good things do you have to say today?

Apr 23, 2010

An Urgent Life

Just when I get a sense of urgency to do something, to make a difference, to tie up loose ends, along comes Cliff at, predicting World War 3.

He says that on Nov 8 of this year, Iran & Iraq will be at war, drawing in the rest of the world.

Maybe it's true. Maybe it's not. Cliff has a lot more information and insight on the subject than do I, so I won't try to refute him. Instead, I'm going to pose these questions:

What if you "knew" you had 6 months to live? What would you do? What would you do differently? Where would you go? Who would you call? What would you say?

Rupert Holmes wrote a song in the 70s called "Drop It." One line went like this:

Why not blow
a wad of dough
and see the world at large?
If the world should end
We shall know, my friend,
that we both beat out MasterCharge.

Ok, it's a fantasy. We don't "know." It would be foolish, from a fiscal viewpoint, to spend my retirement savings on a Caribbean cruise, just in case the world ends. I am obligated to act as though I will live to retirement, and to prepare accordingly.

In reality, I'd pretty much keep on doing what I do every day: loving my husband and children, expecting and encouraging only the best from them, having an occasional lunch with my girlfriends, teaching, and striving every day to make a positive difference in the lives of those whom God sets in my path.

Within the parameters of Stewardship and responsible behavior, what would you do with your last 6 months?

Can you stop Iran from nuking Israel? I can't.
I know that I cannot change the world. I can only change the world around me.

What difference will you make on the world around you today?

Apr 16, 2010

Practical Babies

Every time I pass by the baby section at the store, I wistfully long for a baby for whom to buy all this cute, cute stuff. Then I push my buggy on to the aisles of laundry detergent and canned goods. It is no mystery that if I actually had someone for whom to buy the frilly dresses, I wouldn't. I'd buy diapers.

When my oldest daughter was born, I had all the fru-fru outfits there were, gifts from friends and relatives, but she had no socks that fit. Her feet were so tiny, all the socks fell off her feet. A Norwegian girl named Bente went out and bought my baby tiny little socks. I still have those socks, and I still call them "Bente socks."

The practical, meeting-needs kind of gifts are the ones we remember. When my third child was 4, her sister was born. The best gift was not a fru-fru outfit for the baby, it was my mother in law taking the older girl out to lunch so I could nap with the baby. It was my sister coming over & feeding the others so I could sit on my butt and feed the baby.

I don't remember the fru frus. I remember the ones who met a desperate need.

I tend to be practical, anyway. When my 5th child was born, I changed the outgoing message on the answering machine to announce, "If you want to see the new baby, the price of admission is a gallon of milk. Don't show up empty handed."

It usually takes a baby or two to learn what your baby needs and what is just junk. Babies need a lot less than you think.

My sister calls those dresses "Grandma bait." It will be interesting to see if I fall for it when I'm a grandma. Perhaps, if the child already has diapers, socks that fit, and mama has sufficient rest and a casserole.

And if the dress is machine washable.

Some personality traits don't change. What practical needs will you meet today?

Apr 13, 2010

Merit Pay for Teachers?

Teachers, contrary to critics' reports, are not "afraid" of merit pay. The issue is not fear - it's fairness. Teachers know what goes on in a classroom.

Did the critics spend time trying to contact a student's mother whose phone is disconnected? Did they write notes home that mom never saw, or perhaps was unable to read? Did the critics sling green beans in the cafeteria and wipe down tables because the budget cuts have left all the front lines shorthanded? Did the critics spend a day supervising OCS with a girl whose attire, behavior, and language screams "Notice me!" Did the critics break up a line of boys standing in front of the girls' restroom, where they could have favors for a quarter, and wonder what kind of family does a girl go home to, that she values herself so little?

All I'm saying is, there are some things that go on in school that have nothing to do with tested outcomes. There are plenty of cultural factors that affect learning that the teacher can't control.

Every kid doesn't come from a nice, middle class suburban neighborhood with parents who feed him a good breakfast, dress him properly, drive him to school, volunteer on Field Day, and help him with his homework. If you did or yours does, congratulations. Count yourself blessed.

And let the rest of the children whose family does not value education have a teacher who is there by Divine calling, and who deserves not merit pay based on things outside of her control, but combat pay for showing up and doing her best.

And then doing it again the next day.

And the next.

Apr 3, 2010

Peep Jousting - an Easter Tradition

Family traditions are important, because they give us something to look forward to each year. Something fun and predictable will happen at the same time each year, like birthday cakes and Christmas trees.

Some families dye eggs on the day before Easter. Not us. Not that we don't like coloring eggs, but it seemed that we just don't like to eat boiled eggs. So we ditched the egg coloring. Now we joust Peeps. It's fun, whimsical, delicious, and gives the kids bragging rights. It goes like this:

1. Face off two peeps on a glass plate. Each has a toothpick under his wing.
2. Microwave for a minute or less. Everyone crowd around and watch.
3. The Peeps will expand from the heat. The one that gets popped by the other's sword, loses.
4. The Peeps taste like roasted marshmallows. Enjoy!

Apr 2, 2010

Scattered or Focused?

"Success demands singleness of purpose." -Vince Lombardi

You'll never be good at something, if it's not important enough to you to devote the required time and effort. You'll never be excellent at something, if it's not your primary focus.

Working moms have the worst dilemma - worrying about the family while at work. The daycare calls; your child is sick. Come get him now, they say. Yeah, and just how do I leave and not lose my job?

How do you balance work and family and still do a half-way decent job at either?

Having it all is a myth. It was designed by the feminists to make stay-at-home moms feel guilty for not fulfilling themselves with a career (ie: not being selfish). The fact is, you have to choose which is more important. Is your focus job or family?

If your focus is job, don't apologize. Do your job with excellence. Get some help (nanny, relatives, neighbor) to help look after your children. Do the best you can with what you have.

If your focus is family, don't apologize. Do your job with excellence. Help look after other people's children for some extra money or volunteer your time at school. Do the best you can with what you have.

Choose this day whom you will serve. And then serve with excellence.

On what will you focus today?

Mar 25, 2010

Have an Opinion!

The 1% sales tax referendum passed in my county.

As I said in an earlier blog post, I was on the fence. In fact, I was on the fence until about an hour before I went to the polls.

Please note that I went to the polls. This tax directly affects me, because I buy stuff. I know very few people who don't buy stuff, and of those, someone buys stuff (usually diapers) for them. Because the referendum passed, those diapers will cost 1% more. I voted yes, anyway.

Did you get a 1% pay raise this year? I did not. Can you earn even 1% on the money in your savings account? Tell me where you bank.

The thing that kills me is, voter turnout was only 30%. That means 70% of the registered voters did not register their opinion at the ballot box. In my household, 25% of the registered voters are away at college in another state & failed to get an absentee ballot, so I can understand that you'll never see 100% turnout. But less than 30???

I guess I don't understand people who have no opinion on things that directly affect them. Reminds me of a Joe Wise song:

Yes Indeedy
By Joe Wise

Yes indeedy, pumpkin seedy
No siree bob, hey diddle corn cob
Yeah but no but wait a minute, could be so
Maybe baby, chicken and gravy
Don’t be silly sarsaparilly
Hardly yardly, bailing up barley, pick a little, I don’t know!

My Uncle Fred had a problem in his head
So I hear tell from my old Auntie Kay
He could make up his bed but not up his mind
In answer to most any question, this is what he said:


My Uncle Zeke had some funny thinking streaks
He would sit for days just wandering in his head
After weeks of sitting a’whittling and a’spitting
You asked him if he wanted supper, this is what he said:


Uncle Fred and Zeke were driving on a peak
When the car went to the edge, Zeke yelled out, “Brakes!
Should we put them on, old Fred?” was the last thing that they said
And you could hear them singing standing at the Pearly Gates:


----end lyrics-------

No one wants to be responsible. They want someone else to decide for them, so they can play victim if things don't go right. I just want to yell, "Man up! Take responsibility! Right or wrong, decide something!"

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have more windmills at which to tilt.

On what will you express your opinion today?

Mar 13, 2010

Time - A Precious Gift

If you could spend all the money in the world on your children, would you?

If you could spend all the time in the world with them, would you?

If you had to balance the two, what percentage would be time, and what would be money?

Most parents are working hard to make more money. And that's ok, in balance. How much is enough to pay the bills, and how much is just to trade up for a better house, a better car, better clothes, better lifestyle?

Kids, on the other hand, would rather have your time. The time with your kids only comes around once. When it's gone, it's gone.

Once the kids are grown, you have lots of time to make money. You can always make more money. Where do you get more time?

Lots of old folks are wishing they had to do it over again, wishing they could get that time back and build the relationship with their children that would last into their old age. You don't have to make all the mistakes yourself. You can learn from the mistakes of others. That's real wisdom.

What are you going to do with the precious time you spend with your kids today?

Mar 10, 2010

I Love Math

I love math.

There, I've said it. I set myself apart, as a small minority of geeky people who groove on numbers and statistics and calculations, when "normal" people should prefer American Idol and NASCAR races.

There is a certain prestige associated with teaching math. I have mastered concepts that others fear. We're not in the "awe" league that pop stars (and wannabes) have for Brittany Spears, or movie directors for Steven Spielberg, but there is a certain admiration for those colleagues who are a level above.

Math is absolute. There is no subjectivity when I grade a math test. The answer is either right or wrong. You don't get a better grade on a day when I'm in a good mood. I can't help you by giving partial credit for an almost-right answer.

There is no drama to math. In a school full of hormonal energy, where bffs are created and destroyed in a matter of hours, where jubilation is exchanged for misery on the hourly roller coaster of emotions, math is constant.

1+ 1 will always be 2. It doesn't matter how you feel about it. i = √-1 no matter what your friends think.

Math is something to count on, in more ways than one. What a breath of fresh air.

What is a constant in your life?

Mar 8, 2010


For your consideration:

1.7 million people in the US have lost a limb.

1.3 million Americans are legally blind.

There are 2.9 million disabled vets in the U.S.

There are over one billion undernourished people in the world.

Almost two million died of hunger this year.

Twelve thousand people died of hunger today.

One and a half million people are homeless in Chile after their Feb 27th earthquake.

Hundreds of thousands in Haiti are living under a blue tarp on a dirt/mud floor after their January 12 earthquake.

4500 children will die today because of lack of access to clean water.

My cat drinks cleaner water than half the world's population.

I woke up in a warm bed, in a warm house, with all my body parts more or less working the way they should. The family members in this house love me to pieces. We all have education in varying amounts, plenty of clean clothes & shoes to wear. We have food and drinks in the fridge and in the cabinets.

We have clean water that arrives at the turn of a spigot. Today it was cold. Something's wrong with the water heater & we had no hot water.

All things considered, I have *nothing* to complain about.

What will you keep in perspective today?

Mar 5, 2010

Preparedness: Japan next?

The US is putting a lot of economic pressure on Japan. By giving excessive publicity to Japanese car recalls, inciting fear in car buyers, Japan has halted production and is scrambling to save its good name. The US media could have buried the story on page 15, but they did not. Why?

Giant oarfish have been found ashore in Japan. These fish have traditionally been harbingers of earthquakes to come.

As if Japan needs one more bad thing to happen right now.

Yes, Japan's at great earthquake risk being in the ring of fire, but if (BIG IF) you imagine that earthquakes can be "caused" deliberately, as a military (or economic?) weapon, you'd say it was quite a coincidence. Bad US media, deliberate weapons of war... Are we still fighting Japan?

If I were in Japan right now, I'd be nervous. Would it be better to not know it's coming, and just go merrily on your way? Even with warning, many folks don't prepare for disaster. How many families do you know that have 3 days' worth of water stored in case of emergency? That's what FEMA and the Red Cross recommend. Do you have canned goods? A manual can opener? Do you know how to use it? If credit cards don't work post-disaster, do you have cash on hand?

I prepare for hard times, whether I "know" it's coming soon or not. I can relax, somewhat, knowing whatever happens, happens. I did my best. Whether it's putting together my earthquake provisions, or saving money for a rainy day, planning for the future takes leadership.

Where are you leading your family today?

Edit 3-14-10
If oarfish show up on the Gulf Coast, I'm going to be really nervous.

Look what Japan got today. H'mmmm.

Maybe I'll pick up a few extra gallons of bottled water at the grocery store this week. And every week. You never know.

Feb 26, 2010

Apples to Apples

I read an article today by Chad Aldeman called Kipp Works. It's about the studies done showing the success of charter schools managed by Kipp. I am intrigued by their customer-driven approach to education. If it works, more power to 'em.

One argument many like to make against charter schools is that they "skim" the best & brightest. I reject that argument with a counter argument: why don't the public schools end the "inclusion classes" and then compare apples to apples.

What I mean is this: put the public schools' best and brightest (and most motivated) against Kipp's best and brightest. When you really compare like groups, you'll find that both schools work. The public school children are getting a less-than-stellar education, not because the teachers aren't qualified or not giving everything they've got, but because their classes are populated with too many kids who shouldn't be there.

Some kids are academically advanced. Some are not. Split them up into different classes and let the fast learners race ahead, instead of goofing around waiting for the others to catch up.

As for the bright (or not) but unmotivated, if a kid puts his head down and sleeps in my class, it bothers me that he's wasting his education, but it doesn't perturb me as much as the bright (or not) attention junkie who not only doesn't want to be there, but wants to make sure no one else gets an education, either.

Constant disruptions make real learning impossible. No fun learning activities, because that privilege would be abused, so the whole class is "punished" with a mean teacher who spends all her time on behavior management. Lord, have mercy.

If I could remove between 3 and 6 students from every class in every school, move them to their own classroom where they can act up all they want, the rest of the students would get the stellar education for which their parents pay dearly every year at tax time.

Motivation is crucial to education. It starts at home at age zero, not in Kindergarten after 5 years of junk food and video games. If we compare the motivated kids with the motivated kids, you'd find that Kipp schools work, but so do public schools.

When the schools work, everyone wins.

How are you going to motivate your children to do their best today?

Feb 25, 2010

Feral Children

Feral children are those who lack the upbringing or input from parents, which civilizes most of us into decent human beings. We learn to use the toilet, eat with utensils, speak a language, acknowledge and respect the rights of others.

Imagine a child without that adult input. They're feral. They're raising themselves. I've seen these children at schools, at "good" schools. These schools are zoned for communities where property taxes are in the thou$ands annually because the residents insist on sending their kids to the "best" schools.

If these residents knew what they were paying for, they'd demand a refund.

You want to know how to "fix" public education? Remove every student who doesn't want to be there.

The feral ones would go first.

And then, without their disruptive behavior, the rest of them could learn.

How would you fix public schools, if you could, today?

Feb 23, 2010

Cell Phones & School

Everyone in my county knows that cell phones are not allowed in school.

The unwritten rule for me as an educator is, if I don't see it, I don't have to report it. If I don't know you have a phone in the bottom of your purse, I'm not going to confiscate it and take it to the office where your mama has to come and retrieve it. As long as I don't hear it go off, how could I know you have it?

Like probably every other parent in the school district, I want my kids to have a phone at school (turned to "silent" of course.) I like knowing if practice was canceled and they need a ride now, not two hours from now. If there were a lockdown situation, it would not hurt my feelings to get a text from my child saying "I'm ok."

I also want my children to follow the rules. We respect authority.

By allowing phones, I fear that I'm really teaching them that the rules don't apply to us, and it's ok to break them as long as you don't get caught.

There are other fears much worse. This one is a fear I'm willing to live with.

What mixed signals are you sending today, and are they worth the price?

Feb 19, 2010

Children, Money, and the Family Budget part II

My daughter is in high school. She doesn't have a formal job yet, but she babysits and does other odd jobs. Like most girls her age, she wants everything: clothes, music, fast food...

She now has her own checking account. She has her own debit card on that account. Under my loose supervision (because she is a minor, my name is on it too) she is learning what things cost. If she needs lunch money, she'd better write a check to the cafeteria to put on her lunch account. School fees or activities due? Hope you brought your checkbook. Going out with friends? Bring your "swipe swipe" card.

Instead of paying her bills, we are paying her. She's paying the bills. When the money's gone, she will realize the logical consequences of having no money in the account: borrowing lunch money from friends, skipping the movie & staying home, no new clothes.

Before she ever graduates from High School, she will know that more work brings more money, she will know what things cost, and what it's like to live within a budget.

That is an education that schools cannot provide. If parents don't teach their children the basics of financial literacy, who will?

What will you teach your children today?

Feb 16, 2010

Children, Money, and the Family Budget part I

If I had a magic money tree in my back yard, life would be so different.

I don't know that it would make us happier, necessarily (except we could stop worrying about how much our homeowner's insurance went up this year, or what scholarships our child might receive) but it would change the nature of our discussions.

Child: Mom, I need a calculator for math.
Parent: Borrow your sister's calculator - she doesn't have a math class this term.
Child: Why do I have to go to bed so early?
Parent: So you stay healthy. And take a vitamin C - we can't afford a visit to the doctor if you get sick.
Child: Stop here for a minute so I can buy a Coke.
Parent: If you have money to buy Cokes, why don't you replace the school uniform shirt that you can't find?

This is nit-picky stuff about the family budget. Like all parents, we're doing the best we can. If we had that magic money tree, each child would have a calculator, doctor's visits would be proactive rather than reactive, and the girl could have more than two (now down to one) shirts. On the other hand, buying two calculators is rather wasteful, if only one is needed. Staying healthy really is a wiser course of action. Learning to be responsible for your uniform is a good lesson, too.

So, by not having all the money in the world, my children are learning to be responsible and make wise decisions with what we do have. They're learning to take charge of their health, live within their means, and that one needn't own everything to be happy.

They're learning to do they best they can with what they have.

That's something we all should learn.

What is your financial condition teaching your children today?

Feb 13, 2010

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler

Mardi Gras is big business in the South. New Orleans is famous, of course, for its Mardi Gras debauchery, but Mobile claims to have started the parading tradition.

Regardless, my favorite parades are on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay, in Daphne and Fairhope. These parades are fun, family friendly, and the crowds are small enough that you are sure not only to make new friends, but to catch at least a couple of throws. A throw is a Moon Pie, some beads, or a trinket that maskers throw from the floats. Why the masks? Um, they belong to secret societies. You're not supposed to know who they are.

In Daphne, there are 2 women's krewes and a men's krewe that parade annually. I've made some observations about them.

The women's krewes, Apollo's Mystic Ladies and Mystic Order of Persephone, throw a lot of beads. Women are thrifty, generally, and they buy used beads and throw them again next year. Or they attend other parades, catch beads, and throw them in their own parades. This is completely understandable, of course, as these women are putting out their own money for everything they throw, and they are not wealthy by any means. What is noteworthy, though, besides the abundance of beads, is that they tend to throw at little children behind the barricades. If you are cute and maybe wearing doodly-floppers on your head, duck - beads are definitely coming your way.

The men's krewe, The Shadow Barons, throw more "consumables." This would include Moon Pies and other edibles. They like to throw at a target or challenge. If you are standing in the bed of a pickup truck with a laundry basket or bushel basket, with a poster saying "Can You Hit This?" the Shadow Barons will take this as a personal challenge. Be prepared for a haul.

I'm not saying one is preferable to the other - they're just different.

Male and female created He them. Viva la difference! (That's French for "Laissez les bons temps rouler.")

What differences will you celebrate today?

Feb 12, 2010

The Sky is Falling!

The sky is falling!

Snow is predicted for Mobile, AL. It hasn't snowed here since 1996. The schools are closed. The talking heads have warned "stay home!" How many schools get Hurricane Days and Snow Days in the same academic year?

Um, it's raining now. Maybe it'll snow later. Maybe not. We'll see.

"We'll see" doesn't generate media attention. They can't say that. Not & keep their jobs. So they hedge a little. They give probabilities and generalities. So did Iben Browning. He predicted an earthquake. It didn't happen. He was derided as having predicted "the greatest non-event since 'Geraldo and the Vault.'" Dr. Browning died 7 months later of a heart attack. Probably brought on by derision.

Geraldo goes on. He doesn't expect anyone to take him seriously. He'll probably live to 100.

Chicken Little is going to stress himself into an early grave.

Stay tuned for photos if, indeed, we get the white stuff.

What are you going to do with your snow day today?

Edit: photo added. Haha. (You can see the snow in the air, really, can't you?)

Feb 9, 2010

To Tax or Not to Tax?

There's a referendum, in my county, regarding a 1% sales tax increase to go to schools. My honest opinion is that I could go either way, but am leaning against it right now.

I work in more than a half dozen schools. I'm on the front lines and I know what crowded classrooms are like, what tight budgets are like, what electives are cut because of lack of funding.

I also know what it's like to live within my means. If I take on a huge debt, then ask someone else to bail me out because I can't make payments on it, should I expect anyone to feel sorry for my "budget crisis?"

People are struggling to keep food on the table, and you want them to pay 1% more? The local rate is already 8.5%. Another 1% will make it 9.5% sales tax on everything we buy - food, medicine, socks and underwear... and you tell me "It's only a penny." It's $75,000,000! That's not a penny! Someone's not being forthright here.

Football is the sacred cow the admins use to scare people into voting for the tax. If this tax doesn't pass, they warn, we'll cut football, and then your child who wants to get a football scholarship won't be able to, and it will cost you more money later.

What a bunch of smoke.

Football is not going to be cut - it's self supporting. (Nontenured coaches, maybe...) They have the Quarterback Club that sells tickets at the gate, Tshirts, and Concessions. They also have corporate supporters with banner ads on the football field. Cheerleaders sell ads in the programs. The band takes money for parking at the games, and have fundraisers all year. The AD & Band Director's salaries are the *only* budget items, and they're tenured.

If I thought that a 1% sales tax increase would make kids want to learn more, I'd vote for twice that. (Why did Oprah build her school in Africa, not Chicago? Because they value education there.)

If I thought that a 1% sales tax increase would make kids stop disrupting their classes, I'd vote for three times that.

Those are the kinds of changes that would make a difference on the front lines. Those changes would propel Baldwin County Education into a 21st century level of world-class learners. Those are the changes that would enable teachers to spend more time teaching, less on behavior management. Morale would improve, and people would be flocking to our school district, sending property values (and property taxes, ie: funding) with it.

That's a tax worth supporting.

What changes in education will you support today?

Feb 8, 2010

How to Tell if They're Telling the Truth

By their fruits ye shall know them. (Matthew 7:16)

If someone tells you who they are instead of being who they are, pay more attention to their actions than their words.

If someone says "somebody needs to do something about ..." they aren't referring to themselves.

If someone has made promises they didn't keep, don't believe their subsequent promises.

If they say they value [fill in the blank], look at their checkbook register to see where their money goes. That will give you the biggest clue what their values really are.

What will your actions reveal about you today?

Feb 6, 2010

So Fake

I pray that my children never enter politics.

Children in elementary school are told, wrongly, that they can grow up to be President. That's not true, of course, because you have to be born into the right family with the right connections and enough money, but there are plenty of local politics to go around.

Local politics are probably the worst. Homeowners' Association boards are notorious for being populated with little people trying to be important and make rules for everyone else. I think I went to Junior High with girls who now sit on these boards.

Politicians make promises they can't or won't keep. Everyone knows that politicians lie. Then they vote for them anyway. Then they act surprised to find out that the tiger didn't change its stripes and voted for the bills that he has always supported even though he swore this time it would be different.

Which only proves that people love a beautiful lie more than an ugly truth. And that politicians probably couldn't get elected if they told the truth. Which is why I don't want my children going there.

I want my children to find their mission in life. I ask them this: What do you think God designed you for and designed for you? Where is your passion? What do you love doing so much that you would do it for free?

Whatever you are, be the best one at it. Except politics. Who wants to be the best liar?

Whose guidance and example will you ask your children to follow today?

Jan 31, 2010

We Needed Girlfriends

I watched the 2010 Miss America pageant recently. Miss Washington DC made a comment about how much she loved her iphone. One of her favorite apps was a "fake call." If you need to get out of a situation, you press a button, your phone calls you, and you can fake an urgent situation that excuses you from the one at hand.

We needed girlfriends for that.

If I was out on a date, say at his apartment or mine, I would prearrange with my girlfriend to phone me at a precise time, so that if the date wasn't going well, I could say something suddenly came up and beg off early. If the date was going well, no harm no foul.

It's bothersome to think that an iphone app could replace girlfriends.

You could take a photo of yourself and look at it to see if you have spinach in your teeth. No need for a girlfriend.

You could post your woes on myriad chatrooms and ask for advice on Yahoo!Answers. No need for a girlfriend.

Iphones just don't have the heart connection that girlfriends can provide.
Does your iphone laugh with you over silly dumb junk?
Does your iphone go shopping with you and tell you when you try on something that looks awful on you? (Don't trust a clerk on commission to tell you the truth!!!)
Does your iphone curl your hair with a curling iron and help you with your makeup?
Does your iphone help you get a date to the dance?

Technology has its place. Replacing girlfriends is not its place. A phone and all its apps can be replaced. Girlfriends cannot.

With what girlfriends will you laugh today?

Jan 25, 2010


"One of the greatest disasters of our time is our universal acceptance of the word 'tolerance' as a great virtue." - Zig Ziglar

The only way to be truly successful is to have a standard of behavior. Here is the line. If you cross it, this will happen. If you sass your mama, you go to time out. If you stay out past curfew, you lose the privilege of going out.

Tolerance really means "anything goes." She tolerates the sass because she's too tired to enforce a consequence. She tolerates teens staying out all night, because she wants to be the cool mom. Tolerance is not love. Quite the opposite. Tolerance says, "I don't love you enough to expect excellence from you."

I will "tolerate" people who like sugar on their popcorn instead of salt. That is a matter of different, not a matter of right & wrong. Different doesn't mean wrong.

We tolerate differences. We don't tolerate wrong. Know the difference. Act on what you know.

What you permit, you promote.

What standards of excellence will you promote today?

Jan 21, 2010


For a few years, I've been wanting to go on a mission trip. Food for the Poor has feeding stations in Jamaica and Haiti, where they meet the basic needs of the poorest of the poor.

Haiti, as you know, had an earthquake recently. I doubt that any pilgrimages will be scheduled any time soon, but I am gratified to learn that other aid teams are moving in.

Jamaica is still hungry. One of the Corporal Works of Mercy is "feed the hungry." I've got kids. Some days, that's all I do.

Today I volunteered in the school cafeteria. Guess what I did all day?

I fed the hungry.

I didn't have to go to Jamaica to do it. W & Bill aren't ambassadors to the school cafeteria. No one is sending in money or help. Not the PTO. Not the parents. Certainly not "Billion Dollar Bob," or the school board - they've cut the help and now 3 people are doing the work of 4.

The manager waits in line to drop the deposit off at the bank on her own time after work, because she can't possibly leave with so much to do. She buys supplies with her own money, because spray bottles and dish soap aren't on the approved bid list. She sometimes pays for a kid's lunch out of her own pocket, because he forgot his money, and he's hungry NOW.

Today I stopped wanting to go on a mission trip. I am already on one, every day.

On what mission have you been sent?

Jan 18, 2010

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I don't need to add anything to the man's words. He's said it all:

"There is no more lovely, friendly, and charming relationship, communion, or company than a good marriage."

"I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess."

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

"If a man hasn't discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live."

"Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education."

"Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that."

"All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence."

"Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve."

"Life's most urgent question is: what are you doing for others?"


Jan 14, 2010

Fresh Eyes

Fresh eyes can see things that you cannot.

When you put your house on the market for sale, the first thing an agent does is walk through your house with a clipboard, making notes and pointing out things that need to be fixed. Dust the top of that doorjamb, change that light bulb, tack down that sticking up piece of rug... Did I even realize those things needed doing? No. I've lived with them so long that I don't see them any more.

I worked at a church, where fresh eyes were a definite advantage. They were trying to reach out to the community with their programs, using language that only an insider could decode. I advised them to explain more and assume less if they wanted to reach the unchurched.

Kindergarten is fun to teach, because 5 year olds have very fresh eyes. Everything you teach is wonderful and new to them. They make you assess everything you thought you knew, and explain it in the simplest form. I handed out the worksheet, and read the directions: "underline the word 'is'." One precious child asked "What does underline mean?" (Don't assume they know anything!) I said that it meant to draw a line under the word.

So this precious child drew a vertical line under the word "is."

Which of us, do you think, learned more in class that day?

What will you see with fresh eyes today?