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

Tolerance

"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

Missionaries

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?"

Amen.

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?

Jan 11, 2010

Saving Money - With Your "Who" or Your "Do"

Every year, my dad gives up smoking for Lent. On Easter, he starts smoking again. Those who have never smoked might not understand this. After all, 7+ weeks later, why didn't he just quit for good? Answer: because he didn't quit smoking. He just gave it up for Lent.

There's a difference.

You can change your behavior without changing who you are. It's difficult, but Dad proves every year that it can be done. At least for a while.

However, long-term change is only sustained by changing your "who," not your "do." If you use the 7+ weeks to engage in some reverse-brainwashing, with hourly affirmations of "I don't smoke," "I don't have to smoke," and "I love being free from the slavery of addiction," you might find that a few months down the road you really are a nonsmoker.

What has that to do with saving money? Besides the ridiculous cost of cigarettes, I mean?

People who are under financial pressure to trim the budget, whether Educational Administrators, business owners, or working homeowners, will do well to heed the same advice:

Change your "who," not just your "do."

You can trim expenses in the short term (let's lay off the cafeteria ladies, let's not go to the movies tonight), but until you start looking for ways to do things differently, the change is just a "do" until you get more money. You want to change your "who" into an efficient and prosperous manager of your money.

Start thinking like one. Long-term results require long-term thinking. In the long term, can we do with one fewer car? Can we sell our house and buy something smaller, which means lower taxes and lower insurance? Consider every household expenditure in your mind. What can you substitute for meals out? What can you substitute for travel and entertainment? What can you substitute for new clothes every season? Can an independent insurance agent find you a policy that costs less than your current one? Then, look at your piddling money. A Coke here, a latte there, and you've spent thousands of dollars by year's end.

Think like a saver and investor, not like a spender.

While you're looking for ways to do things differently, detach the ego from your purchases. You miss that little "high" you get when the barista knows your name? Lose the ego. Be content with knowing that your dog knows you, and coffee from home can be delicious, too. Don't just sit there and whine, "Everyone else gets to go out to lunch and I don't. Poor me." That's short sighted! Think long-term. As you eat your bologna sandwich in the break room, savor every bite. Give thanks for it. Focus on the goal: I enjoy being debt free.

Keep your eyes on the prize. Day by day, change not just your do, but your who. You'll get there little by little, if you just don't give up.

What "who" will you start becoming today?

Jan 9, 2010

Money in the Bank

My daughter wanted to know where to put her babysitting money until she's ready to use it for college expenses. She doesn't want to put it in her bank account, for several reasons.

1. Interest earnings on savings will be more than offset by inflation. If you don't believe me, you haven't bought a loaf of bread lately.

2. If the financial aid office knows she has a hundred dollars in her bank account, that's a hundred dollars less they'll award her in college aid. She needs that hundred to buy books. (I don't know about you, but I believe that $130 for an algebra book is beyond ridiculous. Can you say "Kickback?" Sure you can.)

While our grandmothers would have put the money in a mattress, we're a little more cautious here. I told her to buy precious metals, and put them in a safe deposit box. Gold is a hedge against inflation, and is poised for growth. Platinum, if you can get it, is 30 times more rare than gold. Good luck with that.

Silver is a good choice, if gold ($1190 for a one-ounce coin) is out of your budget. A one ounce American Eagle silver coin is about $22 right now.

The important thing is that she's hanging on to her earnings, investing it somewhere instead of spending it on clothes, music, and fast food. When she graduates from college with substantially less debt than her peers, she will have an easier row to hoe.

Wisdom is acting in such a way now, that you'll be happy with your choice later.

What wise choices will you make today?



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

Jan 7, 2010

The Reality of Reality Shows

I'm Tabatha. And I'm taking over.

Thus begins an adventure of a successful salon owner (Tabatha) who takes over a struggling salon to help them achieve the goals and profitability they need to stay open. The struggling salon owner is often horrified to learn what has been going on when he/she is absent.

Reality shows have been panned as being brainless drivel, but I consider them my guilty pleasure. I do derive some perverse satisfaction knowing my house isn't as bad as the one I saw on "Wife Swap." My kids are not as unruly as the ones I saw on "World's Strictest Parents." While I don't own a salon, nor do I know anyone who does, I do enjoy watching "Tabatha's Salon Takeover." She gives sage business advice that business owners (and parents) would do well to follow, at least those who are interested in success.

1. Don't be their "friend." If you're the boss, be the boss. You can't be their buddy and still expect them to follow directions.

2. When the cat's away... Hey, you've got to have face time if you want to stay on top of things. They are not going to supervise each other.

3. Send in your own people to observe. Tabatha sends in customers to see how they are treated. The stylists don't know that their behavior is being reported back to the owner. Would they behave better if they knew? Probably. Accountability is a powerful motivator.

There's more, but you get the point. Nothing is a waste if you can learn from it.

What are you learning from your guilty pleasures today?

Jan 5, 2010

College Is Not For Everyone

College is just not for everyone. There, I've said it.

The rising cost of higher education has far surpassed inflation, and with the economy being what it is, a degree is no longer a guarantee that you'll be employed once you graduate (with staggering student loans.) Unthinkable 30 years ago, now lots of college grads are moving home with Mom and Dad.

Yet there are industries begging for workers. Health care, for one. Someone has to monitor the machinery in the emergency room, as well as operate Xray and Ultrasound machines. Someone has to be the "first responder" in the ambulance. Wind energy is another up-and-coming field that is poised for growth. Look in the newspaper and see what jobs appear again and again: trades, such as welding & pipefitting. These jobs do not require a college degree. They require technical and/or on the job training.

I read today that the Chicago schools are bumping up their Career-Tech Education. Thank God. Someone has to build the roads. Someone must cook in restaurants, fix roofs, and lay drainage pipes. In fact, if this is what you are called to do, you will be absolutely miserable paying hundreds of dollars for the privilege of sitting in a Literature class in some college or university.

It's ok to learn a trade. It's ok to work with your hands. In fact 72% of people in the US do NOT graduate from college. A College degree doesn't guarantee you a comfortable living. It doesn't even guarantee you a job. It opens doors. Doors to doing the kind of professional work that you are called to do. If you're called to build ships, go where you will learn about shipbuilding: probably not Literature class.

How will you learn about what you are called to do today?

Jan 2, 2010

Starting Fresh

Sometimes, there is no fix left.

Sometimes, you've done everything you know how to do, and nothing is getting better.

Sometimes, all the perseverance you can muster isn't giving you any indication or peace that things will be better if you just hang on a little longer.

Change is hard. You get comfortable with the predictable. You've been doing it one way for years, then you have to wake up one day and start doing a different thing.

And somewhere from deep inside you, a little voice says, "Different might not be predictable, but it might be better."

It's a new year. Changes begin now.

Catherine Field, who teaches at Southern Illinois University, said it better than I can:

"It was the worst decade. Ever. Of all the decisions I made during the damned thing, the best was to outlive it. So it couldn't say it got me too."

What are you going to do differently this year?