Jul 30, 2010

Loyalty

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.

WOMAN WITH CANCER SHOULDN'T WASTE TIME ON HATEFUL MOM

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

"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.

What?

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!"

Nothing.

"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?