Oct 11, 2012

Wealth vs. Status

I went shopping for a purse last week. My first mistake was to even set foot inside the Coach store. Oh they had purses, alright. Lots of them. And they were made with excellent craftsmanship. And there were about 4 clerks for every shopper, falling over each other to curry your favor. Wow.

The bags were on sale, most of them. "Only $300" on this group, and "30% off!" (off of what?) on another, and so on. I did find a few I liked. The one that was most exactly what I was looking for was a tiny little thing with an over-body strap and (sigh!) a dog leash clip and yet still came in at almost $70. Ouch.

It didn't pass the hungry baby test. (How many hungry babies could I feed for $70?) Or, as my mom was fond of saying, "Quid ad aeternitatem?" (What does this have to do with eternity?) It's not that this was the most expensive bag in the world, nor even of the whole store. It was really quite economical in Coach terms.

Even so, I have to put purchases in the context of wealth vs. status. Wealth (property, investments, etc.) provides for our future. Status drains our wealth and compromises our future. Status might make us look and feel important (until the next newest biggest best fashionable thing comes along...) but it does not sustain happiness nor security for the long term.

I ended up buying a Kim Rogers purse at Belk. With a sale and a coupon, I spent less than $20, and the purse does everything I need it to do, except make me "look" important. And that's ok, because I have a future. I have wealth.

What status-seeking (and wealth-compromising) behaviors will you forgo today?

Oct 10, 2012

A Place For Wrestling

We've all heard the adage, "a place for everything, and everything in its place."

I contend that wrestling is a thing. So is singing. So is crying.

If my boys want to wrestle, like exuberant boys are wont to do, I don't say "stop wrestling." I say "Take it outside in the grass so that you don't break things or get hurt on sharp corners."

If my daughter wants to sing, I consider that a "Happy Noise" and welcome its intrusion in my day. If I'm in the middle of a tv show, I  pause the dvr, and resume it later. Or I figure I'll catch the rerun next summer when my daughter is gone, when I would give anything to hear her sing once more.

Crying is allowed, too. Yes, we are allowed to express our emotions, even painful or angry ones. However, if it devolves into whiny, obnoxious attention-seeking, we take it to our room and shut the door while we compose ourselves and figure out a better way to communicate our feelings.

Don't tell me not to feel. Just tell me where I can go to do it while respecting the rights of others.

What feelings will you express (in a socially appropriate way) today?

Oct 4, 2012

Kids "Unfit to Inherit" ???

CNBC published an article by Robert Frank a few months back, about parents who are leaving their millions to charity instead of their children. "Only 32 percent of baby boomers are confident their children will be prepared emotionally and financially to receive a financial legacy."

Whose fault is this? Let's assume this is not inherited wealth. (I assure you, multigenerational high net worth families groom their children for succession. It's what keeps the wealth in the family.) Boomers, who perhaps built a business from scratch and worked hard to become wealthy, focused all their attention on the business, but stopped short of pondering the fact that they may die one day, and planning for eventual maturity of their children to take the baton.

Frank's assessment:
In the end, however, the phenomenon outlined in the survey boils down to a simple problem: The baby boomers have raised kids who are unequipped to inherit large amounts unearned wealth. The kids have been given most of what they want since childhood and have followed their parents model of generous spending. And the job market isn’t exactly conducive to college grads making it on their own. [...]

Whose fault is all this? The parents, in part. Only half of the respondents had told their children about their family wealth. When asked why, they said the children would become lazy, make poor decisions, squander money or fall prey to golddiggers.

We can call it the Rinehart Paradox. Wealthy parents aren’t raising kids to be good with wealth, so they refuse to leave them wealth.

In the end, the biggest losers here are the kids.

That's tantamount to tying your kid's shoes because it's easier than teaching him to tie them himself. Really? You're going to be around when he is 30, still tying his shoes? You will cripple your children emotionally when you FAIL to teach them about your finances, financial strategies, where the money comes from, where it goes, and WHY you made the decisions you did with it. 

Whose shoes will you stop tying today?

Sep 18, 2012

Trust Fund: Iceberg Ho!

Most people don't understand the Alabama Trust Fund and don't really know how to vote. Quin Hillyer  explains it pretty well. For those who still don't get it, let me try to simplify it:

Let's say you won the lottery. You invest in annuities and live off the interest, never touching the principal. Then you overspend on Beemers and coach bags, and decide you can't live off interest alone. So you raid the principal. Now, because of its reduced size, your fund is going to earn less interest EVERY year, and you will run into the "problem" (self-generated crisis) again and again until you have no choice but to sell your coach bags on eBay and get a job. Sad.

Poor results come from short-sighted thinking.

Solve the real problem (overspending), don't just put a bandaid on this hemorrhage. 

What wise spending decisions will you make today?

Sep 10, 2012

Too Many Factors Beyond Our Control

The Chicago teachers are on strike today. I am sad that they were not able to negotiate a contract and that it had to come with this. I do see both sides, really. I read articles from both sides, to make sure I wasn't just reading one slant.

Here's a passage that stood out for me:

“Another concern is evaluation procedures. After the initial phase-in of the new evaluation system it could result in 6,000 teachers (or nearly 30 percent of our members) being discharged within one or two years. This is unacceptable. We are also concerned that too much of the new evaluations will be based on students’ standardized test scores. This is no way to measure the effectiveness of an educator. Further there are too many factors beyond our control which impact how well some students perform on standardized tests such as poverty, exposure to violence, homelessness, hunger and other social issues beyond our control."
 There was a 4th grade boy who was struggling over a "practice test." I was helping him, without feeding him the answers. One set of questions was analogies. "Yellow is to lemon as green is to ____." He must have spent 10  precious minutes, even with my help and hints and explanation, to understand what the question was asking for. He just didn't know. When I finally told him the answer so that we could move on to the next question, he asked, "what's a lime?"

This child had never seen a lime, did not have a clue about its similarity to a lemon, did not know what color it was; it was just not something that was part of his culture. He never would have answered that question correctly.

Should the teacher be evaluated poorly for that?

Striking for reasons of extortion and greed is one thing. Getting a poor evaluation / losing one's job because of factors beyond your control just seems wrong

Over what injustice are you indignant today?

Sep 1, 2012

Math Lesson From a Hurricane

According to something called Live Science, Mobile AL tops the list of soggiest cities. Really? Then how do you explain our high water bills from years of having to water our grass? It has to do with statistics. Ah, you knew there'd be math involved, didn't you?

Mobile's weather patten, according to my completely unscientific observation, usually looks something like this: drought, drought, drought, drought, hurricane.

For ease of calculation, let's say that each drought year brings just 30 inches of rain, and the hurricane year dumps 100.  (These are not the actual numbers!)

Mean: add them up and divide by the number of years you're counting.
     30 + 30 + 30 + 30 + 100 = 240
     240 / 5 = 48
     Mean = 48

Median: line them up numerically from smallest to largest, and select the one in the center.
    30, 30, 30, 30, 100.
     Median = 30

Mode: the most popular. Which number occurs most frequently? 
     Mode = 30

Mode, when talking about rainfall on a community, is the only statistic that matters to a homeowner. I want to know what to expect. Usually, we're going to have to water our lawn. Once in a while, a hurricane will come along and do it for us. 

Statistics can say anything you want them to. If you want to say that our "average rainfall is 67 inches," you can find the data to back up your claim.

But don't try to sell it to me. I know better. I pay the water bill.

Of what statistics will you be skeptical today?

Aug 28, 2012

Wouldn't You Like to Be a Prepper, Too?

Another hurricane season is upon us, and as responsible adults, we are preparing wisely for it. As Tropical Storm (soon to be Hurricane) Isaac entered the Gulf of Mexico, bottled water, bread, batteries, and generators disappeared from store shelves.

Those who are wise don't wait until a tropical storm is in the Gulf. What is wrong with keeping batteries on hand all the time? You don't know when an ordinary thunderstorm (or errant squirrel) might cause a blackout. You don't know when a sewage or chemical spill might require a boil-order on city water.

Generators are one of those nice-if-you-can-afford-it things. It's noisy & smelly, but if it keeps all the food in your freezer from dying, or keeps a fan running so you can sleep in this heat (forget A/C) then it might be a good investment.

Bread? Never understood what it is about hurricanes that makes Gulf residents hungry for bread, any more than I understood what it was about snow that made St. Louisans thirsty for milk, but so it goes. Maybe they figure, I'm at the super center anyway... might as well do my grocery shopping - oh look! A sale on avocados!

Be wise. Don't wait until there's no place to park at the store. If the parking places are all taken, chances are the bread & milk are, too.

For what emergencies are you prepared today?

Edit 8/30/12 We are grateful for the prayers of our friends and families for protection through the storm. We are doing well. Thank you for your kind thoughts. - Connie

Aug 20, 2012

Sooner or Later

My parents weren't perfect. No one is. Nonetheless, I was sure, as an angst-filled teenager, that my parents were the worst, and everyone else's parents were better.

 Once I had my own family, my parents' actions (and more importantly, their motives) became more clear. Ah ha! They loved me with all the love they had and gave me everything they had to give. Same as I am doing with my own children. Why couldn't I see that years ago?

The parts of their parenting style that I didn't care for so much, I'm doing differently with my own children. The parts that work for me, I've kept. From time to time, my sons and daughters disagree with my decisions. That's ok. You'll keep what works for you, and do the rest differently when you raise your own family. It's called growing up.
 "Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing Myself." -  Rumi 
Sooner or later you have to forgive your parents for being who they are, instead of who you wanted them to be. Forgiving them has nothing to do with them, really. But it sets you free.


In what ways will you grow today?

Aug 13, 2012

No Excuses!

Success comes to those who persevere, not those who make excuses. 

"One donut won't hurt...."

"A pizza once in a while never killed anyone...."

"I've been so good, I'll reward myself..."

Said by people who will always wonder why their diets "don't work." Stop making excuses. Do you want to lose weight more than you want the donut? 

Decide right now. Then act on that decision.

Ignore your feelings and act on that decision.

Don't listen to the "a little won't hurt" lies. Act on the decision.

Act on the decision.

On what decision will you act today?

Jul 19, 2012


The way the doctors dealt with the stress and horrors of war was to mock the war machine.

But when push came to shove, when there were wounded on the operating table, the doctors did what they do best, under the worst of circumstances, using all their gifts, talents, and ingenuity.

Good life lesson there. Mocking the war machine (or your boss, or corporate overlords...) can be a good release valve on the pressure cooker, which enables you to survive the awfulness one more day.

Not to their face, though.

Yes, it's awful. Admit it. laugh about it. Then keep on doing your best, giving 100% every day.

To what awful machine will you give 100% today?

Jul 8, 2012

Manners, Redux

Rerunning "The Best of..." because it bears repeating. Yes, it does. You know it.


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 and  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?

Jun 21, 2012

Education Myths - Math & Science Edition

There was a great article in The Slate about education myths. Each one had me silently nodding my head in agreement as I read them. I'll list them here and add my own commentary.


1. Math and Science education has deteriorated. (It hasn't. We're using a different yardstick to compare ourselves internationally. Singapore regularly kicks our butt in math because they send their best and brightest to high school, while we pay drug dealers to show up. Yes, we do. Transportation and lunch isn't free - and we want them here why?)

2. Poor performance is due to aptitude. (Oh yeah. You should see how a kid's face lights up after tutoring with me, when he discovers he isn't dumb after all. He was just missing a few bricks from the bottom of the pyramid and had trouble putting a more advanced brick on that diaphanous foundation. 90% of teaching is encouragement.)

3. Curriculum reform is the key to achievement. (Uh, yeah, if you sell curriculi to schools. If you're a teacher, you want what works, not what's new. One first grade teacher friend of mine, a 30 year veteran well-loved by students and parents, struggled and fought to keep Saxon phonics in her classroom. A year or two after it was replaced - by those who "know best" - parents complained of low reading scores - and guess who got blamed? )

4. A massive recruiting drive for top talent is needed. (Empower the teachers to do their jobs and they will surprise you with their loyalty. The learning curve is steep, and experience is valuable.)

5. Top college graduates are necessary. (The Slate article refutes this one quite well. Some teachers are good because they remember what it was like to struggle in school. What you need and what you think you need are often different things, and ego is the blinder. You want to brag about your Harvard grads, but the 5 year old who finally memorizes his lunch pin code - when the teacher set it to rap - or learns to tie his shoe - because the teacher showed him the bunny and the tree - doesn't care what college signed her diploma. )

What myths will you recognize and discard today?

Jun 4, 2012

To Charter, or Not to Charter?

There is an article in the Huffington Post about Louisiana's move to privatize their school system. There have been ads on Craig's List and other sites seeking teachers without certification to come and fill the slots open by this initiative. Obama's "Race to the Top" funds seem to go only to states that embrace charter schools. 

Public schools hate charters. Why? The same reason banks hate savings and loans. I grew up in a banking family, and heard about it most of my life. S&L's have all the advantages of banks, without all the federal interference and regulation. It's an uneven playing field. 

Same with schools. If we could eliminate NCLB and other straitjacket pieces of legislation, and let the schools do what they do best, with the people who have been doing this successfully for years before NCLB came along then the kids would be better educated, morale would soar, and the for-profit schools would not have the advantage of siphoning off public education funds to line the pockets of the corporate school owners.

There are 9 openings for math teachers in my home district. 3 of them, I'd take in a New York minute. I love math. I've tutored math. But the public schools can't consider me for employment because I'm not HQ by federal standards. Never mind that I'm qualified, willing, anxious even, to use the gifts and talents God gave me. 

As short handed as they are, they are bound (and I do mean bound, ankles and wrists) by federal legislation that puts them at a severe disadvantage.

I might have to move to Louisiana to find work. The playing field leans in that direction. 

About which injustice are you indignant today?

Feb 18, 2012

Dear Kids 6

Dear Kids,

Piling everything into your closet and then shutting the door real fast is *not* the same as cleaning your room.



p.s. If you keep asking me who Fibber McGee is, you'll make me feel old. Stop it.