Personal ponderings from a natural night-owl!

Posts tagged ‘Consequences’

For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her

If you met me on the street, you’d think I’m a normal run-of-the-mill human being. But don’t be fooled, because sometimes I am two people inside my head. We’ll call them Miss Rational and Miss Emotional.  Well, Miss R and Miss E got into a big ole fight today. I’ll give you a glimpse into the conversation once you have the backstory.

Our 11 year old is in the 6th grade gifted program in our district.  She worked a year and half to get in, usually missing the required standardized test scores by one or two points.  Making it into the program mid-way through the school year last year was a huge accomplishment for her and she was THRILLED.  She was also excited for this quarter’s subject: guided independent research on a topic of her choosing, which was Alaskan Wolves.

The quarter started around November 1st, but by Thanksgiving we got a head’s up from the teacher that 11yo wasn’t turning in stages of the required assignments. We are very hands-off parents with regard to homework, but we stepped in at this point to help guide and coach our chronically disorganized and potentially overwhelmed young student.

Fast forward to today: project and presentation due date when, in the car on the way to school, I discover that the centerpiece of her research, a telephone interview with a gentleman from the Alaskan government who works with wildlife, was omitted from her bibliography.  I was already struggling to keep my mouth shut about the lack of reference to this interview in her presentation, but when I heard it wasn’t even listed in her bibliography of sources, I hit the roof. “Take out the bibliography and WRITE IT IN,” I bellowed.  It was at this inopportune time that she discovered she hadn’t even printed out and included the bibliography, a major requirement of the project.

I cried all the way home, heartsick, while Miss E and Miss R took it to the mat inside my head.

One interpretation of Miss E and Miss R

Miss E: How completely embarrassing.

Miss R: What? Why? It wasn’t YOUR project.

Miss E: It’s incomplete per the rubric, it had PENCIL on the final project info board, it’s uncreative, she’s ill-prepared – and it shows.  It’s a complete DISASTER.

Miss R: It’s not your project.

Miss E: I’m the parent, it reflects on me.  People will think I’m a bad parent who can’t motivate my child to be responsible and follow directions. Worse, I’m a STAY-AT-HOME parent – parenting is my JOB.

Miss R: Every kid goes through this and besides, grades don’t matter.

Miss E: She’s had this organizational “issue” since kindergarten. This isn’t a one-time thing – it’s an ongoing problem. She should have this organizational thing figured out by now.  She has great teachers, involved (but not OVER involved) parents, and all the tools she needs. And grades are only unimportant in theoretical discussions on Twitter. We all know that in the real world, GRADES MATTER.

Miss R: Remember your 5th grade book report and poster on Daniel Boone that you did ENTIRELY the night before? Hmmm? You were the poster child for procrastination. And grades DON’T matter. Learning matters.

Miss E: Demonstrating learning matters.  She didn’t demonstrate it. Don’t tell me grades don’t matter.  Are you saying that 4.0 MBA I have is irrelevant? I worked HARD to earn those grades. And I learned not to procrastinate because the alternative was even more uncomfortable.

Miss R: (amused) So you don’t procrastinate anymore?

Miss E: Shut up.

Miss R: She’s bright, she’s creative, she’s imaginative, she’s kind-hearted, she’s thoughtful, and yes – she’s a bit scattered and disorganized. She sometimes can’t focus because her mind goes in a million directions. Everyone has issues of some sort.

Miss E: (dismissively) Yes, yes – she’s a great kid – but she has FAILED this project.  She did this in some of her regular classes, too, so this will be her worst report card EVER. She’ll never get into the magnet school for the arts to which she is applying with those grades.

Miss R: So what if she fails this project?  The gifted class isn’t graded. Maybe she’ll have learned from it. And a few B’s or lower on the report card aren’t the end of the world.  If she doesn’t get into that school, she doesn’t.  Life goes on.

Miss E: It would have been so much BETTER if I had done the project. It would have been complete and TOTALLY creative and top notch.

Miss R: It’s not your project.  You had your chance.  And what would she learn if you covered for her?

Miss E: The project would have rocked, and I’d’ve felt better about it.

Miss R:  Not in the long run.

Miss E: Nothing is solved.

Miss R: Nothing ever is.  Correct one weakness and another will emerge.

Miss E: Life sucks sometimes.

Miss R: Yep. Sometimes. That’s life.

Ch-ch-ch-Choices

Everything is a choice.  Do you believe that?

Whether you work, or not – and where: choice.  Whether you eat, or not, and what – and why: choice.  What activities you use to fill your time, how busy your life is – or isn’t: all choices.

I hear through space and time your vigorous denials. “But…but…I have to work! I have to go to school. I have to eat. I have to get out of bed.  I have to be president of the PTA!”  But really – you don’t.  You don’t HAVE TO do ANY of those activities – you choose to do them all – every single one. And yes, there will be consequences for every choice (after a while, not eating will cause some problems), but that doesn’t make it any less of a choice.

I think many people live daily lives doing what they think they HAVE TO do, never acknowledging the CHOICES they have, ruling out myriad possibilities of action before they are ever considered.  When your eyes are opened to the vast magnitude of choices we all have every single day, it can be incredibly empowering, uplifting, inspiring, and motivating!  It can also be completely paralyzing, overwhelming, and debilitating.

I was first presented with the reality of choice by a counselor in college while I was facing a pivotal, life-changing decision.  I told her I had no choice in the matter and she pointed out that not only did I have several choices, but that the illusion of lack of choice was in fact a construct of my own unspoken choices.  The box of stress into which I had painted myself was built by my own hand. At the time, this concept of broad choice was empowering, possibly life-saving.

Nearly a year ago, I embraced the extension of reality that EVERYTHING was a choice.  And I stopped doing nearly everything.  I was tired of getting ready for Christmas, so I. just. stopped.  I did laundry only when I ran out of clothes.  I cleaned only when it bothered ME.  I didn’t want to go to work, so I quit my job.  I was tired of helping at the kids’ school, so I stopped going in. Some days, I did not want to get dressed, so I lounged around in pajamas. For days.

At first, I told myself that this was just the usual holiday break, that things would pick up again to the usual frenetic pace come January.  But the “break” lasted for 4 months and eventually I figured out that my “break” was depression.  But that period did remind me that everything – EVERYTHING – is a choice.

As a society, we are also conditioned to blame some mysterious outside force for our perceived lack of choice. “I was so busy…” or “I had no time…” or “I couldn’t get to it…”  We are somehow trained not to own our choices.  And let’s face it – putting the blame on something outside ourselves is easier than admitting that we just didn’t want to do something!  But we all have the same number of hours in a day.  What really happened in each of those situations was that we MADE A CHOICE.

The start of the new year is all about resolutions, but resolutions are really about different choices we’d like to make in our lives.  I’ve read a few thoughtful blog posts since New Year’s Day that also speak to making choices. They are worth your time and thoughtful consideration, should you chose to read them.  Zac Chase blogged about choosing to be vegetarian, but not vegan.  And Kimburly VanderHorst blogged about making purposeful sacrifices on the altar of change in order to accomplish a big goal.

Me? I’m choosing to continue my success at taking the medicines that help me balance my system and be more healthy.  I’m also choosing to keep trying to find and incorporate fun physical activity into my life.  I’m choosing to give myself permission to fail and try again, and again, and again!  And finally, I’m choosing to live a less busy, but more meaningful and joy-full, life. That doesn’t mean there are fewer activities to occupy my life, but it does mean I won’t be trying to do all of them at the same time anymore.  And I won’t apologize for making choices that please me.

What choices – large or small – will YOU make this year?

Simple Solutions

Sometimes, the simple solution staring us in the face still eludes us.

I’ve had a mini-van for over 7 years, and for at least 5 of those years, the placement of the plastic garbage cans has caused me a problem: they get in the way of my sliding door.  I have long, unsightly white scratches on my van door from frequent collision with the cans.  Until today, it was a problem without a solution.

old-way

There’s simply no better place for the garbage cans than where they are.  Slimmer cans are not to be found.  My van won’t fit on the other side of the garage without MAJOR rearranging, and there are sliding doors on both sides anyhow.

But this morning, I came home knowing I would be leaving twice more.  I usually crawl through the front seats from/to the passenger side to get in and out, but in the winter THAT becomes a major pain with drippy, heavy boot on my feet.  So I decided to back into the garage for today. That’s when I noticed that when I’m backed in, the garbage cans are not in the way at all!

My front door clears the pole, the sliding doors are obstruction free, and the problem is solved!

new-way

I know why I had never considered this solution before.  Somewhere along the way, I picked up the impression that backing into the garage wasn’t as safe as pulling in forward because exhaust fumes get trapped in the front part of the garage instead of being vented out the large open door in the back.  It probably does increase the amount of trapped fumes, but cars today emit a lot less exhaust.  I don’t ever idle my car in the garage so I bet the “increased risk” is minimal, if measurable at all.

Just to be safe, I posted over in NPR’s Car Talk forum to see what others had to say.  But at this point, I’m pretty sure the increased blood pressure I experience every time my car door hits the garbage can is a larger health risk than the exhaust fumes.

From now on, I’m backing in.  Problem solved!

Sub-Prime Surprise?

I don’t understand why everyone is so surprised by the sub-prime debacle. Let’s look at some decades-old factors which have gotten us where we are today:

1. Banks actively encourage people to buy more house than they can afford. All the reasonable people I know who have purchased a house in the last 15 years have been shocked by the amount of credit for which they were approved by the banks. We’ve been in our house for 11 years, but even back then most banks were willing to lend us 50% more than we knew we could afford on a month-to-month basis.

2. The President of the United States told people it was their duty to spend more to help the economy. Bush’s position during the economically shaky period after 9/11/2001 was to encourage people to spend more to prop up the economy, regardless of whether or not they they had more to spend. (Hey – why not? – the government does it every day!) Unfortunately, people listened and in 2005, the U.S. saving rate fell to 0%. More spending equals less savings equals less cushion for the inevitable downturns in life.

3. ARMS. Adjustable rate mortgages are profit centers for banks and bum deals for home owners. The only time an ARM makes sense is when you pay it off before the rate bumps, but no one does that. This modern “ARMS race” has made the market more active as people who normally would have held their mortgages for 30 years are now refinancing every 2,3, or 5 years looking for the best deal, resulting in unnecessary extra closing, appraisal, and title fees.

4. Financial Secrecy. Schools teach math, but not personal finance (at least, not on a high school level) and discussion of money within families is often as taboo as politics or religion. And not only do we NOT discuss finances, we often make monetary decisions based on what our parents did without knowing the financial reasoning. So if you can’t learn personal finance at home or school, where do you learn it?

So now banks and mortgage lenders are is in a bind of their own making. George Bush appears to be uncharacteristically responsive to public opinion, deciding yesterday to help bail out people who are in financial trouble. He’s probably working to help his big business pals, because he’s obviously not listening to the chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Bernanke maintains that it is not the government’s responsibility to bail out either individual borrowers or financial institutions who made bad loans. He said that it’s not “appropriate…to protect lenders and investors from the consequences of their financial decisions.”

Bad choices have consequences. What a concept! So what do you think? Do you as a taxpayer feel it’s a good use of your money to bail out people who made bad financial choices?

An Interesting Morning

Yesterday was the second day of school, and Megan walked.

You see, last year, the girls had some problems getting up and moving in the morning, even though Megan, the 6 year old, goes to bed at 7:00 and Emily, the 8 year old, at 8:00. So this year, I told the kids that whoever missed the bus would have to walk to school. It seemed to impress them – school is, after all, 1.4 miles away! I figured I’d have at least a good week before the “back to school” euphoria ebbed away and the routine feeling started setting in, at which point I’d have to remind them again to get moving.

But on Day 2, Meg decided not to get up and I decided 45 minutes of nagging was enough. So Megan walked and I accompanied her in the car. She ran the first quarter mile without stopping, I got out and personally walked her across every road, and the first part of the journey was uneventful. Just across from the school, however, I got pulled over by a police car!

Although he sympathized with my attempt to teach a lesson, he told me I was a traffic hazard. Plus, the police department had received 10 calls about a van following a child, so I would have to find another solution. Meg got wide eyes when I told her that a policeman asked why she was walking to school instead of riding the bus! I decided to milk it and told her the policeman said she would have to go to jail if she kept missing the bus (yeah – that one will probably come back and bite me, but I was mad!).

Truth be told, even though the depth of her stubbornness amazes me, I was proud that she did actually walk the entire way to school without complaint – and proud of myself for following through and doing what I said I would do. That said, I sure was glad when she got up without incident this morning! We even had enough time to read a book before she set out for the bus stop. Maybe the lesson sunk in after all. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.

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