Friday, February 26, 2010

Adding a New Roof on Our Lives

The house behind me is getting a new roof.  It was fascinating to watch them pull all the tiles off, peel up the damaged wood and start to re-apply the tar paper.  Tomorrow they will replace the tiles and no one will be able to tell the difference.  They have put a lot of work into something that no one will be able to see, but the next time it rains they will be glad they did.

I have noticed people tend to put a lot of work into what others can see.  Beautiful clothes, stylish hair, a big house and fancy cars are all like the tiles on the roof.  They are great dressing, but if there isn't a sound structure beneath them they aren't worth much.

Some people spend a ton of time working on the inside and forget about the outside completely.  They may be smart and well read but forget to comb their hair or wash their clothes.  The structure of a roof will not last long if the tiles aren't on top.  It will get wet and rot away from lack of protection.

I am one of those people who enjoy working on the inside and forget about the outside a little too often. I love to learn but I hate makeup.  I love to imagine and stretch myself, but I'm not fond of curling my hair.  I wonder sometimes if people are wary of me because I look a fright.

From the time I was small people have told me to "be myself" and ignore what others think.  That is nice to some extent but not really practical.  If you need a job the first impression isn't your stunning intellect, it is your appearance.  If you go on a date you may not have a chance to charm him with your sparkling sense of humor if you have yesterday's dinner between your front teeth.

Appearance is important, but it is the substance that holds it up.  My neighbor's roof looks great and now it also works great too.  When I decide to brush my hair I look good and have the intelligence to back it up.

I guess my point is this: Looking at only the inside and neglecting the outside is just as bad as going the other way.  To be a complete person you must be happy with the inside and the outside.  I know this is easier said than done, but worth it.  No one wants a leaky roof on their sparkling personality.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Today I Learned a Lot

I like to learn and today I learned a lot.  I started the day with a "mommy moment." I had a clear epiphany about one one my children's behaviors.  I love it when that happens.

After getting off to a good start I interviewed a lady about gardening and wrote an article for a magazine.  I have to admit that was fun.  I also had time to myself and drank a hot chocolate. mmm

I cuddled with another child, and we even danced a silly dance in a Subway restaurant.  She giggled and I loved every second of it.

Later I took the kids to the park and soaked up the sun. I watched my kids play and enjoy the afternoon.

Tonight I listened to my oldest read almost an entire chapter of a book when he usually reads just one page.  I was touched by his progress and chuckled when he corrected the author's grammar.  (He was right, by the way.)

So what did I learn?  I learned to listen, I learned to giggle, I learned to smile, I learned to slow down, and I learned to appreciate.

I love days when I learn a lot.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Murphy's Law - I Really Don't Like Murphy

I have noticed family emergencies never check my calendar to see if I have time to deal with them.  In fact, if they do check my calendar it is for the busiest and most inconvenient period of my life.

This last week we were sick.  Kids may not be well known for sharing, but my kids are rock stars when it comes to sharing germs.  So we had fevers for 5 solid days.  That means no school.  Mom likes school.  Mom likes school a lot.

After missing a week of school who do you think gets sick?  Nope, not the  Yes me.  Murphy's law states that anything that can go wrong will.  Johnson's corollary was that Murphy was an optimist.  That being said, I found out Thursday my Grandfather had a stroke.

I am not trying to whine, I am just pointing out the obvious, things happen when we are least prepared to deal with them.  Somehow that is the way it works.  Just in case you wondered, I am not of fan of this particular rule of life.

My grandfather will be okay, my kids got over the cold and I am on the mend.  Monday will be a glorious day filled with school buses and regularly scheduled activities.  I can hardly wait.

The next time you think about getting prepared I challenge you to think about this rule of life.  If a little pre-planning can eliminate stress down the road I suggest you take the opprotunity.  What is that commercial...Life comes at you fast...I agree.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Failure Gardening Is Future Success

I have mentioned gardening in the past, but after I spent the day elbow deep in dirt I thought I should talk about it again.

Gardening is a bit like life.  You aren't likely to get much out of it if you don't get a bit dirty.  Today I got dirty, but I have yet to see if I will get anything out of it.

Most people garden to grow things.  I garden to kill things.  Nope, you didn't misread that.  I am on a quest to see how many ways you should not grow plants.  In particular I try to kill off fruit and vegetable plants.  I am not a crazy person, I just know a lot can be learned from failure.

Originally the plan was to grow things to eat.  I read the books, I bought the supplies and I headed off into my little backyard to start a garden.  I planted seeds and transplanted starts then waited.  I ran out each morning to watch over my new kingdom and felt a thrill when the first little plant started to push through the soil.  You would laugh to know how many ways you can take a picture of a 1/4 inch plant.

After not too long I realized I had a problem, namely, things started to die.  It was horrible, but the more I saw die the more I learned.  I have planted my garden now for over 4 year, and I have killed many plants.  Every so often I eat some, but more often I kill them.

In this last 4 years I have learned about water and fertilizer.  I have learned about sunlight and wind.  I have learned about mulch and insects.  I know a lot now I never would have learned any other way.  I have experience in gardening now, and slowly I am starting to see the "fruits" of my labor.  (Yes, that pun was intended.)

So back to my metaphor on life.  There are so many aspects of life that must be experienced to be understood.  The crazy part is experiencing success alone doesn't tell us much.  If we only succeed we really don't know why.  It isn't until we fail that we understand how our success was created.  This is true for love, parenting, business skills, mopping the floor and winning a race.

Many people wiser than I have talked about failure.  We see the fruits of failure all around us.  The comforts we enjoy, the inventions we use and the decisions we make are a result of the information learned from past failures.

With that in mind, I will continue gardening.  I will continue to fail, and I will continue to learn.  With every attempt I have increased my knowledge and furthered my goal of creating a lush oasis.  Someday I will get there, someday I will have gained enough experience to keep my plants alive.

When that happens I will start the next project...and fail there too.  I can hardly wait to get started.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Taking the "Me, Myself and I" Out of Blog

Today I was asked to write an article for a magazine.  I immediately started thinking about all I could say, and then WHAMO, they said it needed to be in 3rd person.  Ouch!

Who knew a few short months of blogging could erase years of technical writing skills and decades of schooling?  (Okay, maybe not decades, but it felt like it...)

I had to stop and think a bit.  I was asked to write an article for which my opinion was not very important.  I have to interview others and see what they think.

You wouldn't think it would be hard, but it feels awkward after blogging.

So I started to wonder why it felt odd, and here is what I came up with, blogging is about me.  It is about what I think, what I feel and what I do.  It is my 15 seconds of fame, brought to you courtesy of my blog. Multiple days a week I put myself on display and tell the universe how I feel.

This article will be my chance to tell the world how other people feel.  What a grand idea.  So I have another great idea.  I want to tell your stories.  I want to talk about what you think and feel.  So write me.  Tell me what you are good at, what motivates you, what makes you read this blog.  You can contact me through my web site (fewer robots spamming me that way) and we can find something about you to display to the world.

I am learning a lot with the article I am writing.  It is good to stretch beyond your normal limits.  Maybe we can do this together.  So give me a buzz.  I can't wait.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Information is the Difference Between an Emergency and a Crisis

Last week I challenged you to evacuate your home...mentally at least.  I don't know how many of you did it, but it is a good exercise.  Most of us don't think about what we need to take until it is a crisis.

Today I want to issue a different challenge.  I want you to imagine a serious car accident.  Upfront I will tell you your family will be fine, but at least one adult (Mom) and one child are in the hospital in serious condition.

I know this may seem like a grizzly scenario, but I need you to think about this.  Mom is the keeper of a lot of information so if she is out of commission you need to know how to step up.

Do you have the following information:

  • Medical Contacts for Adults and Children
  • Allergies to Medications
  • Medical Insurance Contacts
  • Auto Insurance Contacts
  • School Contacts
  • Medical Histories
  • Contact Information for Family and Friends
  • Financial Contacts
  • Living Will
  • Power of Attorney
  • Medical Power of Attorney
  • Custody Papers (if applicable)
  • Employer Contacts
  • Work Benefit Contacts
There is a lot of information needed in this type of emergency.  Decisions will be made quickly and if you don't have the correct information you will be forced to go find it instead of spending time with your loved ones.

If you received a call to head to the hospital would you have this information ready to go?  Would you be ready to take care of the situation?

As I said, I know this is a grizzly scenario but it is one we must all consider.  If you are the mom do you realize how much you know that your family is unaware of?  Documenting this type of information can mean the difference between an emergency and a crisis.

Of course I know a product that can help with this...but really it is up to you to do something about it.  Educate your family, make sure they know the information they need, and write it down for later use.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Spring in Phoenix Comes Early

I know most of the country is buried in a few feet of snow, but my house has nothing but sunshine.  Today I opened the windows, felt the breeze and enjoyed the sounds of kids playing in the yard.

To make the day completely frivolous I kept my PJ's on until 4 pm and refused to look at the laundry piling up around me.

I love lazy days.  I love days where expectations are at a minimum and rewards are at a maximum.  The rest of the week is packed, but today was calm.  I loved it.

Recharging the personal batteries can take many forms.  I love quiet.  I love noise of my choosing.  (Notice I said "of my choosing." That is a key part of it because there are plenty of noises I don't love.) I love the smell of a slight breeze coming over the landscape.  I love the light that filters in my house from open windows.  I love walking into a clean bedroom with the beds made and the smell of flowers floating through the space.

While I'm at it, I love this time of year.  It is lovely outside and the smell of winter fades to the smell of spring.  I am one very happy lady.

So what is it that recharges you? Is it spring or is it something else?  It doesn't matter what you find exhilarating, it is just important you find something.  I feel relaxed today.  I feel restored.  Now I just need a nice comfy pillow and a long rest.

Editor's Note: You will not hear me extolling the virtues of summer.  It is way too hot and while the rest of you are enjoying the lazy days of summer I will be hiding in my air conditioned house. So don't feel too jealous if you are buried in snow right now.  You can point and laugh at me in a few months.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Pressure Cooker Update

I have had a few of you contact me to ask about my pressure cooker desires so I thought an update was in order.  Before getting a pressure cooker and shelling out the cash on a new toy I didn't have to have, I decided to try a few pressure cooker recipes the old fashion way.

I can only say my kids were not fans.  They made sounds, they made faces, they made loud protests.

I was really bummed because I liked the food, as did my husband, but the kids hated it!

I have not given up.  I will overcome the look of disgust and find a group of recipes the kids like.  Until that time, I am without a pressure cooker.  In case you wondered, I will survive.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

How Did You Do?

Yesterday I issued a challenge.  I gave you 15 minutes to evacuate your home without your wallet.  What did you bring?

I heard from one reader who gave a nice list of items.  (Way to go Haze!) I was impressed her list was not long and made sense.  One thing she did not have on the list (and I forgot to mention in my reply) was medication.  If you will be gone for an unknown period of time you need to grab your medications in their original packaging.  It will be important to have your full supply and it is also handy to have the doctor's names and the pharmacy phone number.  (I will refrain from reminding you that information is also in your Prepared Binder, and since you obviously brought it with you that information is already close at hand...)

I heard of a church whose leader called the congregation out of the blue on a Friday afternoon and told them all they had 1 hour to be out of their homes.  Their assignment was to survive in their backyards for 24 hours without going inside their home or garage for anything.  Of the 150 families involved only 1 family could make it 24 hours.

I found it interesting they could not even do it in the relative safety of their own yards. Could you?

Have you identified what you use in a day?  Do you have a portable method of shelter? Do you have a way to cook food? Do you have activities to keep the kids busy?  Do you have a supply of toilet paper?

I thought about the families living in their roofs after Hurricane Katrina and I don't doubt the suffering.  Their homes were underwater and their belongings soaked.  If a group of church goers could not last 24 hours in their own yards how would they have lasted on the roof?

Anyway, thanks for taking the challenge.  The good news is I will not be calling to tell you to evacuate your home any time soon.  The bad news is someone in authority might.  Please be aware of floods, fires, other natural disasters and man made emergencies.  Have a plan and know what to do. 

Every kid practices fire drills in schools.  Drills save lives.  Think about setting up a drill for your family and see how they do.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Today's Challenge

Today I issue a challenge.

I want you to think about what it would take to get your family out of the house.  You have 15 minutes of warning and you will be gone for an unknown amount of time.

What do you do?  What do you grab?  How do you leave?  What resources do you have?  Where do you go?

It is after hours, the banks are closed and you can't find your wallet. You must evacuate to at least 20 miles away from your home.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I Need A House Fairy

I have an ugly confession.  Today I was sitting at my desk when I realized my brain had stopped.  I had no real thoughts, no real desires, no motivation and no idea what to do next.  I remember the phone rang and it was a struggle to keep up my end of the conversation.  I was absolutely brain dead.

You may wonder how I got into such a state, and I will tell you it wasn't easy.  I had multi-tasked myself into a stupor.  I was digitally scrapbooking at the same time I was taking orders, filling orders, handling numerous kid issues, cleaning my storage closet, imagining my next blog post, figuring out what was for dinner and planning the volunteer work I was going to to that day.  Amazingly enough that is not what sent me over the edge.  I made the mistake of opening my eyes and looking around my house.  That is what did it.  There was too much to look at and my brain just shut off.  Ding!

My house was not trashed, it was just well loved by my kids and there were toys in random places.  You would think I would have been happy they weren't fighting, but that was not even on my radar.  I was 100% overwhelmed by the stuff I was seeing and my brain stopped.

I had a professional organizer tell me that being overly visually stimulated can exhaust you faster than most things.  The more your eye has to see and process the easier it is to become overwhelmed.

The good news is I proved her right today.  The bad news is the house fairies did not arrive to hide everything. grrr... I need house fairies.

So after the kids were in bed and my hubby was home I sat on the couch watching TV. Yes I know that is yet another form of visual stimulation, but at least I knew anything I saw on the TV was not my problem to solve.

After sitting there for a while I realized I was still feeling overwhelmed and I wasn't even doing anything.  I thought about getting a massage, but frankly that was just one more thing to add to the list of things to get done.

So I sat and ate chocolate.  Oddly enough I don't even really like chocolate, but I ate a lot of it anyway.

I thought about trying to solve this problem but I decided to let it go for tonight.  Tomorrow I may cover up half my house with white sheets so I can see less stuff, but who am I kidding, my sheets are loud too.

Oh well.  Maybe I just need to turn my brain off and sleep for a month.  Anyone know of any house fairies who can take over for me until then?

Monday, February 8, 2010

America the Entitled? If We Can't Pay For It, We Can't Have It

There are two things you are never supposed to discuss in polite company, religion and politics.  I plan on breaking half of that rule today.

I read in today's paper that my city council agreed 6-3 to add sales tax to all food.  The state is also considering a 1% tax increase across the board.  That last increase would give my city a 9.3% tax on all purchases except food, where there would be a 2% tax.

At what point does the size of our government become larger than the people's ability to support it?  While they are raising taxes, our ability to pay decreases.  The more they ask of us, the less we have to give.  We have seen our property values inflated beyond their actual market value; in fact, when my home lost 50% of its value, my property tax went up.

Schools are having funding pulled, community services are declining and benefits for community members are decreasing.  There is complaining coming from all sides.

I wrote an blog a while back about entitlement, and that is the problem here.  We have a society of entitlement.  We feel entitled to services and the government feels entitled to funding.  Right now our taxes are a percentage of our income and spending.  Logic tells us that when our income and spending go down, so does our tax contributions.  With less money in the public coffers, we have a limited ability to support our government.

History has shown what happens when governments overtax their people and it never turns out well for the government.  There is only so much taxation a society will accept before it takes drastic measures to change the government.

Now before you wonder about my patriotism, I am very proud to be an American.  I value my citizenship, I vote, and I stand up for what I believe.  What I am saying here should not be a surprise.  A government cannot survive when it is a drain on the society it serves.  That said, we need to all look at the purpose of our governments, both nationally and locally.

If you take a look at our Constitution you will not see reference to unemployment insurance, medical coverage, free education, local libraries, community parks, public transit, senior centers, or a myriad of other services we feel entitled to.  We have added those expectations along the way.  We have spent over 200 years adding to our government wish list.

The hard part for our local governments is that our tax system is designed to work best when people are spending money.  Our federal government, and sometimes our state governments take a slice of what we earn and save, but our local governments only get a chunk of what we spend.  The less we spend, the less they get.  Currently local governments are trying to raise their revenue by increasing their share of taxes.

If we follow that logic, as a business owner, I should increase my prices so I can afford the extra taxes being put on me and my employees.  Oh wait.  I can't, because if I increase prices people will stop buying my product and I will make less money, meaning I will have less to spend and less to contribute to the tax base.

Hmmm.  This sounds like a complex problem.  We want what we can't afford.  We want a government which can provide for us in many ways, but we can't afford to pay them.

If I couldn't afford to pay my landscaper, he would stop providing services, he would not start charging me more. How is it our government, which is there at the will of the people, believes they have the right to force us to pay for that which we can not afford?

I can hear some of you saying, "What! Cut services?  We can't do that!  People need doctors, transportation and emergency services."  You are right to a point.  People would like those things, but they are not a requirement.  They make our quality of life better, but are not needed for our government to survive.

As a people we will have to determine what items are most important to us and cut out the rest.  I realize this means we will eliminate jobs.  Back to the landscaper example; if enough of the landscaper's customers could not afford his services he would be forced to cut back on staff to stay profitable.

Our Founding Fathers envisioned a government free from oppression.  The irony is we added so many requirements to our government that we made it oppressive.  We have asked for more than we can pay for.  We are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but not much more.

From the United States Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

So here is the sum of this blog.  I love this country.  I love freedoms and liberty.  I do not love the entitlement which asks our government to provide more than it has resources for.  If we can not afford it, we can not have it.  Increasing our taxes puts a burden on our citizens which will harm businesses, harm families and harm our country.  If there is less money we must spend less.

I am sure I have stirred up a hornet's nest with this blog, so I ask you to respond with honor and dignity.  Keep it clean and keep it polite.  I invite comments, even criticism, but no profanity.  Thanks.

Friday, February 5, 2010

I Like Guests...And I'm All Ears

I like guests.  I like guests who come to visit and stay to chat.  I also like guests who blog.  I am hoping I will have a few guest bloggers coming up.

So now it is time for a question.  What do you want to hear about?  If you could have any topic discussed here in this little corner of the blogisphere what would you want to hear?  Come on, don't be shy. Tell me.  I want to know.  I want to hear your feedback.

Here is the scary part.  I just put myself out there.  I have asked for suggestions and one of 3 things can happen:
  1. You tell me lovely things and I can't wait to get started.
  2. You tell me I am horrible and I give you nightmares.
  3. You say nothing and I am left to wonder if anyone ever hears/reads my blog.  The intense sense of sadness overwhelms me and I cry.
I think maybe that last thing was a little TMI. (Too Much Information, for those of you who don't text...)

But I really do want to hear from you.  It would be great if you added a comment to any of the multiple places you can find me.  You can follow me on Twitter, you can become a fan on Facebook.  You can add me to your Networked Blogs page, or you can add me to Google Friend Connect.  Any way you slice it, you can reach me.

I would love to hear from you...anyone...anyone...was that crickets I heard chirping?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Under Pressure

Tonight I went to a class about pressure cookers.  I wanted to see why it is everyone loves them so much.  While they look like a regular pan with a mean lid, I wondered what it was that made them amazing.

Well, I found out.  And boy did I find out.  Now I want one.  Maybe two.

So what am I supposed to do with one or two pressure cookers?  The obvious answer is cook in them.  I could make a lot of dishes in one pan in a fraction of the time.  I could make roasts in one hour, I could make stews in a few minutes.  I could single-handedly solve the mysteries of the universe in under half an hour.

Then why oh why did I leave this beautiful class with not a single pressure cooker in my possession?  That is a lovely question, and one I have a lovely answer to.

I am not yet worthy.  The cooking I do is not nearly exciting enough to warrant this piece of equipment.  Right now I am in the land of mac and cheese and canned ravioli.  My kids don't appreciate or even like "real" food.

Now there is the argument that if I provided "real" food they would be a bit more interested.  I'm not willing to risk it.

There is the other thought that my cooking might improve if I was to improve my tools.  I think that might be like buying the cute exercise suit to motivate you to exercise.  I haven't had that one work yet.

So I sat in the class and watched the ladies (and gentlemen) get excited about this amazing equipment which could slice/dice/make Julianne fries and all manner of other craziness.  I want the pressure cooker.  I know how I could use it, but will I use it???

So here I sit, in front of the computer, without a single pressure cooker to my name.  I will survive this.  I will learn more about the equipment and I will survive.  Just because I don't have a pressure cooker, even one which makes chicken soup in under 10 minutes, I will survive.  My soup may just take me 20 minutes instead, but I will survive.

P.S. Don't be surprised when you see the "I bought a pressure cooker" blog down the road.  I will increase my cooking skills and I will deserve a pressure cooker soon...oh yes I will. (Did I just sound entitled...?)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My No Good Really Bad Hair Day

Today I had one of those moments.  It was the kind of moment for which a scream lodges in your throat and time stands still.  Yep, it was that bad.

Today was a get stuff done day.  I wrote out a list of "must accomplish" and have spent the week plowing through it.  Around lunch time my hair started to get annoying.  I have this really cute shorter hair cut but that means hair gets in my face, and that can be a problem when cleaning.  So what did I do?  I did what any normal person would, I tied it up on top of my head with a rubber band.

Remember when I said it was short?  Well short hair does not go well on top of one's head, so only the top half went up.  Normally this would be okay, even cute.  Today...not so much.  It was sticking up in every direction, was uneven, bumpy and sticking out at odd angles from my head.  It also looked like I had a peacock plume strutting forth from my head.  I promise it was not attractive.

I looked in the mirror and decided no one was going to see me, so what did it matter?  My 3 year old took one look at me and sat on the floor giggling.  Not a good sign I might add.  She laughed until she was having trouble breathing and then said..."Silly Mommy." She then laughed some more.

Completely ignoring the hair issue I started to clean.  In the process I forgot about the amazing "do" on my head.  I got a ton done, so things were good.

Mid afternoon the yard guys came.  They were not doing their jobs correctly and after keeping my temper in check for 6 weeks while they didn't do their job I went out to confront them.  I was upset and explained in great detail why I wanted them to do the job the correct way.

They stared at me with odd looks on their faces.  At the time I thought I was just doing an amazing job of getting them to see things my way.  I wasn't yelling but I was insistent.  I finished my instructions and turned around to go inside.  As the door closed I heard them start to re-trim one of the bushes and I smiled.

As I went to wash my hands I looked in the mirror and gasped!  No wonder they were re-trimming my bushes.  They were afraid of me.  They had to be sure I was mentally unstable after looking at my head.

Here is where the silent scream went out and time stood still.  I was so embarrassed.  Worse yet, there was a team of guys outside all my windows.  They knew the crazy lady was in the house.  Aaack!  My eloquent speech about doing the job I paid them for was reduced to them staring at my head and wondering what animal had crawled in there and died.

So now I am upstairs hiding.  I am thinking about staying in the house until I rot from old age.  I am not a vain person normally.  I rarely put on make-up or dress up.  I do not however go in public looking like this.

Maybe the next time they come I can wear my fuzzy bunny slippers.  At least then they will know I am insane, not just worry about it.  Ahh well, they say pride is bad, and now that I don't have any left I guess I can get on to working on my other shortcomings...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Life Long Learner

Are you a life long learner?  I hope so.

I love learning new things.  It is amazing how much we can learn.  There is information all around us.  We no longer need access to a large library or a subscription to a cultured magazine or newspaper to get new thoughts delivered to us.

Learning can be fun, it usually is fun.  Sometimes it is not fun.  Have you ever run into an article you wish you hadn't read or a news broadcast you never needed to see?  There is a good argument that not all information is worth having.

Have you ever tried to get a thought out of your head?  Have you ever tried to not think of something.  It is pretty hard.  For some reason you can't remember the date of a significant event in your life but you can remember the gruesome details of a murder you saw on television.

Knowledge is power, we have been told that from the time we stepped into school.  By default controlling that knowledge is even greater power.  Governments have tried for decades, even centuries, to control what their citizens learned.  Churches limited access to scripture so as not to encourage people to analyze it on their own.  Control of knowledge is power, and sometimes that power is abused.

So do we consider limiting our own knowledge?  Do we act as gatekeepers to our own information gathering?  I know it is not a popular thought, but do we censor what we learn?

There are things I do not need to know.  For example, I do not need to know how to dismember a living creature. (I understand that is a graphic example, by I wanted you to get my point.)  Now that I am a parent I do not want to see/hear/read stories about abused children.  I do not need to learn the details of every atrocity of mankind.

Do we prioritize what we learn?  Do we determine what is most important and start there or do we take it all in at the same time.  For me it is a little of both.  I read the news reports from around the world to feel connected to the universe and then I seek out the information I need to solve an imminent problem in my life.

Right now you are reading my blog.  It can be argued I am adding nothing to your knowledge, so I don't count in this discussion.  Maybe I do.  I just wanted to say thanks.  I know you have a lot to read and see in a day.  I appreciate the time you spend with me.

May we all be life long learners, and may we all strive to absorb the things of meaning around us.  Enjoy your day, and go learn something!

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Art of Entitlement

One of my favorite pastimes is watching HGTV.  What is not to love about shows where I get to see the insides of homes across the world without ever having to get off the couch?  (Better yet, I don't have to pay a single mortgage.)

I have been watching these shows for quite a while now and I have to say I am a bit stunned at the number of entitled people showcased.  Words like "I deserve it" and "it's not big enough" are all over these shows.

The entitlement issues really became obvious when a young couple buying their first home with low/no paying jobs and low budget kept saying things like "I need a bigger walk in closet for all my shoes."  That was followed by, "I don't want a kitchen without granite counter tops" and "why isn't the yard bigger..."  Oh my.  They were looking in an older neighborhood, they were stretching as it was to get a house at all and they were upset it didn't look like their parent's know that house they were living in rent free at the moment.

I would like to say this couple was an exception, but it wasn't.  Many of the people showcased whine about how small and plain the homes are they can afford. (This includes multimillion dollar homes.) They almost never have any money to buy the house and walk away with mortgages way above their ability to pay and eat.

Now I know I am not telling you anything you don't know.  The housing crisis was built on the backs of people who got loans too big from lenders who lent too much.  We are all reaping the "rewards" right now.

What intrigued me was the entitlement I saw in these couples.  They really felt they deserved now what their parents worked for over 20-30 years.  Most of them had not saved enough money to cover any purchase costs and they felt it was their right to own a home larger than they could afford.  It seemed so odd to me.

When I look around our culture right now I see a lot of that entitlement.  It appears everywhere and at every level.  I see people without jobs for long periods of time who won't take an offered job because it is less money.  I see people out of work buying expensive luxury items because they "deserve" something nice.  I see families taking trips they can't afford because they "deserve" time with their kids.  This doesn't even cover the teenagers who feel entitled to cars, clothes and entertainment.

You may have guessed I am on a little rant right now.  What I can't figure out is how we became so entitled.  Growing up I felt entitled to food and a place to sleep.  Even then I knew there were people who didn't have that.  How did we make the cultural leap from "earn it" to "deserve it?"

Dave Ramsey has a billboard in Phoenix that says "Act your Wage."  I love that sign.  It doesn't mean you can't dream, it just means you have to live with what you have right now.

I think many people confuse their self worth with a list of their possessions.  They feel that if they are "worthy" people they are worthy of possessions. At what point do we decide we are worthy of financial security?  When do we decide freedom isn't the ability to buy anything we want but the ability to decide how to spend our money.

People who "can't resist" spending money are slaves to it.  Those who look at a purchase and walk away have mastered it.  While I may want to buy many things I realize I would rather control my money than have it control me.

The sad truth is we are learning a lot about entitlement as a society right now.  We can either feel bad about it or we can take the lessons and come out better on the other side.  When it comes down to it, none of us is entitled to much.  The more money we have the more is available to spend.  There is no reflection of self worth in that statement.

So here is a little exercise.  Spend the next week looking at how you spend your money.  Take notice of what you are thinking when you whip out your wallet.  Note thoughts of "I deserve it" and other similar ideas.  Determine if the thing you are buying was in your budget or if it is an impulse purchase.  You can learn a lot from identifying how you spend money. 

Okay, I think the rant has subsided a bit.  I feel better.  I think I am going to go buy a designer cup of hot chocolate...I deserve it!