Friday, September 18, 2009

Good Ole Fashioned Hard Work

It's a Tuesday night at the high-school and the halls are packed with parents making their way through their child's scheduled classes. They go from one class to the next meeting the teachers and hearing a little about the classes they are taking. They have the opportunity to ask questions in some classes but in most it's just a 'sit and listen' type of session.

Ryan and I walked through Tyler's classes and learned this will be a challenging year for Tyler, academically speaking. She has AP US History, or APUSH as it's called by the kids, honors English, geometry, Chinese, and two elective classes.

While listening to Tyler's Chinese teacher tell us, in her best English, what she expects in her class and how she teaches both 1 and 2 in the same class room a cell phone rings. There is always one. The owner of this ringing cell phone is sitting in the front row and the teacher is answering her question. The parent picks up her purse, gets out the cell phone and answers it. YES, she answers the cell phone and has a one minute conversation with the person on the other end. Using her hand to cover her mouth and the phone was supposed to make her less rude... not really. I was shocked and amazed at her utter disrespect for the teacher.

And you wonder why kids act the way they do...

After that we moved on to several more classes ending in honors English. Tyler was assigned Fahrenheit 451 and Lord of the Flies to read over the summer. They were to answer questions about the book and take notes in the margins of the book as they read it. The expectation was that this would be collected on the first day of school. As Ryan and I listened to the teacher speak a father spoke up and asked why the kids weren't getting any credit for the summer reading. The teacher explained that those assignments were created by the other honors English teacher and she had picked up this class after the assignment was sent home. She explained further that the assignment wouldn't have been something she would have assigned and that she will be grading the kids differently.

This did not sit well with a few parents. The father who posed the initial questions proceeded to grill this poor woman about her teaching style, her grading scale, and insisted that his child get some sort of 'reward' for all the hard work he/she put in over the summer to complete the assignment. The man continued his line of questioning for at least five minutes, past the final bell, to where I almost stood up and defended the teacher. Here is what I wanted to say to the parents who said "but they did all that work"...

It's a shame that you expect your child to receive some sort of tangible pay off just because they worked hard. It's a shame that you are teaching your child that they deserve some sort of tangible pay off when ever they work hard. Couldn't the pay off be that they had to learn how to balance the work they had to do with what they wanted to do or that they learned a great skill to take with them to college, or that some times you work hard only to have it pay off later.

I was really disappointed in the parents at this open house. That conversation should have taken place privately if the parents felt that strong about it. They should have never blasted her like that in front of others. I felt horribly for her. I was embarrassed and uncomfortable. I think another parent felt the same way and she just interrupted the father and asked if the teacher wanted our surveys regarding the open house event.

Ryan and I left the class room angry. How is that people feel so comfortable attacking another person like that? Common courtesy is fading fast. I was the only one after each 'class' that thanked the teachers for their time. Not one other parent spoke up. They just got up and moved on to the next one.

It wasn't until after open house that we found out that Tyler forgot to tell us her English class and geometry class were switched when she picked up Chinese. We weren't even in the right English class. Tyler happens to be in the class where the kids are being graded on the notes from summer reading.

Ryan commented this evening, "so we had to listen to that jackass for nothing". No, I don't think it was for nothing. While it was painful at the time it just reaffirmed that Ryan and I are doing it right. We are teaching the kids the value of hard work. You don't always get a monetary pay off or a reward you can see. Sometimes the reward is a feeling, a feeling of pride or accomplishment. Those rewards are ones that will carry with you for a life time.

So what... rewards do you look for in life?
So what... are you teaching your kids about hard work?
So what... motivates you to complete the task?
So what....

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

So What... 's for dinner?

Tonight Tyler and I had left over steak burrito's for dinner and boy were they just yummy.

I used very thin flank steak and just cooked it in a skillet with burrito seasoning and salt and pepper. (2 mins on each side, if that) I cooked this yesterday for dinner and when I asked everyone how their dinner was, all I got was groans and moans. I guess that means the family approved.

This got Tyler and I thinking. It started as a joke but the more I thought about it the better it sounded. We have decided that we will have a burrito dinner week. I don't mean steak burrito's everyday. I mean think of the possibilities. You can have chicken, ground meat, steak, carnita's, fish, veggie, breakfast... plus all the toppings, black beans, tomatoes, corn, salsa, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, peppers... the list is endless when you think about your personal tastes and if you do breakfast burrito's as well.

I thought we would have to win over Ryan but he is all for it and here is why.

The weeks that we have Tyler consist of me working until 4:30/5:00, going to pick her up from marching band practice and not getting home until after 6:00 PM. If you know one thing about our family it's that we don't do a lot of take out or eating out. We prefer to cook, or at least I do. In order for me to get a healthy meal on the table we are looking at a dinner time of at least 7:00 PM for something simple. We also have nightly chores and home work to accomplish. This can be a lot for any person/family and cuts into the dinner "how was your day" conversation.

So here is how the burrito week idea works:

Sunday: As a family decide on the on the menu. What types of burrito's will you be having and on what days? Make a grocery list and go to the store together. Once you are home, work together on prepping and cooking the food.

Ideas: Prep all veggies needed, lettuce, tomatoes, corn, peppers, beans (do what you can in advance, I suggest you don't prep avocado in advance as it doesn't last). Some will require chopping while others like the beans and peppers will require cooking.
Prep all meat on Sunday. Cook the meat expect fish. This way it's ready to go on the night you need it. The fish can be cooked the night of the meal, just pick a night you don't have a lot going on.

This family prep time gets everyone in the kitchen on a day/night where no one HAS to be any other place than home. Most times during the week I find myself in the kitchen by myself for two reasons mostly, our kitchen is small and the kids have homework they have to get done.

Once all this prep is done all you have to do during the weeks is heat up the warm stuff and set the table. This allows for the time I know I look forward to and that's hearing about everyone's day and not rushing through to get to all the after dinner stuff. This also cuts down on the dishes that have to be done each night during the week.

If you are looking for ways to get in the kitchen with your kids but still have time around the table to enjoy the meal I suggest you try this.

Who knows it may lead to Pizza week, Salad week, Burger week.

So what will you try... think of the possibilities.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Divorce Boats

I was reading through the comments over on my other blog and someone left me the nicest compliment...

Anonymous wrote:

"So, I was thinking as I read over you blog.... your talents are entirely wasted. I know your 9-5 is not your dream job (as with many we do what we have to do to pay the bills) and that your love is cooking but you would be perfectly suited to be a motivational speaker. Cornball moment, by I am in awe of your ability to see things bigger than how they affect you, most people do not have the ability to look inside the way you do. I am inspired by you......"

I know I wanted my blogs to inspire people. Inspire people to act, think, choose... do something. But to read that I had done that still surprised me.

Little ol' me, college drop out... really? I think this is the nicest and most rewarding compliment I have ever received. Sometimes I feel like my positive thinking, glass half full perception of most things is lost on people or that they feel I am required to think that way because of my job title... IF they only knew.

For me It is much harder to go through life thinking/focusing on what's in the way...... and never figuring out how to get past it. "The only way out is through". I heard that great quote some where, and it's true. Surely we will be met with challenges in our lives. Wether it be work, family, school... something isn't going to go our way. We can't control what happens to us but we can control how we react to it. I am not a victim of circumstance.

I know, that paragraph was heavy with the platitudes but they really do make a lot of sense when you actually think about them. If I get lost in self-pity, self-doubt or sucked into the negative mindset I will never grow as person. I will never learn what I am truly capable of.

My husband and I went canoeing today. 7 miles down a winding river. They call these man propelled boats 'divorce boats' for a reason. We tried this once before and it ended badly (maybe because we tried it on Lake Erie, much more open space). Last night we promised we would be patient with each other. Half way through our 7 miles I was put in a 'time out'. I had to put my paddle down and just stop. For the life of me I couldn't get the damn thing to go straight. I was told I needed to 'anticipate the boats movement' better. WHAT, are you kidding me? Had I been given a damn steering wheel this morning would have gone much better. Instead of fighting, I said, maybe we should recognize that this might not be the best activity for our marriage. It never goes well, he ends up getting frustrated, although he was better this time around, and the fun is ruined because I feel like a dumb ass.

I realized that by saying this I had given up. I gave up? It is really nice to be on the water with my husband. Working together as a team to accomplish the goal, and I just threw in the towel because of my inability to anticipate the boats movement, this was getting in the way. Maybe I just need a different teacher. I know I could do it if I just had a little more practice.

So what... will I do? I will seek out a different teacher, learn how to steer the dang thing and push myself instead of giving up.

So what... is getting in your way? What action will you take to push through, grow, see things differently? I would love to hear about it.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Through the Good Times and the Bad...

Two weeks ago Logan decided to move out and live with his mother full time. It's been a very emotional and difficult few weeks and I haven't really known how to talk about it (or blog).

I find as I am trying to explain how we got to this point it's not that easy to explain.

Over the past 5 years I have learned a lot about split families. I am fortunate enough to have parents that are still married and I have never had to experience 1st hand two households growing up. Ryan, the same thing.

In joining this ready made family I have learned that there are two very different households. This has proved to be challenging for us as parents, so I have to imagine it's extremely difficult on the kids.

In every decision we make, mostly what battles to fight, we consider how it impacts the kids. Ryan and I ask ourselves, what are we teaching them, what are we showing them, are we being good role models, is this how we would want them to act in a similar situation. Essentially, as parents, we molding little members of society that will eventually be out on their own and the goal is to make sure we mold them into contributing members of society.

We encourage the kids to reach for the stars. If they want it, they can achieve it. The key word though is "they". We expect that they will put in the work necessary to achieve the goal/dream. Ryan and I will support and help the kids achieve their goals but we wont do it for them. We assist and support. They are both at the age where life after high school is fast approaching. Logan will be graduating next June. Repeat conversations have taken place regarding, "what are your plans"? If not college, then what?

Instead of making this entry about Logan and his decisions, I thought it best to ask for advice.

You can't force someone to want more for themselves so when they choose to be lazy, take the easy path, or not apply themselves or their skills, what do you do?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Not the Mama

Laundry is in the dryer, a cake is in the oven, the dinner recipe is out on the counter ready to be made, and the kids are with their Mother. 'So what' better time to blog about being a step-mom?

About 5 years ago my life changed. I entered into a relationship with a man who had two children from a previous marriage. I went from living on my own, never knowing a roommate, to having a ready made family. It was a major adjustment.

Over the last 5 years we have grown closer as a family. Last year I married into the family. The last 5 years haven't been without it's ups and downs. When I entered my step-children's lives they were 12 and 10. Tweens!!! Not quite teenagers, yet old enough to have intelligent conversation and think for themselves.

I have been very lucky in that I have not had to experience the "your not my mom" or "I don't need to listen to you" comments that some step-moms have to work through. The downs have been the regular teenage stuff every other family experiences. Missing curfew, sneaking out, grades, dating, basic pushing of boundaries kinda stuff. Those instances though also encompass the ups. I was privileged enough to have been there for their first days of high-school, my step-daughters 1st real date, the day to day conversations, etc...

My husband and I don't plan to have kids together. We talked for over a year about the decision to not have kids. We agreed that the idea of a baby was great but the reality of one really didn't fit into our future plans or our current family. We talked at length about how the kids would feel if we brought a baby into the house during the time they would be going through so much as teenagers and agreed that the family we have is just right.

While I still support that decision, I have to be honest... with the kids approaching the end of high-school, in three short years the youngest will be graduating and starting her own life, I can't help but think where does that leave me? All the 'kid' stuff is over and the big adult stuff starts.

I feel like I haven't had enough time with them. Their Father and Mother have so many more memories with them. They know all those little things they did as a kid and are completely connected to them in that way and to each other.

I can't help but feel like the outsider sometimes. I have a connection with the kids but it's never going to be the deep bond they share with their parents. My husband is so supportive of me and includes me in the parenting but that doesn't change the fact that I am not the Mom.

I love both kids as if they were my own, so much so sometimes I have to take a step back and remember I'm not their Mom and back off. It is so hard because I want the best for them and am so vested in their lives. How do you take a back seat? Or don't you take a back seat?

Maybe it's not about where you sit? Maybe it's about just allowing things to happen as they do. If you are lucky enough to have step-children that welcome you as a parental figure like mine did to me then maybe it's about taking your cue's from them. If they allow you to be a parent then parent.

I feel honored to be apart of my step-children's lives. I love that they come to me for things and want to share things with me but in the back of my mind I fear that I might overstep one day, catch them on a bad teenage hormone day, and I will hear those heart crushing words "your not my mom".

I will never compare to their Mother, I could never image even trying to. I just have learn to be proud of the relationship that I have with them as their step-mom.

'So what'.... this has got to be the hardest thing I have ever tried to put into words. It still feels incomplete but I had to get these initial thoughts out... who knows maybe there is more.... for now, it's enough.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Keeping your customers

Two things to cover today:

1. Why the "so what" at the end of each post?
2. What do you do to keep your customers?

SO WHAT: I decided on "so what" because it can be used to start many questions. Example: So, what is on your mind? So, what do you have to say? So what? So what about that? etc. I am hoping people will comment on what they think, what they feel or what they would like me to talk about. Lets make it interactive...So what....

WHAT DO YOU DO TO KEEP YOUR CUSTOMERS? Do you know who your customers are? No matter your profession we all have customers, knowing who they are and how we treat them is critical to your business' success. Especially in today's society when most people are looking for the "what's in it for me?", or "what will you do for me?", or "how much do I have to spend?" when they consider who will get their business.

Today I called to close a credit card account for a retail store, a credit card I have had for over a decade... one in which I am considered a V.I.P. according to the card and all the info I get from them, and they reminded me of my card status at every prompt on the automated menu. I cancelled the card because I no longer use it. There wasn't anything the company did to make me want to cancel but they also didn't do anything to make me want to keep it. More importantly when I called to close the account I didn't speak to anyone. It was completely automated. REALLY? They let their V.I.P. customers go that easily? I couldn't believe it. I was pleased it was easy and really no hassle but I thought they would at least speak to me and make an effort to keep my business. So what did V.I.P. really mean... very insignificant person? At the end of the call they let me know how I could reopen the account if I wanted to in the future. It seems really easy however, I am not sure I will even consider it since my business was that easy for them to lose.

Things to consider each day you do business:
1. Consider who your customers are, do you have multiple 'types' of customers?
2. What do you do to get their business?
3. What do you do to keep their business?

I highly suggest #3 is reviewed as often as the others. Are you making a personal connection with your customers? People want to feel like they are valued. Their time and money is important and they are giving it to you 'so what' are you doing above and beyond to deserve the continued support of your customers? How do you make them feel valued and that you NEED their business.

So what....

Monday, June 29, 2009

Doing what you love is not work.

A friend 'tweeted' a Scottish proverb today ... "It's only work if you'd rather be doing something else". (Thanks Jason)

So how do I get back to that place, where I wouldn't rather be doing something else. I just celebrated 10 years with my current employer and have to be honest, I have more days where I wish I would/could be doing something else. Why is that? What changed?

I know how I got here. Up until a few years ago I thought I was doing what I truly loved. I found my passion for baking and cooking after I joined a ready made family. It doesn't hurt that I am pretty darn good at it too.

What I have found to be difficult was deciding, do I continue down this path of complacency or do a leap off a cliff and make a career change. 10 years is a big investment to just toss aside for something so risky. Especially with more financial obligations and kids that depend on my stable job and benefits.

In the last month I have done a lot of thinking, planning, and research. It's time to make a change. I have found that my desire to do something else and my lack of effort to make that happen is not the best example to set for a child who wants to be a famous musician one day. I have the same conversations with Logan that I do with myself, if you have big plans for yourself you better have some big action to back it up.

"So what" action have I taken thus far:

* I wrote down what I liked about my job 5 years ago, what I like about my job today, and what has changed in my job in the last 5 years.
* From that list I was able to identify the things I needed to address or change in order to move forward. I now have a better picture of what I have to do and what I 'can' do while trying to realize my dream.
* I made a separate list of what I want to be doing in 5 years and then 10. Where do I see my life? What am I doing, and what does that look/feel like?
* I then took action. I made action items for those things I want in my future, things I need to start on today. I made appointments, set goals, and deadlines. These things will keep me on task to assure I am where I want to be in 5/10 years.

In short:

See it, believe it, share it, live it.

This video is of a man who plays the glass harp. We saw him perform during our last visit to VA. I was so fascinated by his musical talent. He found what he loves and shares it with anyone who stops to listen!!!

SO WHAT... if you haven't caught on to the "So what" at the end of every post, stay tuned and I will explain in my next posting. I would like to hear from all of you on what you think I mean when I say "So What..."