Posts Tagged ‘responsibility’

Learning From Experience

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Once again I find myself hovering over my 17-year-old son, trying to convince him to NOT wait until the last minute to finish an assignment he has been putting off. And, once again, he is telling me not to worry, that he will get it done, he has a plan. I know his plan: staying up all night the night before it’s due, reading until his eyes turn red. But I know something will come up to get in the way. He’ll fall asleep (probably), he’ll suddenly remember another assignment due at the same time that takes precedence (possibly), or something much more fun will present itself and he just won’t be able to resist it (definitely). This pattern repeats itself over and over again. No matter how many times I try to reason with him, he keeps going back to his old procrastinating self. I say the same things every time. ”If you wait until the last minute and you get sick, you won’t feel like doing it.” ”If you wait until the last minute, you’ll be stressed-out and won’t be able to do as good a job as I know you’re capable of.” ”If you wait until the last minute and something else comes up, you’ll have to miss out on the fun because you put off doing your work.” Except the fun part almost always happens.

I don’t know why he has to be this way. You’d think by now he would have caught on that it is so much easier to do the work in smaller batches than try to get it all done in one marathon session at the last minute. No matter how persuasive my argument is, he just won’t do what I want him to. He has so many talents: a graceful, athletic ability that is a joy to watch, a wonderful sense of humor, a willingness to pitch in and help when he sees someone in need, and an uncanny way of nearly always charming me out of a funk, whether he is the cause of it or not. Unfortunately, time-management is not one of his gifts, as frustrating for me as that may be.

As his parent, I try to guide him, help him learn from my experience (in my head I can hear my Mom saying ”good luck with that”), pass on all the time-management skills I have learned over the years. Take a big task and break it down into smaller, more manageable portions. Figure out how much time you need to spend on your project each day. Think the task through before you start so you don’t have to figure the whole thing out as you go. It all seems so simple when it is laid out in front of you.

Except you actually have to put it all into practice. It’s one thing to know what you should do and another to do it. The truth is, I had to learn these skills through experience and consequences, and I’m still far from perfect. Leading by example sometimes only goes so far, and while I do mostly follow my own great advice, it’s still tempting to tell, yell, and cajole him into better management skills, as ineffective as that tactic may be. When all is said and done, I realize that my son will have to learn the same way I did: by messing up and paying my dues. In the meantime, hope springs eternal that at least some of my good habits will rub off on him. I know my mom still holds out hope for me!

Hurry Up and Wait

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

I was at a party recently on the 10th floor of an old building in New York City. Right beside the elevator everyone had to take to get to the party was a big sign saying to limit the number riding the elevator to six people. Since there were only 3 of us in our group, this wasn’t a problem. We climbed in, and, I have to admit, became a little concerned at the creakiness of that old lift. Nervously making jokes about getting out alive, we were relieved when the ride was over and the doors opened, welcoming us to the party in progress.

We hadn’t been there too long when a big commotion in the hallway got everyone’s attention. Sure enough, the elevator was stuck between floors and nothing could get it to budge. In what seemed like the wink of an eye, New York City firemen, laden with their gear, were climbing up the 10 floors. They popped open the elevator and got everyone out within 5 minutes. Truly, it was a sight to behold! When the doors opened, out came seven people.

I have thought back to that scene many times since. Would I have gone along with cramming one more person into the elevator, thinking ‘it’s just one more, what can that hurt?’ in my haste to get to the party? Maybe. Probably. But I hope not.

How many times in life do we push the envelope because we’re in a hurry or because following the rules would be an inconvenience? And frankly, when we do it, we do usually get away with it and suffer no consequences. But this time it backfired on an elevator full of people. Because seven people chose to ignore that sign, they took two truckloads of firemen off the street and out of pocket for those who truly may have needed their remarkable expertise and courage in a crisis. And, with the elevator now broken, our having to walk down 10 flights of stairs at the end of the night sure didn’t endear the rule breakers to the rest of the party goers!

This summer, I hope we can all pay a little more attention when we’re hurrying about our day. If we can slow down, we may actually find that we truly settle into a flow, and we’ll know at our core when we are about to do some dumb, inconsiderate, or dangerous thing. Not only that, we’ll be savoring more precious moments than we ever do when we are in such a hurry to get where we’re going.

One-Day Tuesday Special Savings!

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Save 80% on Stoo Hample’s Book of Bad Manners, today’s “One-Day Tuesday” special discounted item.

Was $15.99, Today (06/22/10) Just $2.97!

Price goes back up tomorrow (06/23/10). Shop Now!

Enjoy the Ride

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

My younger son is now of driving age, and I hesitantly let this inexperienced, newly permitted driver take the wheel on a recent weekend get-away. We left at rush hour, because why wouldn’t you want your 15-year-old kid to have his first freeway experience at the busiest time of the day with the sun setting directly behind him so he can’t really see if the brake lights ahead of him are on or not!

After nearly putting my foot through the floor a few times, I forced my shoulders back down to a normal position and settled in for the ride. I did my best to give directions with plenty of notice so there were no last-minute lane changes, and gently suggest slowing down ahead of time rather than waiting until there were only inches to spare between us and the next car. As the busy city freeway gave way to the less traveled rural roads, I was struck by how the changing landscape mirrored the changing stages of life with my children.

As a new parent, I often felt frazzled, with never enough time to get everything done and never feeling sure I was doing things ‘right.’ Then, without my realizing it, the ‘rush hour’ days eased into a little slower pace. The elementary school years were filled with wonderful discoveries and hours spent together. As we passed through the countryside with its softly rolling hills, we started to climb to higher elevations much like the challenges of middle school. Projects became more difficult, friends came and went, and like our ride, first there was a gentle slope, a dip into a small valley, another slope, and then the tumultuous teen years, full of steep inclines, sharply twisting roads, and the uncertainty of what might be waiting around the next corner.

Finally, we reached the summit and began to descend through the now rocky landscape, just as my boys have turned into young men with deep voices trying to find their own place in the world. Now, as I sit up late at night waiting for them to come home, or have a ‘discussion’ on why it is so important to do their very best in whatever they attempt, whether it seems completely irrelevant to them or not, I think about that trip. The rough, unforgiving landscape gave way to the vast, open desert, the infinite vistas filled with the same promise of adventure and discovery my boys have waiting for them in the future. And just as my baby boy did fine on that drive (we arrived with all our parts intact), I am reminded that my boys, too, will do fine no matter where life takes them. I can’t control it all; I can only offer my voice of experience when needed or wanted and sit back and enjoy the ride.

“Searching” for Peace

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Maybe this is common knowledge, but did you know that it’s possible for a website with a “search” feature to keep track of all of the words typed into the “search” box? When you think about it, it’s an amazing tool that can be used to find out just what people are interested in, eager to know about, or are looking to buy.

I tell you this because during the start of the Iraq War, we noticed a huge surge in the number of searches on our website for the word “peace.” The conflict was on all of our minds, no matter where we stood politically. We were worried, scared, and not at all comfortable with the fact that our country was at war. So a lot of us were searching for anything that said “peace” — whether it was the word, itself, the peace symbol, a dove, or anything, really, that communicated hope for a sense of harmony in the world. But now, with the war headlines much smaller, the number of searches for “peace”? Not so many.

I’m pretty sure most of us would agree that the absence of war does not equal peace. And I’m pretty sure most of us would agree that just because we no longer hear daily war casualty numbers doesn’t mean that peace resides in the Middle East. One could say that what has replaced the war headlines — the world economic crisis — is certainly a situation riddled with anguish, fear, and despair — many of the traits of war, itself. So, I’m wondering if, judging from the decrease in the number of “peace” searches on our website, many of us believe that we now have less need to think about and work for peace. I hope not.

Because — and we’ve heard this a million times — peace comes from within. It needs to begin very close to home. It might begin with finding something to be grateful for and for sharing your gratitude with a smile for those you meet. It might begin by picking up an extra bouquet at the farmers’ market for your neighbor who doesn’t get out much. It might begin with taking a deep breath and waiting a moment before you open your mouth to vent to someone. Or maybe by volunteering your time to an effort that makes the earth a gentler place. I guess what I’m saying is that for there to be greater peace in the world, there needs to be greater peace in our own, personal worlds. Internet searches for the word “peace” are fine, but the real search begins within.

The Mug of Peace(available at our sister site, IsabellaCatalog.com) At first, it was the irrepressibly cheery colors of this hand-painted ceramic mug that caught my eye. What really sold me, though, was the small peace sign embossed into its side. I just love starting my day with this optimistic mug. Whether paired with tea, coffee, or hot chocolate, it’s the perfect gift for all your peace-loving friends. Microwave and dishwasher safe. [Review by Janet Kelly]

A Spoonful of Sugar

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Mary Jo, our Accounting Manager and mother of two adolescent boys, is sidetracked right now with a bad knee injury. The fact that she’s under doctor’s orders to lay really low, knee in a brace, isn’t helping her feel as organized or in control as she’d like to be. She was already behind with some housework when the accident happened. Additionally, her very elderly and relatively incapacitated grandmother is 2 months into a 4-month stay and guests are in town this weekend-enough to make nearly any mother’s head spin.

We’ve probably all been in this spot to some degree or another. Whether it’s because of doctor’s orders to lay low, because we’ve got such a bad bug that we can’t even think of getting out of bed, or because we’ve been called out of town to be with an ailing loved one, there are times when we just can’t do all that we expect of ourselves or that our families have come to depend on. We can go crazy with stress about it or do our best to surrender to the situation (which, I grant you, is no easy task). And there is a lot to be said for knowing that somewhere in the situation there may be an unforeseen gift.

In Mary Jo’s case, she’s using her incapacitation as an opportunity to show her boys how much she does as their mother and as the person who manages the household. (A priceless lesson, I’d say.) The first night, her younger son cooked his first dinner for the family: hot dogs, sliced oranges, potato chips, pineapple, and carrots. He also had to set the table and make tea for his great grandmother. And he had to time everything so that they ate at some semblance of the dinner hour! The next night, her other son concocted a dinner around sloppy joes. Acknowledging and wisely surrendering to her limitations, she called in a day care provider to help with her grandmother. Her husband has kicked it up a notch, too, despite a busy time at work, and her brother is driving the boys to school for the duration.

She told me that she watched “Mary Poppins” one night and was intent on looking for all the spoonfuls of sugar that she can find in this whole kerfuffle. When I last heard from her, she said that there really are quite a few spoonfuls. “The crutches should motivate me to do more pushups. My upper arms needed this workout,” was her last report. I had to chuckle-and marvel-at her willingness to find what makes this whole knee thing more than just an inconvenience. While she’s finding the silver linings, perhaps the most valuable gift in all of this is the fact that her kids get to step up to the plate and help with daily chores that they assumed (as most kids do) just miraculously happen. A gift for the boys in that they are learning how much their mom does and they now get to contribute to her, and a gift for Mary Jo in that her family now appreciates her on a whole new level. Silver linings, indeed!

The Family That Cleans Together…

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Children are natural helpers. They love to share our work. But we must slow ourselves down enough to make space for them to work at their own pace and in their own way. They may not do things to our exacting standards the first few years that they are helping us, but with lots of opportunity and encouragement, as well as a healthy dose of acceptance for a job almost done (especially when they are very young), they will grow into capable workers. Teach skills sequentially, gradually adding the more subtle details, and soon you will have children who can see the dirt in a dirty sink and know how to clean!

Once a week, we clean our house as a family. Dividing up the chores, we go through our list and clean everything all at once. Our younger children always have a cleaning partner and are given a small but important job to do. A three-year-old equipped with two paper sacks can quite skillfully be in charge of sorting the trash and the recycling. As long as there is someone in the room with them, my children have always been quite thrilled to have tangible work that is in their care. Each year as we give them more freedoms, we also add to their responsibilities. By the time they are ten, they are capable of doing all the simple chores around the house—dishes, laundry, vacuuming, dusting, cleaning the bathrooms. They still like company when they work, but now their efforts are truly helping. When you clean as a family, no one has to be the “house slave.” More important, children learn that work is intrinsically satisfying and that it takes the whole family to make the home run smoothly.

Keeping an Open Heart in the Presence of Pain

Friday, July 10th, 2009

I can remember my father sitting at a restaurant table, years ago, quizzing my husband and me about current events and voting issues. We were young and absorbed in our new life together, and keeping up with the news was the last thing on our minds. More accurately, we’d made a somewhat conscious decision to not keep up with the news because it all seemed to be bad and what’s the use and how could our votes really count, anyway? Much to my poor father’s horror, we actually articulated this opinion to him, sending this very politically knowledgeable man into a tailspin of incredulity and, I would guess, disgust.

Since then, in fits and starts, I have become more politically aware and attentive to the news. I know enough of what’s going on to be conscious of the fact that there’s a lot more going on than what we’re being told. I don’ t think anyone would argue that unless a sensational spin can be applied to the latest current event, it’s generally not considered to be newsworthy. It ’s that ratings thing, you know. For some weird reason, the bad news, not the good, tends to get our attention and so we’re dished up even more and more of it. A twenty-minute dose of current events is sometimes enough to make you want to crawl into a hole and wait out whatever it is we, as humans, are collectively going through right now. Or would it be saner to just opt to remain ignorant of these happenings over which we have no direct influence?

I don’t know for sure, but I do know that lately I don’t have to turn on the news to hear of sadness. It seems as if there are tragedies hitting closer to home and to loved ones than ever before. And I know that I’m not alone in my opinion. Friend after friend expresses the same sentiment. There is just a lot of grief not only “out there,” but “here” as well. It’s strange. And I often find myself struggling to stay balanced enough to keep on keeping on. If I allow myself to linger under whatever dark cloud is floating above me, I somehow find myself merged with that dark cloud, which then, I believe, in some way gets bigger because I am now part of it.

In the midst of what seems like a steady barrage of stories that could break my heart or make me angry, I have found that being active is so much more helpful than being passive. The bottom line is that I must make a conscious decision every day - sometimes every few minutes - to soften my heart and refuse to partake in judgment and hate. I’ve always known - but have to remind myself more often now, it seems - that I have a choice. I can just dwell on what is horrible. Or, I can be aware that there indeed are unspeakable tragedies going on even at the other end of the block (not to mention on the other side of the world) and keep my heart open and light and always ready to find joy, no matter how small that joy may seem.

I don’t know why I’ve changed. Maybe it’s because my children are older now and I have seen some of the ways life has challenged them, and I’ve seen how strong they are when they stand up to face these challenges. Or maybe it’s because life has changed me through trials of my own, honing me, polishing me, and gentling me in the process. It’s hard to tell. But what I do know now is that when all else falls away, one thing remains: the fundamental human need we all have to be connected to each other. And through consciously seeking this connection, I am learning to make space in my heart to hold the pain I meet in life and to embrace every ounce of joy that comes my way. My goal is now to enlarge my cup, so I can hold all that the world has to offer and greet each experience with compassion. The larger my heart gets, the more I can experience. It puts me at risk (for the world does hold tremendous pain), but without that risk my ability to seek and choose joy is severely limited. And without joy in my heart, how can I face the day?

A Billion Simple Acts of Peace

Peacejam: A Billion Simple Acts of Peace

Peacejam is an inspiring book/DVD about young people who teamed up with Nobel Laureates to create projects of real change and healing for the world.

Bucking the Trend in Company Culture

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

A recent shopping trip to one of those big box stores got me thinking about customer service or the lack thereof in our culture these days. The “big” stores are places where the customer experience really isn’t high on anyone’s priority list - the store’s or the customer’s. It’s all about price. So, it’s really not too surprising that it is impossible to find an employee who might answer a question or offer some assistance while you’re shopping. Basically, you’re on your own and you just go there for some of the things you might need in large quantities and get out as quickly as you can.

The check-out experience is usually pretty ho-hum, of course. It really has to be a challenging job to stand at the register, scanning thousands of things a day, dealing with folks who really don’t want to even be there and are zombied out because the experience has been so overwhelming. However, my  check-out experience on this particular trip was truly rewarding: the checker actually looked me in the eye, asked me how I was, called me by name (it was on my membership card), and wished me a happy  weekend.

Wanting to let her employer know about my positive experience and hoping he/she would pass along my appreciation to the checker, I went to the company’s website to email my comments. But let me tell you, it was quite a challenge to find the right link and I’m not altogether sure that my compliments will even make it to her - which is what got me thinking about our society’s business culture these days.

It sometimes seems that customer service just doesn’t matter anymore. It’s as if the way we treat our customers, the way we treat employees, the way we expect to be treated as customers, and the way we expect to be treated as employees has changed dramatically…and not for the better. More and more, it’s all about price. Customers are becoming acclimated to being treated like…like…nothing, while at the same time, the “culture” of a company often doesn’t include the importance of friendliness, helpfulness, and graciousness.

So, should her employer not pass along my comments, my thanks go out to Irma N. (her name’s on my receipt). Thank you for making a humdrum shopping trip end on such a pleasant note and for sending me out the door in a better mood than when I entered.  And thank you to every single person behind every single counter who deals with all of us every day.

Who’s the Kid and Who’s the Parent?

Friday, May 8th, 2009

Recently three of us were walking through a convention hall. A 5- or 6-year-old boy carrying a red sports drink was ahead of us, with his parents several yards in front of him. At one point, the boy stumbled and caught himself, but as he was recovering, half his drink sloshed onto the floor. Seeing the slippery mess he had made, he ran to catch up to his parents. We watched as he stopped his parents, they turned, and he pointed to the spill. We also watched in disbelief as his parents shrugged, turned around, and kept walking, leaving the spill for someone else to either slip in or clean up–not their problem, I guess.

I could tell that this bothered the child because he kept looking back to check on that spill all the way out of the building. His parents? Not once did they turn and look back. Not once.

What message did those parents convey to their child? He obviously knew on some level that he had made the mess and needed to clean it up. They taught him that if you just walk away, someone else will clean up your messes for you. Wow.

I know it was the end of a long day and everyone was super tired. But as parents, we need to always be careful of what lessons we are teaching our children. Maybe on a different day, when the parents weren’t burned out from having walked miles at a convention, they might have stopped to clean up the mess. But on this day, they shrugged it off, and that boy will never forget the lesson they taught him. Let’s all try to be aware that children are watching us, whether it is convenient or not, and they are looking to us as adults to show them how to be good citizens of the world.

Have a peaceful and restful summer and enjoy every spectacular day that you get to spend with your children.