Put on some lipstick & pull yourself together

“I don’t want to do this, it’s too hard.”

“I’m triggered.”

“Why did you smack him?”
“I thought he took my pencil.”
“Where is the pencil?”
“I found it in my pocket…”

These are direct quotes from my students, middle schoolers who are hormonal and dramatic and lazy. They refuse to learn some days and, in an ironic twist, will go out of their way and work really hard to avoid working. This isn’t a post about “kids these days,” (though I could write a book.)

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Change out the words a little and see if it hits closer to home.

“No one will contribute to my GoFundMe, it’s not fair.”

“I need a ‘safe space’.”

“Why are you rioting?”
“My candidate didn’t win.”
“Did you vote?”
“Well…no…”

Scary isn’t it?

I’ve thought long and hard about this topic and I think I have an answer, inasmuch as you can solve a problem with a broad generalization. So here’s my advice, take it for what it’s worth:

Grow up.

555f03953cbfdf521b85936cb33166ffThat’s it. Grow up. Get up, get over yourself, and go do something. If you don’t have the life you want, it’s probably because you aren’t making it happen, or you are and you need to be patient. The life of a Pinterest board, the life your parents have, the life you’ve always wanted comes after years of hard work, effort, humility, and perseverance. Don’t expect anyone to give you anything. Earn that nonsense.

Stop talking about how people don’t understand your mission or your meaning or your purpose. Borrowing from Picasso: Your meaning in life is to find your gift. Your purpose in life is to give it away. To act justly love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. Period. (That last part was from Micah.)

In the meantime – your purpose is to contribute, in a real way. Stop with the made up niche markets and feeling victimized when people just don’t get you. Stop acting like this broken and imperfect world owes you anything. ANYTHING.

If you find yourself in the same predicament over an over, maybe it’s because you’re doing something wrong. Everything happens for a reason, but often that reason is that you made a bad choice and are dealing with the consequences. These aren’t growing pains, you aren’t misunderstood.

It would be easy to think that I’m calling out the millennials, or the people who are paving a new road, working hard to affect change. But no. Entitlement isn’t generation specific but it is a rampant pandemic. So knock it off.

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Get it together: Handling finances like a grownup

*Note: This is NOT a sponsored post. I’m receiving no compensation for the opinions expressed.*

So…raise your hand if you have a budget.

*moderately impressed*

Keep your hand up if you actually use your budget.

*mmhmm*

You’re not alone, my friends. A lot of us seem to be under the impression that we don’t really need a budget. Perhaps you have rough numbers so you make sure you end up in the black each month. But do we really have control of our finances? Or, if we have money to cover all of our bills, do we just call it good enough?

It can be intimidating and uncomfortable to start budgeting. Whether you’re single or have a large family, budgeting can make your life a lot easier and less stressful. I’m a huge fan of Dave Ramsey and have gone through Financial Peace University. One of his mantras is: If you don’t tell your money where to go, you’ll wonder where it went.

Dave advocates the envelope system in which you keep physical cash in envelopes so that you can cut frivolous spending. The idea is that you can’t physically spend money that isn’t in the envelope. I understand what he’s saying, but since I pretty much pay all of my bills online, the cash system is more of a hassle than anything else. Plus, it might just be me, but I spend cash so much faster than if I have to use my debit card. In my head cash is free money, because I’ve already “spent” it out of my checking account. Maybe a generational thing? Or another step on my ever-increasing psychosis…meh.

Anyway. Cash envelopes aren’t practical for me. Enter: GoodBudget.

An app with accompanying online interface, GoodBudget allows you to track expenses and create virtual envelopes so you can put all of your money to good use. It’s free to use, but does come with a premium upgrade option (still only $5 per month or $45 for a whole year.)

Edit_Envelopes

Set up takes a little time, as you have to create your budget and allocate your money into envelopes. There are tutorials that help you out, though. I recommend doing your setup online and then logging in with your mobile device. Once you get going, though, it’s super user-friendly and intuitive. You can even set up recurring expenses or income so you don’t have to reenter your regular paycheck or your mortgage every month. The app doesn’t connect to your bank account, so you don’t have to worry about security. It also is an easy way to reconcile your bank account as you go, since you can compare your balance on the app and in your account. I may or may not have been known to go hunting through my expenses to find the missing $0.07 so my balances matched. Just saying.

You fill your envelopes at the beginning of each month, even if you get paid sporadically, or bi-monthly (like I do). That way you can keep track of month’s expenses at a time. There is a reports feature to see your spending habits at a glance.

FillDebtEnv

The app also provides support and advice for debt management. I’m staring down the barrel at a mountain of student loans, but having a plan of action for early payoff makes it a bit less stressful.

I’ve been using the app for about 4 months now and I can honestly say that I’ve been spending less, paying off more of my debt, and much less stressed out about money. Adulting means being responsible (bleh) and GoodBudget makes it a little easier to control your funds.

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Let men be men by letting boys be boys.

I have something to say.

I expect J to open doors for me. I expect him to walk me to my car at the end of a date. I expect him to help me with my coat and offer to carry my shopping bags (which, no joke, are usually his shopping bags).

Now, I don’t have to worry about these things. He always opens the door. He comes around to let me out of the car (unless I’m driving, apparently the rules are different then). He walks on the street side of the sidewalk, even if that means moving me to his other arm. Unless I trick him out of it, he always pays for dinner or coffee or tickets to wherever. I tease him a little about his chivalry, but I never dismiss it; I always thank him. Not because I feel obligated to, but because I want him to know how much these small acts mean to me.

e119a73f114933e5619ebda890cfee07In my classroom, when I want an act of physical labor performed, I ask for a young gentleman to help me. Not because I don’t think that the girls in my class could handle it, but because I want to teach my boys to be men. Men who stand when a lady enters the room and hold doors open. Men who grow up to be husbands and fathers and take care of their families no matter what, even if it means working 3 jobs to make ends meet. Men who conduct themselves in a respectable and dignified way.

But I teach middle school.

An expectation of miniature men is unrealistic, even damaging. Boys will be boys. I see it every day. Boys smirk and laugh about inappropriate things. Boys throw things at each other and tease. Boys are hyper and rowdy and can’t sit still for an 84 minute block. It’s not hate speech when boys taunt each other. It’s not a danger to the school environment when they can’t sit still. It’s childhood playing out in the classroom. But it could be irreversibly detrimental to pigeonhole spirited young men into labels of “defiant” or “hyperactive” while destroying their desire to learn.

I’m not alone on this.

Christina Hoff Sommers, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in conjunction with Prager University, put together the following short video about the effects of a “female-centric” academic culture. It’s chilling stuff.

May I let my boys be boys, so that they can grow up to be men…

Happy Weekend!

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Stand by Your Man | How to help when there’s nothing you can do

“Sweetheart, I’m exhausted.”

His voice on the phone broke my heart a little. God, how do I make this better? I feel so helpless.

When J is in pain, I’m in pain. It’s as simple as that. Whether it’s physical pain, like his hurt shoulder from a weekend of snow shoveling, or the weight of his responsibilities, I yearn to bear some of the burden. When I can’t make it better, I feel useless. After much consideration (and feedback that makes me feel like this stuff really works) I present 5 things you can do when you can’t do anything for your man. Or, you know, some much shorter, catchier title. Meh.

Pray for him

Get on your knees and plead for him. Pray that he would be strengthened, that God would protect his mind and heart, that he would not be tempted by sin in his time of weakness. Pray that you would have wise and encouraging things to say. Pray that God would use this hardship to bring himself glory. I think often we see prayer as a last resort, but it should really be a first response.

Listen to him

He may not want to vent; be ready to listen if he does. You will likely feel helpless as you are unable to do anything to ease his pain, but listening and standing by him as he walks through the valley are far more influential than you realize. Lend him strength by sharing his struggle; be sure he knows that you are always available to lend an ear.

Woman hugging a manRemind him that you are solid

During a stressful time in your man’s life, the last thing he needs is to worry that you are going to get fed up and walk away. Even if you feel like he “should know” how you feel, make a point to remind him that you are in it for the long haul and you aren’t going anywhere. He’ll know that whatever else may come his way, you’re always in his corner.

Tell him why you respect him

Women need love, men need respect. Make a list of the things you respect about him. It doesn’t have to be long, just a few things will go a long way to restoring his soul. Is he a great provider? Does he work hard? Does he take physical fitness seriously? Is he emotionally available to you? Is he a godly man?

When is that last time you told him how much those qualities mean to you, how much you respect him for all he does?

Be silly with him

No one can be serious all the time. He may be struggling through physical pain or emotional trial, but you can go a long way to lighten his mood. Send him a quick text with a funny meme, share an inside joke, or send him a selfie of a silly face. You’ll bring a smile to his face and remind him that you’re thinking of him in one fell swoop.

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The misery of merriment…

Christmas morning started like any other.

My 30-year-old brother allowed me to sleep until 9 am (some kind of record, I’m sure) before decreeing that it was present time. Presents opened, I made Christmas scones and we munched happily while the roast was prepped and went into the oven. Then comes the lull, that time between the flurry of activity in the morning and the mad dash to get Christmas dinner on the table. In a bit, I’ll need to pull my china out of storage and wash it. There will be potatoes to mash, crudités to cut up, and veggies to roast. I’ll get swept up in the rush and the beautiful adrenaline of the holidays will lift my spirits.

But right this moment, I’m sad.

Maybe because there is a great big personality missing. Maybe because the second year is so much harder than the first. Maybe because the weather is unseasonably warm and rainy. Maybe because a small part of my heart is on an island in the middle of the Pacific. Maybe because there seems to be no peace on earth. Whatever the reason, the ennui is real.

I hope this holiday finds you wrapped in warmth and love. If, instead (or additionally,) it finds you feeling a bit sad, my heart goes out to you. Remember, always, that God’s grace is sufficient. He will carry you through this difficult season and hold you up when you lack strength. He is greater than your pain and your sorrow.

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas.

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Just stop ‘Just’ing | Finding My Voice

As I near my the end of my internship *cue choir of angels*, I find myself in the unique position of needing a teaching job in January. Normally an August to June gig, trying to find a job for the spring is equal parts luck and well-timed maternity leave.

Trying to stay hopeful, I recalled a conversation with the principal of the middle school where I spent my first placement. When last we spoke, she insinuated that there may be an opening earlier than expected, though stopped short of making any promises.  I figured that it couldn’t hurt to follow-up and drafted an email to that effect. When perusing for typos, I couldn’t help but notice how passive I sounded. Phrases such as “just checking” and “just wondering” littered the short composition.

I was appalled. When did I start ‘just’ing? It isn’t only me, either. We’ve developed a culture of passivity in which seeking information or *gasp* asking someone to do their job is tantamount to bothering someone. How many times have I apologized to a customer service representative for asking a question, knowing full well that answering questions is the very nature of their profession?

I’m reminded of a spoken word poem I encountered years ago by Lily Myers. The poet, a college student, describes the tradition in her family for men to grow larger as the women shrink in both stature and personality. These silent victims have learned to accommodate, believing themselves unworthy to occupy too much space. Her chilling words describe how this habit has followed her into adulthood:

“I asked five questions in genetics today, and all of them started with the word, ‘Sorry…'”

It’s horrifying to consider that I, a historically confident human being, would devalue my worth to a point that I negate my own words. I rewrote the email, professionally but in no uncertain terms asking for the status on the tentative job offer she extended. I vowed to never again shrink behind a passive voice.

I also got the job.

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Drink the coffee and do the things | Leaving your baggage at the door

One morning, I hit a deer on my way to work. Understandably, I was a bit scattered when I walked in the front door of my school. A student immediately cornered me for help on his Atoms and Period Table study guide for the test I’m giving on Wednesday while another student tried to explain why he didn’t have his project to turn in, even after he had all last week in class to work on it.

And I hadn’t even set down my bag yet.

Two of the girls in my home base check in with me before heading off to various early morning commitments (overachievers). In my frazzled state, I was unusually dismissive and shooed the girls off to their activities without taking time for my regular cheery small-talk.  One of the girls, who we’ll call…Melissa (names have been changed so I don’t lose my job) called my bluff. This conversation followed:

“Ms. Alger! That is not how we start our morning! Where is your coffee?”
“Um…on my desk?”
“Drink it! We’ll try this again later.”

Bossy thing, isn’t she? But she was right. I let my frantic rushing about and crammed schedule impact my relationships with my students. They look to me to be consistent and positive. Sure, everyone has bad days, but how often do we use a bad day as an excuse to be snarky or negative to the people around us?

Drink your coffee and start your day again. And watch out for deer.

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Let it begin | 4 Ways To Dominate the Back-to-School Shuffle

I spent today hunched over my computer as I dredged through a backlog of email so impressive I could star in my own episode of Hoarders: Buried Alive – Virtual Edition.

Classy.

I’m doing my best to get caught up before school starts and all hell breaks loose. If you’ve followed along, you probably know that I’ll be student teaching this fall. I’m also taking on the new and terrifying exciting role of adjunct professor and will be teaching my first college class starting in September. Added to my responsibilities at church, family and friends that I’d like to see occasionally, and a weekend class on study skills for elementary school aged children, I have a lot on my plate.

Whether your fall consists of 937 jobs or running kids to soccer, ballet, and piano lessons, it is traditionally a time of change and chaos. Here are 4 ways to fight back.

1. Get Organized

You know I love my planner, but the paper thing isn’t for everyone. Organization, however, is no joke. Preparation isn’t just about knowing what is going to happen. Preparation means controlling what you can so that the uncontrollables in your life don’t derail you. If you’d rather go the techie route, you can use Google Calendars or apps like Any.do to track your tasks, appointments, and responsibilities.

For my self-employed or freelance readers, try an app like Timesheet – Time Tracker to track your hours and make billing a breeze. I used this app to track my students when I was a tutor and it was incredibly easy to use. Best of all, it’s free!

2. Take the Stress out of Dinner

Picture this – it’s been a long day. You were 3 minutes late picking up princess from math team because the little mister’s ballroom dance classes ran over (that’s right ballroom dance, you got a problem with that?) and now she won’t stop giving you lip about how you abandoned her and how damaged she’ll be forever. While you practice  deep breathing and try not to reach out and show her just how damaged she could be, it suddenly occurs to you that you still have to figure out what to feed the ankle-biters. Grrrr…

The Resourceful Gals have an ingenious system for making dinner time a snap by doing a whole month’s worth of planning at once. It takes a bit of work to set up, but it could save you some serious time (and money!) in the long run.

3. Don’t be a Morning Person

People who try to wake me up in the morning do so at their own risk. No joke, it’s not pretty. I’m barely able to function, let alone achieve any level productivity before my first (and second) cup of coffee. Add in the stress of breakfast, backpacks, and bus stops and I’m super glad the only person I have to get out the door in the morning is me.

To preempt some of the morning chaos, try a bedtime checklist. Lay out your clothes, fill the coffee pot, make sure your keys are hung up, and get your bag ready for the next day. Give the kiddos a fun bedtime ritual that includes making sure they have that elusive red folder and that lunches are packed. 

This adorable checklist from The Gunny Sack can be put in a picture frame so that little ones can check off items with a dry erase marker before heading off to the land of nod. Everyone sleeps a little easier and mornings aren’t as traumatic.

Picking out your clothes the night before also prevents that morning panic when you realize that your favorite blouse is in the dirty clothes or that you never sewed the button back on to your trousers. *Gasp*

4. Break down your To Do’s.

The real danger of a busy life (besides collapsing from exhaustion) is forgetting things in the fray. Enter, beautiful, glorious lists. Besides the standard grocery or to-do variety, lists are a great way to plan out long-term projects.

Start by determining your goal, project, or task and listing the steps required to meet it. Assign a due date, then work backward to figure out when the steps each need to be completed. That way, when life picks up, you don’t have to worry about large deadlines creeping up on you.

I have 20 artifacts to complete for my internship, on top of lesson plans, graded papers, and band practices. The completed packet isn’t due until January, but it’s much too large of a project to put off until the winter months. Instead, I have deadlines every two weeks, or so, to keep me on track so that I roll into the new year (relatively) stress free.

If the kiddos have huge projects coming up (science fair, anyone?) breakdown their tasks into manageable chunks. If they spend an hour every week working on the monstrous project, you won’t have to stay up the night before it’s due gluing letters on a cardboard backdrop (yeah, I’ve been there too.)

Happy Back to School!

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Nerds Gone Wild | Confessions of a Grammar Nazi

Okay, I have a confession.

I LOVE GRAMMAR.

Call me a Grammar Nazi, or judge me for being annoying, but this is who I am. I like words. I like the way the same 26 letters (in English) can be arranged again and again to create beautiful phrases that inspire and excited and evoke emotions. I’m not one of those people who comment on random Facebook posts to correct them, but I do cringe when I see the mistakes.

And I am not alone. Recently, I was writing a Facebook update about my academic advisor. I typed the word “advisor” and my browser underlined it with a red squiggly line, indicating a misspelling.

I was pretty sure that I hadn’t made a mistake, but consulted the almighty Google to be sure. Which is how I found this from The Grammarist:

Adviser and advisor  are both accepted spellings of the noun meaning one who advises or counsels. There is no difference between them. But adviser, the older version, is listed as the primary spelling in most dictionaries, and it is about five times as common as advisor in current news publications from throughout the English-speaking world.

In the U.S. and Canada, advisor is commonly used in official job titles, but adviser is still generally preferred over advisor in North America, and advisor is only marginally more common in American and Canadian English than in other varieties of English.

Well, thanks internet, that’s very helpful! But wait, there’s more. Read the comments:

  • re “five times as common as advisor”
    Something cannot be five times as common as something else, but can be five times more common than something else

    •  keebali 
      We’ve received comments elsewhere saying the opposite–that “times more” is wrong. I guess we can’t win.

      • Leah 
        Not when you’re playing with nerds! 🙂
      • Let’s turn it around. “One fifth as common” versus “one fifth less common”. Both are actually sound statements, but they mean very different things. “One fifth as common” means 20% of the original… “one fifth less common” means 100%-20% which is the same as 80% of the original. Now applying the same logic to the “five times” case, “five times as common” is the correct usage as intended, as it implies 500% of the original. “Five times more common”, by analogy, would be 100%+500%, or 600% of the original. This is because “more” implies addition (like “less” implies subtraction). In other words, your usage is correct, and I believe gram is mistaken.
      • reardensteel
        Well played.
        • Hmm… that kind of makes sense, but I always use the method I was taught above.
        • Mmmm… consider ‘five times as common’ to be ‘5x as common’ which means 5x Y Therefore it would be 5×100= 500
      • When using a comparator (“more” or “less”), you use “than” to maintain the “more than” or “less than”. In this case you need to use “more common than”. You only use “as” when they are equal “This is as That is” or “This is as common as That.”
        • Angling Anglefish 
          “Twice as common” is wrong? “Twice more common” is correct?
          • Karl 
            They are saying that “Twice as common” would be double and “Twice more common” would be triple or 200% vs 300%, however you like to see it. I agree with them but English is my second language so I’ll let you all figure it out. Good reading though
          • Maria Tyler 
            In math we would interpret “Five times as” to mean 5x, but we would interpret “Five times more” to mean 5x + x = 6x. – Math Professor

Nerds. I love them.

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