Waiting to Fail – Advice from A GenXer

I’m a GenXer…raised in the 1980s. The generation of “Latch Key Kids.” We didn’t wear helmets when we rode our bikes, or elbow pads when we roller skated, if we had done so, our friends would have laughed at us. Our parents didn’t hover over our grades, they didn’t blame our teachers when we failed a test. We got our driver’s license the day we turned sixteen and had a part time job the very next day. We drove used cars, usually the cast-off family car, and we didn’t have GPS. We used a telephone and if we wanted to have a social life, we had to actually got OUT of the house to create one.

And we failed. A LOT.

Somewhere along the line, and I’m not really sure where, because there are still a bunch of us trying to raise our children the same way, things went haywire.

Somehow, we were convinced that our kids needed to have it easier. It started with “time out,” and making a child think about what they did wrong instead of paying a consequence.

And then we decided that if they weren’t doing well in school, it was the teacher’s fault for not teaching them. I’ve raised my kids in two different school districts, so I can attest to the fact that not every school district is created equal. Our current school district is far more superior than our previous district. But that comes with different pressures too. If you don’t fit in the “STEM” box , you’re going to have a tough time in school.

We decided that it wasn’t possible for teens to both have a job AND go to school at the same time. We made it harder for them to get real life experience. Having a job early on allows you to learn responsibility, with showing up and with your money. It’s also the ONLY time in your life you will get to PLAY with your money. You have no debt to pay off, you have no real bills. My first big purchase as a teen was a pair of black suede boots that reached just over the knee and laced all the way up the back. I still remember that they cost $135.00. I put them on lay-away at “Wild Pair” (an awesome shoe store from the 80s) and paid them off little by little until they were mine. And then I took care of them because I worked so hard to get them.

I had several jobs when I was a teen (at different times) because I could change the job when I got bored. I wasn’t locked in. If you wait until after you’ve gone through college, and trained for a career (which is a great plan), but then can’t change the job because you can’t find another one and are locked in because you owe so much on school debt, then no wonder you’re miserable. You never had the chance to PLAY with your money and fail. You can’t afford to fail now.

We had friendships and relationships and realized what it meant to have a good friend that would stand by you no matter what. That would get into trouble with you (in a good way, of course), but you knew what to expect from them, because you had created a face to face relationship. Your friendship was tried and tested. You cried through the bad times and laughed through the good. I know, I’m old and I don’t understand, but on-line relationships don’t provide that same closeness. They just don’t! I have “on-line” friends, to some extent, and they don’t measure up to the friends who have hugged me through break-ups and loss, who have celebrated births and marriages and achievements. It’s different. Read the research. This on-line generation is one of the loneliest, depressed and anxiety-ridden generation of all time. That’s not just my opinion.

“But you don’t understand,” is what I hear. You’re right. I don’t. But you also forget that we were young once too. I grew up under the fear of nuclear war. It was a real fear. But instead of withdrawing, my friends and I made a plan that in the event that they dropped “the bomb,” we would all go outside, put on our sunglasses, sit in our lawn chairs and watch the fireworks. It was how we coped…with sick and twisted humor.

And financially? We get it. My family was caught up in the Aerospace crash of the 80s. My dad was an Aerospace Engineer and had a pension plan. He was set for life…until the aerospace companies crashed and took away everyone’s pensions that they worked for their whole life. My family was devastated. I get it.

But I think the biggest lesson that GenXer’s we’re good at was “failing.” We learned skills to cope with failing. You get up, dust yourself off, and keep moving. It was just a given. Was there anxiety? Sure. Was there depression? You betcha. But that was just a diagnosis, not an excuse. We figured out how to deal with things. We didn’t have time, nor was it acceptable, to give up. “Just Do It” was what we lived by.

My advice to the younger generations?

Work now, so you can play with your money.

Get a job, so you can figure out what you like and don’t like before you get all the way through college.

Get out of the house. For goodness sake, get a gang of friends that really know you. Go to concerts (and DON’T RECORD THEM), just enjoy them. Go bowling, go hang out at a friend’s house, go to the mall, and talk to each other.

Pick up a phone…and CALL someone. Don’t just text them.

Do something for someone else…maybe even one of us “old” people. Do it for the human contact, not because you need “volunteer hours” to graduate.

Be still. Sit in awe and wonder at the world around you. Know that you can make a difference in someone else’s life.

And don’t be afraid to fail.

“I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Thomas Edison.

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Life Isn’t Fair

I won’t go into what sparked this post because to do so would stir up controversy and anger (mostly mine), and I consider this blog my happy space.

“Life Isn’t Always Fair.” Four simple words that I think we’ve forgotten in this day and age.

Nope. We’re too “awoke” to sometimes let things go and move on. We all “want ours.” But our past doesn’t have to dictate our future and sometimes trying to make up for the past only stirs up more hurt and division.

Some things I hope my children (and a LOT of adults) would remember:

  1. You may not get the job you feel that YOU deserve. Sometimes things happen that are beyond your control. Sometimes God (yes, I said God) has a different plan for your life. And though it may not seem like a better plan, He has His reasons. Maybe your dream job would lead you down a life of dependence and despair. Maybe He’s sparing you from that.
  2. You may not get the apology you think that YOU deserve. You can’t make people apologize. Not everyone thinks like you. Learn from the past, forgive, and move on. You’ll save yourself a LOT of grief over time.
  3. You may not get into the college that YOU want. No matter how well you do on your entrance exams, how high your GPA is, or how many extra-curricular activities you’ve been a part of, there will always be someone smarter, luckier, quicker at applying than you. It’s a fact of life and human nature. That doesn’t make you “less than,” it makes you who you are.
  4. You may not get the boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife that you think YOU deserve. We all have a plan, and sometimes those plans don’t work out the way we want them to. Sometimes the gorgeous guy or girl turns out to be a real loser. Again…forgive and move on. There’s no better “vengeance” than living well, and not letting the memory of “what could have been” control you.
  5. Speaking of vengeance…getting even is never the best option. Sure, it feels great in the moment. But it’s been my experience that YOU will waste way too much time and energy worrying about how to get even when the other person won’t even remember who you are. Although, I do have to admit, that when I saw the girl that tortured me throughout middle school and high school at my 10 year reunion and I pretended not to know her, it felt really good. But I wasn’t plotting that moment for 10 years…it just sort of presented itself. I never said I was perfect.
  6. People will disappoint you…it’s part of the human condition. The only person you can (and should) control is YOU.

The common denominator in all this is YOU. You have the power to change what you can, forgive when you should, and no amount of stomping your feet will make up for anything that life, the past or the present, has done to you. Sometimes life just isn’t fair. Sometimes you have to be the bigger person. The forgiving person. The loving person. The one who is willing to rise above the noise and see through the distractions to live as best you can.

So, when life isn’t fair, don’t despair. Get up, brush yourself off, and look for the positive in every experience that you can.

Everyone Has Something…

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(This post was originally posted in 2016)

As a society, we’ve become masters at “labeling.” We know all our disabilities, all our flaws. We’ve given them names and can diagnose them earlier and earlier. But I’m not so sure that’s always a good thing. Sure, early diagnosis can help, even save, a large amount of people. But sometimes giving it a label predestines a person to limit themselves, to limit their life in ways that they may have pushed through had they not been labeled. Because here’s the thing: Everyone has something. Everyone!

Next time you’re in a crowd, even a small crowd, look around. Statistically speaking, EVERY SINGLE PERSON in that crowd has something in their life that they find challenging. A limitation. Sometimes they wear their challenge on the outside and it’s easy to spot. But more often than that, it’s hidden. It’s under their clothes, it’s under their skin, it’s in their brain. And it’s unique to each person.

Even the people that appear to have it all together, they too have something bubbling just under the surface. No one is immune.

One of the most valuable lessons we can give to our peers is to learn to push through challenges. No matter what life has dealt you, you can use that experience to build or to tear down. And everyone has something.

I think our beauty comes from those “flaws,” from those experiences, and from those challenges.

I think it’s our job, as parents, as teachers, as mentors, to help our children and those around us, with our flaws and our challenges, but don’t stop there. It’s our RESPONSIBILITY to show them how we push through our challenges and don’t let them limit us. To show them that even though we have a disease, disorder, or disability, it doesn’t have us.

People watch our every move, our every reaction, especially our children. They look to us for examples of how to handle the stuff that makes up life, both the good and the bad. A parent with a challenge has to shine through their disability, and show their children that it’s not something to stop them from doing what they want in life.

Even when we think our challenge is too big to get over, we can still show our kids what it means to HOPE. But hope isn’t necessarily proactive. Being hopeful can change your state of mind. The lesson is in how we ACT on that hope.

Think about some of our most inspiring people. Why do they inspire us? Usually it’s because they’ve achieved something IN SPITE OF or even BECAUSE OF a limitation. They’ve overcome and made things better for themselves or for those around them.

Everyone HAS something, but not everyone will DO something. How are you going to use your limitation to inspire those around you?

People Hate Change

As a whole, the human race doesn’t like change. How can I make such a generalized, blanket statement like that? Because I’ve seen and experienced it, first hand.

A little background first:

I work in the dairy department of a grocery store. And as such, I have the opportunity to observe a large slice of humanity: different cultures, different socioeconomic backgrounds, different age groups from the very young to the very old, both male and female and anywhere in between. I see a little bit of everything because, well, everyone needs to eat. It’s quite a place if you every want to observe fellow human beings.

My place of employment is going through a remodel, and instead of closing down for several weeks and doing one grand reveal, they’ve chosen the route of remodeling the store department by department. That means that on any given day, the toilet paper is not where it was yesterday, and the dog food is now where the shampoo is, or the peanut butter is where the baby food was two days before.

People are wandering through the store with a look of disgust and frustration on their faces. Most have no problem vocalizing their frustration to the employees, who, because of the abrupt and daily changes, don’t have any idea where most of the items are either. It’s a mess. But it’s going to be beautiful! (they say).

The dairy department, where I work, is mostly one aisle, and it happens to be the first aisle on the right after you’ve gone through the produce department. So, my department is generally the first to hear people’s opinions about the changes. (Lucky me)

This week, they remodeled the dairy aisle: took out the clunky displays in the center of the aisle and replaced our old shelves with an enclosed refrigerated area complete with doors. And it does look beautiful. Oh, and they rearranged the entire aisle: the yogurt is where the cheese was, the cheese is where the sour cream and cottage cheese used to be, the juice is on the other side of the aisle where the creamer used to be, and the eggs have moved to the end of the aisle.

Today was the first day everything was the first day that everything was in place. As customers came around the corner and gazed upon our aisle, they were pleasantly surprised…at first. It’s visually pleasing. And then they realized that things were moved and rearranged. Change had occurred without their consent or input.

Some of the comments today:

“Ooo, look at this! Wait…where’s my creamer?”

“Oh, God…everything is moved! I’ll never find what I need!”

“Why can’t they just leave things alone?!”

“I’m too old to start over.”

“I don’t have time for this! I don’t want to have to hunt for my groceries!”

“Every time I come in here things are different!”

The best part was when they would ask me where something was, in my own department, and I had to take a couple seconds to figure it out. I mean, I work there! It’s my department! I should know, right? Wrong!

Fortunately, most people were patient and understanding. And I thank those customers for that. We’re doing the best we can.

So, here we are back to my initial statement: People don’t like change. Not one person came around that corner and exclaimed, “I love it! Thank you for changing everything around!” or “I can’t wait to find out where my brand of yogurt got moved!” or“ At last! Changes that disrupt my life, even if it’s just for a moment!” Nope. Not a single one. Though I did hear in a consoling tone, “It’s going to be beautiful when it’s all done.”

So, though change may be necessary, change is rarely easy. Change is rarely welcomed. No matter what someone tells you about loving change, I believe that kind of change is circumstantial in nature. The kind of change that people welcome is the kind of change that is self-initiated. And even then, it can be filled with anxiety, even pain.

But change is necessary for us to learn and grow, even if it means having someone move the eggs when you weren’t expecting them to. Or discontinuing your Dragon Fruit Yogurt because you were the only one buying it. Sorry if that was you, by the way.

What about you? Do you welcome change? Or do you run from it?

Sticking to a Meal Plan…FAILURE!

This is the final post in my effort to Stick to a Meal Plan.

The verdict? Failed!

I mentioned in the previous post that my daughter has been sick with the flu. Well, they are dropping like flies around here. My son has missed the last two days of school and my husband woke up this morning with the same symptoms as the kids, but he struggled through his day and came home and crashed…done…sick as the rest of them. I’m the last one standing.

If I was a good Mom and Wife, I would have made chicken noodle soup from scratch for the lot of them. But, as we’ve established, Martha Stewart, I am not.

My son actually requested fast food tonight. My daughter is on the mend, having had the plague since Monday. It’s a beautiful evening outside on the MidAtlantic Coast tonight. So, instead of having my husband bring food home since he was crushed, my daughter and I walked to the nearest fast food place, and I even picked up a can of soup for my husband at the grocery store on the way (which he didn’t eat, by the way).

So, if we’re talking healthy, nutritious, homemade meals for my family, then I guess I achieved about an 80% this week (cooking 5 out of 6 nights, unless you count Tuesday night when only half the family got fast food – then we’re talking about 65%). Not exactly failing, but not really passing either.

I’ll keep trying, because I know I can do it. My husband has always said that our kids should be helping more with dinner. Maybe this could be a way to bring them into the fold? Or is that just my way of cheating? Hmmm…I’m not sure.

Thanks for following along.

Second Attempt – Sticking to a Meal Plan

My last couple of posts have been a bit of a public confession: I have a horrible time Sticking to a Meal Plan. Fast Food is my nemesis. I hate to cook. But I’m trying it again this week – I want to prove to myself that I can stick to a meal plan. We’re almost at the end of the week. Only one more meal to make, and like the Little Engine that Could, I’m chugging along telling myself “I think I can, I think I can.” But only time will tell. Here’s how it’s gone so far:

SundayHope’s End Stew was a success! Though it’s hard to mess that one up, unless I just don’t make it. I used cubed stew meat, baby carrots, and russet potatoes, and a new (as in new to us) wine that we found called Hope’s End. I’m not a connoisseur by any means, but I would use the wine again for stew, and not so much for accompaniment. It’s a smooth wine that goes down easy, but doesn’t have much bite to it, if that makes sense. But the stew was yummy and smelled great cooking!

Monday – I made my own version of Pan Seared Pork Chops, Checker’s Frozen Seasoned Fries, canned green beans, mushrooms sliced and fried in the pork chop pan with minced onion. After I’m done cooking all but two of the pork chops and the mushrooms, I then cooked two pork chops for my husband along with the sauerkraut. He is the ONLY one who likes sauerkraut, though my 13 year old son was willing to try the sauerkraut again, but said that Dad could have it all.

Tuesday – My daughter came home from school on Monday with a fever and sore throat, and by Tuesday morning, was in full-blown flu mode. She didn’t have much appetite. I only had enough Leftover Stew for 2 people, and I didn’t feel like going to the effort to boil more potatoes to stretch the stew into enough Hash for 4 people. So, my husband brought home fast food for my son and I, and I reheated the stew for my husband and daughter. I guess you could say I was only HALF successful that night.

Wednesday – I had Bible Study, and my husband had to pick up poster board for my son (that he forgot about until the last minute) on the way home from work, so I didn’t cross paths with my husband before I left for my meeting. Dinner was my emergency cans of Progresso Creamy Chicken Soup and Pillsbury Crescent Rolls. He was happy to reheat the leftovers and do the few dishes.

Thursday – Instead of Chicken and Soy Veggies, I opted for Chicken Fritz over mashed potatoes with canned green beans and cottage cheese. At this point, BOTH kids were sick with the flu, and they both asked for Chicken Fritz. In hindsight, Chicken and Soy Veggies would have been much more nutritious, but we did just have the Soy Veggies last week. Chicken Fritz should be made with leftover chicken, but I started from scratch with an uncooked chicken breast. A cooking hint: if you use leftover chicken for Chicken Fritz, make sure not to cook the chicken too long to avoid drying it out and ending up with Chicken Fritz Jerky.

So, Friday is the only day left, and Spaghetti and Ravioli is what I’ve got planned. I can do that, right? I’ll let you know tomorrow.