Monthly Archives: March 2018

Being the Light: How to Shine Bright

 

We all have what I like to call an inner flame. When we shine we can do anything. The things we love, the things we have to, and even the things we hate. Many of us are not only hard on ourselves, but we neglect this light. Even I have been guilty of neglecting my inner flame.
 

The House

Today I want to talk about that light. Our individual flames. But, I need to explain a group I call the house. The people who are my chosen family. The people who always stand by me, no matter how far away we are from each other. No matter what is going on. I know they won’t judge.
 
We call this group the House. I don’t remember how the name came to be. Nor does it matter. I met all them through some alt-lifestyle groups I was a part of during my time in Evansville. I am the youngest in the group and I learn something from them every time we interact in person or online.
 
I’ve known most of them for over ten years now.
 
Either way, the people in the house weren’t something I was looking for. They chose me.  I received help from them when I didn’t know where to go.  They became my chosen family. The house is my rock.
 
Over the years we’ve sort of developed our own code of conduct.
It arose when we realized that we were all teaching within our little community. We were all working to help others. And we realized that we were doing this through love or compassion, honesty, honor, and trust.
 
But we have one special saying. It started a few years ago.
 
Be the light.

Be the LIght

We all teach each other, but I will always remember this moment. The day that our fearless leader shared a poem with us. I tried hard to find that exact poem for you, but I couldn’t. But, I did find one that shared a similar spirit I’ve posted it below.
 
You are a precious gem amongst stones. You are a star shining most brilliantly In the darkness of the night.
Be that star and hope that you can serve As a beacon of hope and light the path For those around you.
 
Be a shining example of beauty and divinity Leading the way and leaving a trail For others to emulate.
 
Live so that others may look up to you, And follow the path of goodness and nobility Which you tread upon.
 
When situations seem tough at times And circumstances are beyond control Don’t stop shining.
 
Remember that stars glitter most brightly And shine with all their exquisiteness In the darkest of hours.
So be the light, be the brightest star And continue being who you truly are…
Blessed!
 
By Vijaiya Ramkissoon
 
The poem reminds us that we each have the power to fuel, guide, and love not only ourselves but others. To live so that you model a path for those lost. We each have a light and it our responsibility to help it shine as bright as it can.
 

No easy task right?

 
Today, we live in a world full of negativity. It is hard to be our authentic selves, much less be the light for our family, friends, and even ourselves. We have busy lives. We have fears we want to avoid. Some of us may still be hurt from past trauma. Due to these things, very few people ever let themselves be true to their authentic self.
 
Every day we can stile our own lights through our choices. Worse, we can deny others of the benefit our light might have on them as well.
 
I like to think of the light as the core of my soul. As the cornerstone of who I am. As the values that I wish my daughter to learn from me. Every day I strive to ensure that I shine my light. Some days go better than others.
 
But I want to make sure that I am being who I want to be. That I am teaching her the things I feel she needs to learn. The things I want to see in the world around me.
 
So now, let’s talk about how we feed the light. How we let it shine.
 
Your Inner Fire
 
Recently I read a book called The Right Questions by Debbie Ford (add link). As I read it reminded me of the house and my light. It is an uplifting book about becoming more authentic to your true self.
 
 
While I cannot verify the claim, I’m still exploring, I do know that it has gotten me thinking about my inner flame.
 

Your Inner Flame

 
Imagine your light as the keeper of your life force. A flame. Each choice I make each day, either ignites my flame or dampens its light. When the flame roars and cackles I can move mountains. Nothing is beyond my capabilities. This is where people can achieve higher forms of consciousness or greatness.
 
When we neglect it yet, we feel the opposite. Vulnerable. Others can easily hurt me. We feel anxious and can get depressed. We begin to doubt ourselves and fail to communicate with others. Worst of all, when the light is at its lowest that we are not worthy of love or happiness.
 
When the light is burning out we can feel burnt out. I think that may be where that phrase comes from. We don’t have anything to give others. We are so busy trying to keep the last embers from burning out.
 

Our Flame and Others

Our flame doesn’t just affect us, however. The flame in our souls affects everyone around us. When we are off or worried, our families worry. They want to tend to us, regardless of whether there is anything for them to do to help. Worse, we can become physically, mentally, or verbally abusive when our fires are weak. We can harm them and theirs.
 
Just as we are dependant on our support systems, they are dependant on us! Whodda thought right?
 

Bringing Others Down

In additions, when the flame is low, we look to others for help. We can become needy. Needy like a bad stereotype. And if we do this often, we can burn out others as well as ourselves.
 
At some point in our lives, every one of us has that person that we gave our all to. That person who each time we dealt with them we felt more and more drained. We felt defeated because we never managed to bring them up. Those are people whose lights are dim. Who is entirely relying on others to bring them back up?
 
Worse yet, these people don’t realize that while they may need help, that they also have to help themselves.

Choice and the flame

The good news is that we can change this at any moment. We can tend our fire, our inner flame, with our daily choices. Each time we are true to ourselves, follow our dreams and do the things that make us truly happy, we grow the flame.
 
When I say happy…I’m not talking about artificial things like money or stuff. I am talking about real experiences and expressions of joy in your life. Those memories that you build with your daughter or your father. The moments that bring a smile to your face.
 
Stuff doesn’t do that. Stuff brings us momentary hedonistic joy, not fulfillment in our hearts. Not to say that you can’t spend money to go and do something that creates a memory like that. However, you can have those moments without money. One of my fondest memories is my mom and me crafting with leftover felt and fabric.
 
I don’t remember what we made. Something for my barbies probably. What I remember is the feeling and the joy of that moment. I remember the connection.

Your Choice

If you feel like you are struggling with your inner flame think about the following:
 
Imagine that your only job in life is to tend that flame. There is absolutely nothing else that you need to do. It alone can feed you, provide for you, love you. Just take a moment to imagine that feeling of peace of mind. Imagine how motivated you would be to take care of that fire.
 
Next, take a moment to jot down some ideas of what truly makes you happy. Maybe its spending time with the kids. Or having a moment to yourself to meditate. Whatever it is, write it down.
And remember these moments of pure joy. Use them to fan your flame. Or to figure out new ways to do so. Seek joy instead of momentary gratification.

Choices that Dim the Light

  • Constant criticism
  • Perceived obligations like I should or I have to (will the world go on?)
  • Trying to be nice (when we really don’t want to be)
  • Aspiring for others approval
  • Lying to yourself
  • Gossiping
  • Constantly being late
  • Lack of empathy
  • Comparing your self to others or judging others
  • Living in fear
  • Thinking others are better than you
  • Ignoring your dreams
  • Overindulging in anything
  • Wasting time
  • Ignoring compliments
  • Not setting boundaries and limits
  • Not having enough alone time
  • Exhausting yourself
  • Ignoring your intuition and inner voice.

Choices that build the fire

  • Empathy
  • Taking time for yourself
  • Spending time with loved ones
  • Acknowledge what you’ve done well
  • Resting
  • Playing
  • Exercising
  • Spending money wisely
  • Planning for the future
  • Finding inspiration
  • Doing what’s in your best interest
  • Compassion
  • Being intimate
  • Charity work
  • Doing what you love
  • Telling others how much they mean to you
  • Going after your dreams
  • Making choices consistent with where you want to go
  • Forgiving
  • Taking responsibility
  • Being present
  • Listening to others from your heart
  • Empowering others
  • Creating a support system and contributing to others support system.

A Final World

No matter how strong your light is, remember that sometimes we all fall. Sometimes we all need someone to help us tend the flames. Other times, we have to be that person who helps our fellow man. You never know what a kind word will do. Or a harsh one for that matter.
 
You may make someone’s day or change their life with a few simple words. I’m not talking about advice per se. I’m saying that you through action and words may be the difference for someone someday. And you may never know that you can be that difference.
 
When we consistently work towards being the light who knows what can happen. When we keep our flames fanned, who knows how we might grow and change. How our light can spread. And the good we can bring into the world.
 
Be the light. Be the change. Both for yourself and for the benefit of others. Just be the best you, you can be.
 
Blessed Be
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Christmas Planning

So it’s March. Why am I talking about planning for Christmas now? Well, because if you’re like me there isn’t always a lot of money coming in. And I don’t always know what the rest of the year will bring. So what I do is I put away a bit each month and start planning now. Yes. I start planning at least how much, in the first quarter of the year.
 

So what do I do?

 
Well, the first thing I do no matter what time of year it is, I make a budget. I always have a budget. I may have to fiddle around with it or rearrange things, but there is always a budget. No matter what.
 
The budget is essential to keeping our household running. It lets me know where we plan to spend our money. Besides, I track spending to ensure that I know where that money actually goes. This stops me from overspending or misspending money. I personally suggest having some sort of budgeting program or online app to help you. There are plenty of options out there. I’ve used mint and personal capital, but my favorite is Every Dollar.
 
 

Every Dollar

 
To give you a quick overview, Every Dollar is an online resource created by Dave Ramsey. He designed it for use with his Financial Peace University program. The site offers both a free and a premium version. I have tried both and currently use the free. I can’t justify spending money just to have my bank account linked to the site for convenience.
 
Regardless, I suggest Every Dollar as well as the Financial Peace classes. They are definitely worth it. I was quite lucky to get a scholarship through my local United Way. A reward for completing their Getting Ahead course.
I just like the program. It makes it easy for me to organize my budget into bite-sized sections. I can see how much I’m spending on debts, savings, housing, and my other bills. The site/app also allows me to input my purchases and link them to specific budgets. So if I buy gas I can put it in there and see how much I have left in that budget. And I just update it when I double check my checkbook each week. Something you should do regardless of using checks or not.
 
The site also offers a lot of free information to help you along your own path to financial independence. Including a checklist of the baby steps (great if you cannot afford the class). There is a lot of good budgeting information there.
 
My only complaint is the mobile app. I don’t know about the iPhone app, but the android one does not function as well as I would like it to.
 
 

What’s Next?

 
After you have your normal budget, I tend to make a list of who all I’m buying presents for. The example below isn’t my shopping list but it is fairly similar. My list also includes the extra budget for food and stocking stuffers because I like to do that separate
 

Who:

A Present for Valkyrie’s Daddy from her.
Mom
Dad
Valkyrie
Myself
Boyfriend
Boyfriend’s kids 1-4
Sister
Neice 1&2
Friend 1&2
Other 1-8
 
Food
Stocking stuffers
 

How Much?

 
Once I’ve figured out who I’m going to figure out how much I’m willing to spend. This is going to depend a lot on how much you can put back between now and then. It is entirely up to you. The main reason that I start saving now, is so that I don’t have to put myself further into debt using credit cards. I almost have those things paid off. I don’t want to add more to the balance.
 
By planning and saving ahead of time I minimize that risk. Of course, I did have one year where I had no choice due to a roofing repair and several other things breaking at once. However, I do everything I can to avoid using the cards. To live within my means even if I know the plans may slightly change.
 
If nothing else, it gives me a starting point.
 
 

Who:                                         How Much:

Valkyrie’s Dad                          20
Mom                                          40
Dad                                            40
Valkyrie                                     100
Myself                                        40
Boyfriend                                  40
Boyfriend’s kids 1-4                20×4=80
Sister                                         40
Neice 1&2                                 20×2=40
Friend 1&2                               10×2=20
Other 1-8                                  10×8=80
 
Food                                          50
Stocking stuffers                     50
 
Now total all those numbers up.
 
For my example, I need 640.
 
The next thing I’m going to do is figure out how much I need to save each month to achieve that goal. So right now I have about 10 months until Christmas. So I’m going to divide 640 by 10. In this case 64 dollars per month. The earlier you start the lower your monthly savings will be.
 
For example, if you started in July your cost would be higher. 640/6 = 106.66 per month. By saving earlier in the year I make the saving easier on my budget.
 
The other option is to cut down on your list. Which I have done in the past.

Adjustments

 
Once I have The amount I’m going to save each month I make sure that the amount makes sense. Maybe someone gets a cheaper gift than I planned. (It is the thought and effort that count after all).So maybe my list changes to look something like this:
 
Valkyrie’s Dad 10
Mom 30
Dad 30
Valkyrie 50
Myself 30
Boyfriend 30
Boyfriend’s kids 1-4 20×4=80
Sister 30
Neice 1&2 10×2=20
Friend 1&2 5×2=10
Other 1-8 5×8=40
 
Food 40
Stocking stuffers 30
 
For a total of 430. And I’ll divide that again to get about 43 dollars per month. And I know I can afford that.
 

Checking it Twice

 
So first we set a budget. Then I figured out how much I was going to save. Now, I’m triple checking that I can afford to put that much aside. Then I’ll put the list somewhere safe.
 
Somewhere I won’t lose it because I don’t want to do all that math again. I’ll add the amount I’m going to save and do that for the next several months.
 
There may be a crisis or I may come into some money. Either way, I have a budget to work off of. I have a plan. And I don’t touch that money unless I deplete our emergency fund. (Which has yet to happen *knock on wood*).
 
For the case of this example, let’s say that I came into some money. Maybe mom needs a new walker. So I can up that amount to get her a larger present. The same thing works in reverse. It’s all about trying to live within your means. Again, I suggest avoiding credit cards. If you would like to know why to check out this article on Dave Ramsey’s site.
 
Now, I’m going to leave that list alone until around October. Normally, as soon as I’m doing making Halloween costumes, I start planning what I will buy. I may even go ahead and order some of the stuff to avoid price gouging.
 
I always attempt to have my Christmas shopping done before Black Friday. This way I avoid the rush and I can anticipate changes in the plan. Like a little one’s preferences changing (keep your receipts!). She will likely be the only person I buy presents for after that point. The only other budget items that wait till after Black Friday are stocking stuffers and food.
 
It also means that I’m never in a rush to buy everything.
 
For our example, my list may no look something like this:

Who                                  $$$$                      What

 
Valkyrie’s Dad                10                          Steam game 
Mom                              100                          walker and book
Dad                                  30                         Book and toilet paper (a running joke in our family)
Valkyrie                            50 ???                   (I’ll decide in December)
Myself                              30 ???                   (I’m slow at this if I buy myself anything at all)
Boyfriend                        30                         Nerdy shirts
Boyfriend’s kids 1-4       20×4=80              Gift cards 
Sister                               30                          Restaurant gift card
Neice 1&2                       10×2=20               Gift cards (Usually they want Starbucks)
Friend 1&2                      5×2=10                 Steam game on their wishlist (they love indi games)
Other 1-8                         5×8=40                I will get the same thing for everyone in this group.
 
Food 40
Stocking stuffers 30
 

Sit By The Fire & Relax

 
Now I can start buying. I already know how much I’m going to spend. The gifts are all mostly planned out. There are only one or two people I may have to wrack my brain about.  I don’t have to worry about having enough money.  Best of all, I have time to replan if something goes wrong. The key here is to stick to the plan once you have it. That is the hardest part of the whole thing.
 
If you can stick to the plan it will save you a lot of grief. Just imagine how magical your Christmas could be without the average holiday freak-out. No more worrying about how you’re going to buy this or forgetting to buy X for Aunt Mary Sue. It cuts out on the holiday stress and lets you focus on what’s important. Your family.
 
I hope that my method helps you figure out your Christmas plans this coming holiday season. If you have any questions or comments, as always feel free to leave them below. I do my best to get back to everyone on the weekends. It’s a bit hard given everything else I have on my plate. So I apologize if it takes a bit for me to get back to you.
For more financial tips and tricks, check out my Financial Independence pages.
 
Either way, hope your spring is bright and full of fun.
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FI: February Report

I’ve finally figured out what we spent from February and where we are on our road to Financial Independence.

FI: February Report

  • Savings 5% (Lower and more on that below)
  • Housing 15%
  • Utilities 7%
  • Food 4%  (lower than usual by about 13 dollars)
  • Transportation 3%
  • Health 1%
  • Babysitting  less than 1%
  • Obligations 52% (See heading below)
  • Entertainment 14% (See heading below)

First off we had some additional income and some money left from the prior month.    So that helped cover some of the extra expenses. Which was great. Most of it went into debt, but we also had some unexpected expenses, as we almost always do at the beginning of the year.

Savings

I say this is savings but it’s more of an investment. In an attempt to make some more money to put towards debt I’ve invested in a bitcoin traiding bot. I have about 1030 in if you count the fees and transaction costs.

In the last two weeks since I started the bot has made about 30 dollars, but there have been some down sides as well. The boyfriend and I are looking at more stable ways to trade between BTC and USD due to the vast fluctuations.

Currently, we may be switching to Tether to decrease some of the volitiity and ensure that we are simply making more USD profit as BTC prices go up. We’ll see how that goes.

Obligations

I’m continuing to pay down my debts. I paid off the credit cards. However, I ended up needing to put a hearing aide for mom back on. We are waiting to see if I will get reimbursed for that through Medicaid. **Fingers crossed* So, for the time being, I am just going to make the minimum payment on that and switch my attention the student loan with the least amount.

However, thanks to tax season I was able to put 3000 towards my debt. Which is amazing. I also broke down my fed loans into each of their individual amounts and interest percentages to get a more accurate look at when I’d be done paying my pound of flesh each month.

The most recent numbers are:

  • 10 Months Ahead of the original schedule (Apr 2024)
  • FInishing June 2024
  • With a balance of around 75593 left.

I’m getting there.

Entertainment

February was a little better as far as expenditures, but I still have some room for improvement. It’s so hard for me not to spend at this time of year with all the depression and cold. But I’m working on it.

We all did better at not spending money on eating out though.  So I’ll take what I can get and keep working towards the rest.

 

Overall

Overall I’m doing well. Last month I was only 5 months ahead of schedule for my debt payoff and now I’m 10. I know I may not be able to make such a big jump this month, but even if I can get halfway to another month ahead of schedule by cutting costs, I’ll be happy.

And depending on arrangements with the boyfriend for the events we’re going to, I may have another 500 or so to throw at debt in the near future. But for now, I’m going to hold onto it.

Well, that’s it for this months update. I can’t wait to see how I do next month!.

 

 

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Moral Relativism and Our Children

As parents, we all want to teach our kids about values, norms, morality, and ethics. We want our children to fundamentally be good people. However, our world tends to be torn between people who see morality as black and white or subjective to the individual or culture. Essentially moral realism vs. moral relativism.

If morals are important to us as parents then we have to consider where we stand on this point. If we don’t we are potentially leading our children down a dangerous path toward an ethical quagmire.

So today I wanted to attempt to briefly discuss both. Their points of view, their problems, their claims. And potentially show a middle ground, because you’ll soon find, the like most things today, they are extreme polar opposites.

I’ll try to keep it short and sweet, but philosophy and most of life is neither simple nor easy.  So please bear with me. 

What is Moral Relativism?

Moral relativism is the idea that all ethical standards are cultural and therefore subject to individual choice. We can all decide what is right and wrong for ourselves. You decide what’s right for you and I decide for me.

Scholars have argued that this implies that life is ultimately without meaning. It renders words like ought and should as meaningless and claims that morality is neutral.

Essentially, moral relativism says that anything goes, because life is ultimately without meaning. Words like “ought” and “should” are rendered meaningless. In this way, moral relativism makes the claim that it is morally neutral.

What’s Wrong With that?

While I love the idea of live and let live as a moral construct. It has a number of problems.

#1 Implies Neutrality

The question is whether or not morality can be neutral. Moral relativism implies that morals are dependent upon the viewpoint of the individual or culture. Which is true to an small extent. However, most cultures so have social norms against murder and stealing, which implies that some things are universally wrong.

 

#2 Infallibility

Moral relativists claim that morals are subject to the perceptions of individuals and their societal culture. However, that also leads to a problem.  It makes it exceedingly hard to come to any sort of societal agreement on moral actions. You can see this today in our polar politics with neither side being able to agree on the right course of action.

#3 Fact vs Opinion

Moral relativism is based more on feelings about an action than the facts.  We feel that a murder should go free because she killed an abusive husband. However, does that make what she did not wrong? Does it mean that she shouldn’t pay for her crime at all? And if you look at where that could lead, you quickly see that it’s a slippery slope.

From there we could justify that it’s legally justifiable to torrent something on the internet because we believe that Hollywood overcharges us. This may be true, but can we really say that makes it right to take something that people worked hard on for free because of our feelings and personal opinions?

And where else could all of that lead from there? Slippery slope indeed. Moral relativism gives us the misconception that we can justify wrong actions based on our feelings leading up to them.

#4 Contradicts Itself

A third problem is that relativism claims facts but then contradicts them. Even in the most black & white situations. True facts have no contradictions. We know that a circle is a circle. We know that a square is a square. A fact can be perceived differently by different people, but ultimately is still a fact. The law of non-contradiction applies to all facts. Morality, no matter how inconvenient, is no exception.

While it is a fact that cultures have different values to some extent, all societies and religions tend to have at least some similar foundations, which theoretically invalidates the argument as nearly every culture holds disdain for murder and thieves. They also tend to advocate that you be kind to your neighbor. There are things that are theoretically right and wrong such as murder and thievery.

Moral Realism

Moral Realism, on the other hand, suggests that moral facts exist and that these are objective and independent of our perceptions. Our feelings, beliefs, and attitudes do not affect them. This method is more based in logic reasoning, which may be why it sits in conflict with moral relativism, which appears to be based more on our feelings.

Problems with Moral Realism

So, I did a lot of research for this post. I wanted to be able to share the views, pros, cons, of both.  However, I’ve had a lot of trouble finding information about the problems with moral relativism. So I’m working simply based on my own perceptions of it here.

#1 Life is not Black and White

While I do believe that there are things that are absolutely right and wrong, moral realism leaves little room for shades of gray.  This implies that a woman punished for murdering someone out of spite should be the same as someone who murdered to defend herself. This is simply not true.

#2 & 3 No feelings or Compassion

It leaves room for no feelings about morals. It is an entirely logic-based system.  And we are feeling creatures just as much as we try to be logical ones.  Without feelings, we would be no better at deciding just courses of action than the computer in War Games. It takes out the potential for compassion.

And while I know compassion is a feeling, I think feelings do count a lot of our human experience. So I’m going to say that’s a two for one.

But is there a middle ground?

The people on the news and in the media would have you believe that one or the other is right or wrong. However, that’s too simple. I think both have a place. Just as I believe that determinism (that there is a pattern to all order and chaos/fate) and free will.  Just as I believe that there is a middle ground where science and religion meet, maybe even crosses over (quantum physics).

Personally, I think that there is still a lot about our world that we don’t understand. That we can still view as magical in nature.  Hell, everything that is scientific is still magical to me. It’s amazing to me that the world can produce so many neat reactions even if we can explain them. I think that our very existence based on our knowledge of the solar system and the universe is extraordinary.  The fact that our bodies function on such individual levels, each one having its own quirks, pros, and cons.

The magic of our scientific world aside, there is a middle ground for nearly everything in this world.

What is it?

 

I think that all of us can agree that there are certain things that are right and wrong.

Right:

  • Respect
  • Perseverance against adversity.
  • Compassion
  • Love
  • Honesty

Wrong:

  • Murder
  • Thievery
  • Deception
  • Manipulation
  • Bullying (being mean, hurtful, etc)

And I am sure that there are others. Again just trying to keep things simple.  There are things that we universally value as right or wrong.

Also,  I believe that there are things subjective to our experience. To our own perception of these values. I can’t define these for you. This is why there are so many differing opinions. I can share a few of my own opinions as examples, but these are going to be a little different for each of us.

  • A woman who murders her abusive husband still needs to pay for her crime, but maybe not spend as much time in jail. Or maybe she needs to spend one year in jail and the rest of her sentence be mandated to work in a program (potentially at a lower wage as those things generally do not pay well) that helps pull women out of those situations. How better to give back and pay for her “crime” than to help others out of the same situation.
  • Abortion. I personally do not condone abortion. However, I do not believe that it is my right based on my religious views to take that right away from someone else. Streaming. I stream a lot of things online. But I realize its wrong. I don’t justify it. While I don’t.

And there are many more examples. Just remember these are examples. Ideas. There is room for shades of gray, but there will always be prue right and wrong.

Think of the Children

As parents, we have to determine which of these views or to what extent our children are exposed to these views. We have to share with them our own personal views and help show them the pros and cons of both.  Only by sharing both can we come to a realization of what each means and what the middle ground may be.

None of us can exist at either extreme. Despite what the media may imply to the contrary. Extremes don’t work. They don’t empower us, the inhibit us from our full potentials. As with all things we need to find a balance. A middle ground. I don’t care if its a middle ground in politics, religion vs. Science, determinism vs free will. There is a middle ground to nearly everything and finding them is the way we find balances in our lives.

 

When we push to either extreme we have problems. In moral realism, we have a problem of not adding feeling to the equation of not seeing the degree of a moral. In moral relativism, we have the problem of ignoring logic.  We have the potential to ignore facts, both moral and otherwise.

Finding the middle ground is the reasonable option to balance both our logic and our feelings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why You Should Be a Jack (or Jane) of All Trades

I fancy myself to be somewhat of a Jack of All Trades (or a Jane). I love to go out and learn new things. Being able to do as much as I can for myself not only saves me money, but empowers me as a woman. It makes me feel strong.

Last weekend I came back from a bootblacking class in my freshly cleaned and conditioned leather. I had done it myself in a workshop run by my friend K. My Valkyrie was so excited by how shiny and new it looked, having seen it before I left.  So excited, that I asked her if she would like to learn how to do it herself.

I’ll never forget how she jumped up and down and screamed “Yes,” at me.  She wanted to learn a life skill. Even if it may not be particularly useful to her every day.  And this is something I encourage. She may never need to know how to bootblack, but at least one day, if she has leather of her own, she can say that she can do it herself.

There are plenty of skills that fall into this category. Sewing is always useful. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made my own dress in a style I like, for way cheaper than I could have bought it. (And sometimes I’ve made a better quality dress than what I was looking at.) Or ironing. I can’t say that I know too many people that iron, but its still a useful skill.

And there are more than even I want to learn. I want to learn to consistently target and fire a gun and a bow. I want to learn how to hunt (if I can learn to be that patient). Or trapping. I would love to increase my ability to cook things properly over a fire as well as other survival skills because one day I may need them to survive.

I know I was glad to be able to track in the woods when I got lost at summer camp.

Diverse Ability

I’m not a prepper by any means, but I still find value in these skills. I find value in the ability to diversify what I’m personally capable of.  And as a parent, I think we should all hope that our children feel the same way. I think we want them to have a diverse range of interests and abilities.

I know that I want the Valkyrie to be well rounded. I want her to have all manner of skills to fall back on. I want to prepare her for as many possibilities as I possibly can, even if some of them are unlikely. It doesn’t make a skill any less useful.  It doesn’t mean that someday they won’t use it.

I know I can’t plan for everything or ensure that she can survive everything, but I can continue to learn and share my knowledge with her.

The Fall of the Jack of All Trades

Once upon a time, we lived in a different world. A world where we praised those who managed to learn more than one or two specified skills. A man was considered more competent if he could do all many of contract work versus only being able to drywall or replace roofing.  The Jack of all trades was revered for his abilities and often paid more in the long run than those who could only perform one task.

Alas, those days have passed and our society has taken a turn. Nowadays, we relish those who can perform minute pieces of a larger task.  Computer programmers rarely do all the different types of programming in their jobs. They tend to be specified to one part of it. The idea is that the fewer functions one has to perform the more efficiently and correctly they can perform the aspects they are working on.

Which in theory sounds nice, clean, perfect, and maybe a bit robotic.

But What About the Future?

However, while all this sounds nice, it does create a number of problems.

#1: Tedious

First of all, it’s exceedingly Tedious.  Think of factory work. God bless all the people who work in a factory. I’ve worked in one myself. I know it’s not an easy job, but its also a bit mind-numbing doing one single task over, and over, and over, and OVER again.  I only did it for a week and I was already sick of it despite the wonderful pay.

And there was a time when that sort of tedium caused Henry Ford to pay his workers nearly double to do menial, repetitive work. At the time people were afraid it would drive them nuts. And in fact, there is some evidence that this may be accurate. One study showed that boredom and tedious, repetitive work can negatively affect your cognitive functioning over time.

#2 The Death of Creativity

Creativity is the applying of new patterns to a set of objects. Specialization removes new patterns from the equation.  You have to continue to learn to find new ideas and inspiration. Which implies that generalizing, not specializing is better for you and your company in the long run.

And what would we be without creativity? Creativity is what caused our country to boom into the economic powerhouse it is today.  Without creativity, we will continue to fall behind, not only in education but in business. I would much rather branch out and stir the creative pot than kill that part of me.

#3 Communication Breakdown

Specialization creates a problem akin to what happened at the tower of Babel. Everyone failing to communicate, in this instance because they aren’t working together. When each person isn’t at least learning about the whole, they miss out on jargon and key points that allow the system or product to work.

Work becomes bureaucratic in nature and we’ve all seen how that works. At least you have if you’ve ever sat in a government line for anything.  If the project manager has to go through each link of the process to find out where something went wrong, rather than just being able to pull everyone together to brainstorm, how much time does that waste?  And what if one of the other people would have been capable of doing both tasks? What if they had worked on it as a team and communicated? When a project is passed around in parts and pieces, however, this is impossible to accomplish.

Highly inefficient as any movement has to go through several people, wastes time, and makes anything one person does affect them only indirectly. This indirectness decreases motivation and the need to do something correctly.

So Why Am I Teaching My Child To Bootblack?

I’m teaching the Valkyrie all sorts of skills. I don’t think that any skill lacks value (well maybe being able to burp your alphabet or something like that). I may not use every skill I learn, but I know I can fall back on them if the need arises. I know that I can change my own oil and tires. I know that I can refurbish a torn up piece of furniture.

All those skills and much more have saved me money on more than one occasion. I want the Valkyrie to have those opportunities as well. I want her to be well rounded and no have to rely on each specialized piece on the board to be able to function.

We all have to be able to rely on others and ask them for help when we are incapable of performing the necessary task. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t diversify our own skills and be as independent as possible. I personally think that overspecialization is a dangerous and slippery slope.  I think that it cuts us off from other people and possibly things that we could find passion in ourselves.

Regardless, take a chance. Learn a new skill as a parent. Or teach your child. Learn as many things as possible. Be diverse. Be the Jack (or Jane) of all trades. In the end, whether you use all those skills or not, you will be a stronger and more well-rounded person for the experience.

Blessed Be.

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