My New Curriculum

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So, we are going to stop teaching cursive handwriting in public school. In New York, we are not going to require a literacy test for teachers, because it’s racist. We don’t teach Civics anymore, so students become adults that don’t really understand how government works. No Home Economics, No Shop Class… Sexist, and besides, who needs to cook or make stuff?

 
I’m not saying that everything was perfect with the education we got in high school in the seventies, but what are we replacing these courses with? Are we improving the courses that are offered? Or are we just removing stuff that might offend people?

 
Well, I’ve got some ideas about courses that should be offered front and center for kids. I haven’t decided whether we should wait until high school for some of these topics, but it’s a start.

 
1. Time Management
How useful would it be to teach kids this life skill? You need this training, whether you’re college bound, or entering the work force. Some people don’t get the whole “come to work on time” thing. I’m much better at time management than I used to be. But imagine what a star I would be if I had time management training in high school. I would have used that every day, unlike those advanced math classes.

 
2. Personal Finance
This class should run for at least two semesters, because… bullet points

 
• Saving and Investing
• How to Buy a Car
• Managing Your Credit Score
• Renting vs Buying a Home
• How to Start a Business
• Building a Budget
• Taxes

 
I wish I learned all this in high school, as opposed to the school of hard knocks.

 
3. Civility
If we can’t have Civics, can we have Civility? If you don’t understand the government, can you be polite about it? If you do have an understanding of how government works, can you be gracious? If you don’t understand the constitution, can you quit going on about “your” free speech, while denying other people a voice? Yes, we should either bring back Civics, or substitute Civility. Maybe half and half.

 
4. Coping Skills
Ok, this one’s a little vague. You know, what to do when you like someone but they don’t like you back. How to cope with disappointment when you don’t get selected for the team, or the job. It’s okay to be less than 100% all the time. How to replace negativity with positive self-talk. What to do if someone is picking on you, or bullying you. How do you break up with someone without breaking their heart?

 
5. Writing
This is a double-edged sword for me. As a writer, I don’t want the market to go away. On the other hand, people need to know how to write. I guess it’s possible that we can get AI to write for us once the skill has disappeared completely.

 
So, there are my top five recommendations for improved curriculum. I’d love to know if you have any suggestions. What would you like to see added to the curriculum?

 
– Cat

Leaps of Faith

Why should people feel forced to choose between science and religion? I’m going to say that I like a little religion in my science, and a little science in my religion. Lots of people feel that they are mutually exclusive.

 
I believe in God. As I age, my relationship with God has changed. I find that I can easily accept other points of view. It makes me wonder though, even the people who believe in God believe in different interpretations of God. It gets back to putting people in boxes. So, you’re a Christian… are you Methodist, Lutheran, Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Orthodox, Mormon, seventh day Adventist, Jehovah’s witness? (Sorry if I left your church out) Why do we need God in so many versions? Is it so we can fight over whose God is better?

 
I take this point of view. If you believe in something…good for you! If you don’t believe in something…good for you! The nice thing is, you get to choose. I don’t understand why we have to judge and shame people who have different points of view. We have, throughout history, as humans, managed to kill millions of people because they don’t believe the same things that we do.

 
I want to share a passage that I read tonight in an old self-help book that I bought in the nineties. The book is called Life 101, and the authors are John-Roger (died 2014) and Peter McWilliams. I’m finding myself appreciating the wisdom in this book more and more these days.

 

The doctor who gives a vaccination and says, “Thank God, this child is safe from smallpox,” and the doctor who gives a vaccination and says “Thank Pasteur, this child is safe from smallpox,” give the same vaccination. Some may say that the doctor who gives a blessing is a better doctor, and some may say that the doctor who sticks to medicine is a better doctor, but in either case– thank God and/or Pasteur — the child can be safe.

 
Over time, ideas about religion change. But, at the same time, ideas about science are ever-changing and evolving. The thing that doesn’t change is people. Do we have a compulsion to view everybody with an “us” or “them” mentality?

 
So, these days, my faith is in the belief that everything will work out exactly the way that it’s supposed to. Like my grandson, I’ll stick with believing in God and Evolution.

 
– Cat

The Confidence Game

Warning! Self-contemplation ahead!

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When you hear the words “con man” or “con artist”, you feel a certain negative “connotation”. A con man earns his reputation, and his living, by taking people into his confidence. He tricks them into believing something that is not true. He swindles others when he plays a confidence game.

Pretty nasty business, huh? But, do we ever need to play a confidence game to get by in life? For as negative as the terms sound here, I’m going out on a limb to say that we need a good old fashioned con game on a regular basis. And, that it can sometimes be the most positive thing we can do in the moment.

What is “acting as if”? Or, how about “fake it until you make it”? These are bits of wisdom and advice that will come from many motivational sources. They are not proposing that we be brutally honest with ourselves. Are we conning ourselves, or is this coping mechanism a necessary part of finding our best self?

We all agree that positive self-talk is critical to our happiness. Negativity gets in the way of every beautiful thing. Positivity is being proactive in our inner game. The inner game is what lies below the surface, as opposed to our outer game. The outer game is what we show other people. They are not always the same.

So, self-confidence is so important to your success in business, and in life. Without self-confidence, you lack the will to move forward on the things you must do to reach your goals. People that are lacking in self-confidence can be paralyzed into inaction.

The con game that is necessary for us to play with ourselves can save us from drowning in a sea of hopelessness. Who doesn’t have self-doubt from time to time? What do we call on to banish self-doubt? That’s right… self-confidence. Believing in ourselves, even when we are unsure. Being kind and forgiving to ourselves, even if we may not feel that we deserve it in the moment. Being brave and pushing on, even when we feel terrified. Allowing ourselves to be flawed, even as we strive for excellence.

How do you build confidence in yourself? If you struggle with it, I think you’re in good company.

– Cat

Balancing Creativity with Practicality or… How I Got My Groove Back!

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As a writer, there is one thing I have to do without fail… write! As I gain experience, I am meeting a lot of aspiring writers that don’t sit down and write. They talk about writing, take courses about writing, ask for advice on getting clients to buy their writing.
I haven’t been in the game long enough to consider myself an expert. That’s why I was flattered recently, when I had one would-be writer ask me to coach them. I said I would look at their work. They replied that they were just getting started and hadn’t written anything. I have to admit, that one stumped me.
So, now I make my living as a writer. Writing is no longer my hobby, it’s my job. It’s my only job. I will make it or break it on my own efforts. I’m learning a lot about the creative process, because I have to pay attention to those things now. I am also learning a great deal about a lot of topics, because I never know what I will be researching and writing about. It’s a lot of intellectual stimulation, but I like to think I’m up to the job.
I write every day. Sometimes I write all day. But, I rarely write for myself these days. I love writing for my clients, but I am hereby, right now… renewing my commitment to my blog. It doesn’t matter if you read it or not. I’m writing it. I’m surprised at the people who ask me about it, or tell me how much they’ve enjoyed it. It’s difficult to know sometimes if you have any readers.
I’m going to assume that you’re reading, and I’m going to write. My father, who is 83 years old and lives nine hours away, checks his computer to catch up with me through my blog. My Mom and Stepdad take my temperature through my blog, and they have a chuckle as I recount some family stories. I’m not sure why I slowed down. But, just to warn you… I’m back!
-Cat

In Mysterious Ways

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My friend lost a child yesterday. Suddenly, unexpectedly, and sadly, gone. He would have turned two years old in a couple weeks. He was loved by his Mom and Dad, and his two sisters. He brought immeasurable joy into this world when he was born. He will leave a desperate sorrow with his passing.
As a writer, I pride myself on being good with words. When I saw the post on Facebook, I was stunned… at a total loss. I had nothing to say in response to the family, and the many others who had commented on this sad tragedy. Every response I can think of seems inadequate.
How can I say something comforting? I just cannot imagine or construct the proper response. Really… is there one? Is there the “right thing” to say to someone when their 2-year-old, the light of their life, has suddenly left this world?
We place so much importance on such ridiculous stuff in our daily lives. Road rage, sports, jobs, video games, new cars, sneakers, politics, organized religion, the latest technology, and fashion. We live like we will never die. We focus on achieving goals. Long term goals, short term goals, financial goals, college goals, retirement goals, career goals. We yearn for materialistic things.
This won’t change. It’s how we get through it all. We keep putting one foot in front of the other… walking through this world until our number is up.
Sometimes it doesn’t happen suddenly, or so we think. We know someone is older, and they are ill. It crosses our mind that they might not make it. It may be obvious that they are at the end of their journey. Why does it still shock us when they actually die? Is it our eternal hope that we can somehow escape this fate?
In the end, what’s important?  We each have a chance to make a difference while we’re here. Never underestimate that. What you do with the time you’re given can make all the difference to the lives of others. We can be a positive influence and encourage people to do their best.
I have to admit, I’m one of those people that has great faith in the resilience of the human body and spirit. It always shocks me when someone actually dies. I guess I’m the one that thinks on some level that we’ll all live forever in one form or another.
Some of you believe in God, mother nature, or some form of higher power. I do. I believe that we are under God’s care. We may not understand how events like these fit into the grand plan. The fact is, we are not privileged to know the big picture. We cannot possibly be granted foresight and volition. Because we get to choose our actions, we can only guess the outcomes. Some things are obvious, and some are hidden.
So, while we may not know tomorrow, we can live today. Hold your loved ones close. Call someone that you haven’t talked to in a while. Smile at a stranger. Take your chance while you have it.   If you’re the praying kind, please pray for my friend and his family tonight.

-Cat

What Are We Gawking At?

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A lot of people in my generation don’t know who Chris Cornell was. So, the news of his death was not of interest to them.  They didn’t realize that although he had a four-octave vocal range, he was an acquired taste.  Not everyone liked his singing voice.  I did.

I’m not going to sit here now that he’s dead and tell you how much I loved him and how grieved I am.  I liked him, and it’s sad for his family.  He died on the day my youngest grandson was born, so I won’t remember the day in a mournful way.

So, I wanted to write a piece about Chris, but realized that I didn’t know much about him.  I knew that he was the singer for Soundgarden and Audioslave, and I like his solo work as well.  When I went on the internet to research a little, I immediately regretted it.  I can now tell you five things you need to know about him, his wife, his first wife, and his kids.  In fact, five things you “must” know about Chris Cornell.

Now, I’ve got this list of ten interesting things I know about him.  But I want to talk about just one.  The articles all state that he had problems with depression, drugs, and alcohol, but that he went through rehab.  They say that he’s been clean since 2003, and that he’s helped other addicts to stay clean.

Fast forward to now.  His wife says that there’s no way he could have committed suicide, since he was making plans to do stuff on Memorial Day.  When she spoke to him that evening, he was slurring his words.  He told her that he might have taken an extra Ativan or two.  

When a musician dies, it’s usually drugs or suicide.  This looks like a combination of both to me.  I know it’s hard for his wife to accept, but if someone takes an extra Ativan or two, they’re not clean, and they are self-medicating.  

If you think I’m judging, I’m not.  We go about our lives with a very distant relationship with our mortality.  I only know one person that was obsessed with the fact that they were going to die.  They’re dead now.  

The truth is, most people don’t want to know if you’re hurting or depressed.  For all the publicity that mental health awareness gets these days, it’s still considered something that happens to “other people”.  I’ve seen people take a hard stand against suicide, depression, and mental illness. Like they think it’s made up, or self-inflicted, or the person is seeking attention.   I believe we all have our vulnerabilities.  

People say that if you’re feeling depressed, you should talk about it.  To whom?  If someone is suffering with depression, they are carrying a heavy burden.  That’s what depression is.  Exactly who is it that wants to talk about that?  If you suffer from anxiety, you’re scared all the time.  Do people want to talk about that, or should you take Ativan?  Change your Facebook profile pic for a day, yeah.  But have a real discussion?

So, once again, I’m impressed by how fragile we are.  I do feel sad that Chris Cornell, for whatever reason, couldn’t talk it out.

That’s enough cheer for a Monday night!  Thanks for listening…

-Cat

Working Without a Net

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As many of you know, I’ve been wearing two hats in my work life since the first of the year.  By day, I’ve been working for a large corporation.  In the evenings, and on my days off, I’ve been pursuing my passion as a writer.  I’ve built my business to the extent that time allowed.
The full-time job that I’ve worked at for almost 11 years ended today when my position was eliminated.  I was one of many that were affected.  I’m a firm believer that everything always works out the way it’s supposed to.  I’ve been through some stuff in my life that wasn’t fun and didn’t feel good.  But, I’ve always seemed to make a comeback.  That whole phoenix thing.
So… I now have more time to promote and work my business.  50 hours a week more.  I called this blog “Working Without a Net” because that’s how it feels.  Exhilarating and scary in equal parts.  There are a lot of things I couldn’t do to grow and work my business.  Now I will.
I’ve met a lot of good people at my job, and will keep a lot of friends in my new life.  I’ve learned so much in the past 10 years, and the experience has helped prepare me for this moment.
I don’t have any hard feelings.  I’m feeling bad tonight for all the people who depended on their job to house and feed their family.  It’s a shame that this had to happen today.
It’s amazing how your life can change in one day…
– Cat

 

Quotable Quotes

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I’m not sure why he came to mind tonight, but he is a person that I treasure in my memories.

I graduated from high school early, when I was sixteen years old.  The only way you could do this at the time was to take Summer School English.  Senior English was always British Literature. I had taken a lot of English courses, even English electives, throughout high school.  But, nothing in my education remains with me like the Summer of Mr. Meehan.

The students in this class couldn’t have been more different from one another.  People graduating early, people repeating the course after failing.  I befriended a girl that was pregnant after her Junior year. Going to high school while pregnant just wasn’t done back then.  So, we all had different reasons for winding up in Mr. Meehan’s class. Because it was Summer School, it was a concentrated course, every day for three hours.

He was a big fan of Marshall McLuhan, and was fond of reminding us that “The Medium is the Message”.  He loved photography.  He was devoted to his wife, and talked about her often.  But, one of the things I loved most about the class was that every day, everyone had to bring in a “Quotable Quote”.  So, here were teenagers from all types of backgrounds, finding meaning through words every single day.  I did not understand how powerful that was at the time.  We would start class by going around the room, sharing a quote.

Mr. Meehan retired in 1995 from teaching.  I looked him up online, and found his obituary from 2007.  It was on a Washington Post archive page, sandwiched between two ads for a Jeep Renegade.  Ironic… the medium is the message.  I’m not sure how he would have felt about that.  He did have a great sense of humor.   There were lots of students who poured out their hearts in the guest book on his obituary.  So, I know I’m not alone when I say he played a big part in my education and love for language, words, literature, and quotable quotes.

Here’s one for the road:

Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.  – Malala Yousafzai, activist for female education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate.

Goodnight, Harry *

-Cat

All You Need is Love…and Prayer…Oh, and Meditation

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Working towards my writing resolution for this year, I’m focusing on four things to do in my spare time.  – Learning, Blogging, Working, Reading.

Part of my learning experience has been to try to listen more intently and effectively.  I’ve discovered that nothing sharpens your listening like a guided meditation.  I can’t tell you that I’m an expert, or that it’s changed my life… yet.  But I can tell you that I have faith in the process.

Now, not all guided meditations are created equal.  I have turned to the master of guided meditations, Deepak Chopra.  I guess I’m rediscovering him, as I used to listen to him years ago.  His voice is relaxing to me, even when my mind wanders and I stray from listening.

He’s written roughly 50 million books.  I may be exaggerating a little, but it feels pretty close to that.  I’ve made it my goal to dig in, but I’m afraid to listen to audiobooks by him, especially while driving.  That voice.  One way or another, I’m going to sleep.

If this feels to new-agey to you, there is an element of that.  Maybe you feel like prayer is the same thing.  Some think that meditation is a secular form of prayer.  I think that they’re two components of the same thing.  You might call it God, or some other name (Mother Earth, Higher Power, etc.)  For this example, we’ll call it God.

So, when you pray to God, you are putting something out there. Sending something to God, or into the universe.  When you meditate, you are listening for the answer.  I wish I had this explanation at hand for my grandson when he was talking to me about prayer.  He asked me “But, how do you hear God?”

I think that this is a problem for most of us.  When we pray, we tend to say “Here’s my problem, God, and here’s what you should do to fix it.”  As if we would know.  Then we get frustrated and feel that God’s not listening when things don’t go our way.  How many times have you prayed for something that, as it turns out, would have been a disaster?

We never know whether something is a blessing or a curse.  Some things may not be revealed to us in this lifetime.  I don’t know what the big picture… the grand plan, is.  I could have the whole thing wrong.  I’m actually not trying to figure things out.  I’m just going to believe that things will work out exactly like they’re supposed to.

– Cat

Being Left-Handed…It’s Not Just About Scissors!

Most right-handed people will probably skip over this post.  They most likely feel like it doesn’t have anything to do with them.  Most of us left-handed people won’t notice.  We’re used to people ignoring our left-handedness.

At work, I move the mouse over to the left side on shared computers when I’m using them.  Yup, I want to use the mouse with my left hand.  I don’t move it back to the right when I’m done.  I figure that you might have to move it if you use a computer after me.  But, consider that I have to move it EVERY time I use the computer, because it’s never set up on the left.

Most of you righties think that being left-handed is about comfortable scissors for us. And a lot of it is.  Maybe you think about desks in school.  If you’re not first in the classroom to claim a left handed desk, it’s tough making a go of writing assignments.  Do they still use pens and pencils in schools?  If they do, it might interest you to know that you can buy left handed writing sets on Amazon.  If you love a lefty, you can buy them a complete left handed College Set (Also available for left handed middle schoolers).   I didn’t even know that was a thing.

Other things you might not know were available for left-handed people:

  • Notebooks – YES!  I use one that’s bound at the top
  • Kitchen Utensils (?)
  • Can Opener – Good Idea
  • Tape Measure – (?)
  • Guitar – Okay
  • Watch – Not Sure
  • Computer keyboard (Numbers on Left)
  • A Left Handed Saute Spoon (from Le Creuset) ???
  • Holster – Makes Sense
  • Playing Cards (?)
  • Mouse – YAY!
  • AND…Chopsticks for Left Handed Children

Obviously, a lot of its marketing.  But there are some great ideas there.  So… being left-handed is a different mindset.  You are often the odd man out.  You may adapt, but some things are awkward.

You want to arrange your kitchen differently than the rest of the world.  When a look at a magazine, I like to browse from back to front.  With a juicy gossip magazine, it doesn’t make any difference, since the stories are two pages tops.  Bowling balls are tough, believe it or not.   You do, in fact, drag your hand through ink when writing. The alternative is making people stare as you exhibit the left-handed writing contortion technique.  Then, your hand stays clean, but you get cramps in weird places.  I prefer inky.

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My Mom is left-handed.  None of my kids are left handed except for my stepson, Andrew.  My Stepfather is left handed.  When my Mom was growing up, they smacked you on the hands at school if you were left handed.  I’m glad they stopped that by the time I went to school.

When people notice that you’re left-handed, they feel obligated to remark on it.  It’s usually “You know what they say… left handed people are in their right mind.  HaHaHa!”  Here’s the joke I tell to left handed people who I meet:

“You know what they say about right-handed people?”

“nothing”

– Cat