Posted in ebb & flow, mindset

Tweak the plan instead of yourself

If you’ve tried to make a change in habit and it’s not working, see if it can be tweaked to fit you (instead of trying to change yourself to fit it).

If you’ve decided to keep shoes put away and they’re still in a pile by the door, get a shoe rack or a basket and keep shoes by the door. They’re tidy and put away, just not in your bedroom.

If you put something (basket, shelf, hooks, etc.) by the front door for keys, wallet, etc., but all those things keep landing on the kitchen table anyway, move the something to the kitchen.

Keep forgetting reusable bags? Keep them in the car. (And after you empty them in the kitchen, hang them on the doorknob so you take them back to the car when you go.)

Staying up too late online? Put the modem on a timer so the wifi cuts out every evening.

Enough habits require you to change yourself to make them work. When you have the opportunity to be flexible about the way it all shakes down, take it.

Posted in ebb & flow, hope, know better do better, mindset, vulnerability

The Liberty Bell

lib•er•ty (Merriam Webster)

the quality or state of being free:

  1. the power to do as one pleases
  2. freedom from physical restraint
  3. freedom from arbitrary or despotic control
  4. the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges
  5. the power of choice


During our trip, we spent a just few hours in Philadelphia. We’d hoped to go to Independence Hall. It was sold out for the day, but we did get to see the Liberty Bell.

As I recall, when I was a kid, the bell was just kind of there, in a tiny building that you could just walk into. Now there are long lines outside of a large building full of history.

I’ll be honest: while The Kid and The Climbing Daddy were excited about going to see the Liberty, Bell, I wasn’t. But I learned some interesting things about it. Did I learn them before and forget them? Or did I not learn them before?

First, while we were waiting in line, I saw this quote engraved on the side of a building across the way:

Happily, the Government of the United States … gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.

-George Washington, 1790


As we looked to that building in the distance, in front of us was a memorial to slaves, along with a less sugar-coated telling of their history than we were fed as kids.

The juxtaposition was jarring and sad. Our blindness to our mistreatment of others goes back to our earliest days. It’s embedded in our roots.

Sorry, George. You did some amazing things, and for those, you deserve credit and praise. But we have always sanctioned bigotry and assisted persecution (you owned slaves! your wife couldn’t vote or own land!) and continue to do so today.

As we continued into the building (hooray for climate control!), we read about the history of the bell, saw photos of xrays of it, saw tchotchktes of it.

Until the 1830s, it was the State House Bell. (All further quotes are from the exhibits in the Liberty Bell Center.)

Abolitionists in the 1830s gave the State House Bell a new name, Liberty Bell, recognizing the contradiction between the ideals of the Revolution and the reality of more than four million enslaved people.

I had no idea! People who realized we could do better renamed this icon. Its only name most of us know was assigned as part of the abolitionist movement! (I suspect there are people today who would insist it have its name returned to the State House Bell if they knew…)

Sadly, while slavery was ended, liberty is hardly what black folks enjoyed.

Following the Civil War, the Liberty Bell became a symbol of national reunification at the same time that civil rights were systematically denied to people based on the color of their skin.

The portion of the placard under that quote went on to clarify that “national reunification” was from a white perspective.

As the Liberty Bell increased in popularity as a symbol of freedom and liberty for white Americans during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, it contrasted with the unrealized ideals of African Americans, Native Americans, other ethnic groups and women. While the Bell traveled the nation as a symbol of liberty, intermittent race riots, lynchings, and Indian wars presented an alternative picture of freedom denied.

At this point, I say: we know better. We can do better. We can do better for people of color (any color!). We can do better for women. We can do better for immigrants (regardless their status). Recognize that our system has benefitted you at the expense of others and work to fix it. No guilt, no shame (you didn’t build it!), just knowledge.

The rising tide raises all boats.

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, food, meandering

Junk on vacation: how I managed it

We’re recently home from a trip to the area where I grew up. We did some sightseeing, we spent time with many people, and we ate.

If it wasn’t clear to me already, I have a solid understanding of why I was overweight when I was young.

All of the “we have to eat there” places were junk food: two pizza places (though only one for pizza), two ice cream places (though friends we stayed with out of that area took us to another ice cream place that was also amazing), fudge and salt water taffy, a bakery.

It was all delicious. Tasty in its own right, but also tasty sharing it with my new* family—making new memories with old foods.

*That’s “new” relative to the last time I ate most of these foods.

So much more junk food than we typically eat. We might have had as much ice cream in 10 days as we’ve had in 2019.

But all the servings were small—the smallest available ice cream or split a sundae. One piece of salt water taffy. A tiny piece of fudge. A cream puff instead of an eclair.

But—it was special. A week and change of special occasion, I suppose. We don’t have health issues that we needed to ignore to be able to indulge. And the rest of the time, we ate relatively well. Lots of fruit. Some salads. Veggies. Burmese food one night. (New to me, and delicious!) Veggie burgers at all of our hosts’ homes (all different kinds, and all tasty!)

Now we’re home, and we’re getting back into our swing of things. I’ve been craving sweets, but I know cravings kick in when I’ve had sweets more than maybe two days in succession. It’ll take a week or two of no sweets before the cravings mostly go away, but I know that ahead of time and am ready to take back that power.

No problems here (so far) with some extra indulging. But counterbalanced in healthy food with a solid period of recalibrating upon return.

In case you’re curious, these were my go-to places:

on the boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ:

  • Manco and Manco for pizza
  • Kohr Brothers for ice cream (frozen custard)
  • Shriver’s for salt water taffy
  • Steel’s for fudge

elsewhere in NJ:

  • Franco’s Place in Haddon Twp. for panzarotti
  • McMillan’s Bakery in Haddon Twp. for nearly anything. (Their cream donuts are amazing. According to the Climbing Daddy: “Guy walks into a bakery … ‘how good can a donut with whipped cream be?!?!’ … Guy walks out of a bakery fully educated … that was the best donut ever …”)
  • Friendly’s around the area but dying out for ice cream sundaes (the options are crap around here for sundaes)
Posted in audience participation, connections, ebb & flow, know better do better, mindset, motivation, parenting, physical health, thoughtfulness

Know better, do better: your dollars

The short version: my goal is to help people be educated so they can make decisions in an informed way.

I am not trying to scare people or to be a downer, though I acknowledge that these days, most of the news is bad news.

The fact is that in a capitalistic society, the main goal is to make money. The people who produce food, who create processed foods, who make cosmetics, soaps, detergents, toys, furniture, clothes are all in it to make money.

Making money is not inherently bad. We need to make money to function in society as it exists. 

But making money has become The Most Important Thing. More important than families. More important than our own or others’ health. More important than honesty or integrity.

As a result, it’s all gone to hell.

Problems in the food supply are real. Problems with the water supply are real. Problems with the chemicals in our personal care products are real. Problems with the chemicals in toys are real. Problems with the chemicals in our household goods are real.

Most of the time, the exposures are low. (Corn, soy, sweeteners including but not limited to sugar are exceptions—exposures to these are off the charts.) But when you put them all together, they’re not low at all.

Is this reality scary? Yes. Does it mean you need to live in constant paranoia? No. Does it mean you need to throw away everything and start over right now? No.

But if we all keep on living as if nothing was wrong, they’re going to keep manufacturing as if it’s OK. We pay the price with our health, our children’s health, and all aspects of the environment.

One step back from that—we can’t decide if we want to make changes or take a stand if we don’t know what’s going on.

So we need to be educated. (That’s my job! To help educate.)

Then we need to speak out with our voices. (If nothing else, online petitions take almost no time to sign.)

But even more than that, we need to speak with our dollars. Because in America, dollars speak louder than anything else.

Posted in ebb & flow, education, motivation, parenting

Allowance, housework, and The Kid

We recently implemented a three-part economic system with The Kid.

Part 1: Allowance

He gets a weekly allowance. It’s not as a reward or payment for anything done. In our thinking, it’s a means of teaching money management, and it gives him some autonomy in a world where most of his decisions are made for him.

Each week from his allowance, he has to save $1 in the bank. That’s long-term savings for the future and is not available for anything any time soon. I keep his weekly dollars in a marked envelope; we don’t go to the bank weekly to deposit $1.

Each week from his allowance, he has to donate $1. We talked about some of the places he could give money (also not typically in $1 increments, but those dollars can be saved and donated in larger pools). He has chosen to keep his dollar in the car to give to panhandlers. Maybe not what I would have chosen, but his dollar, his choice.

The remaining dollars are his to do with as he pleases. Right now, he’s saving for a LEGO kit. (Those savings don’t go in the bank—they stay separate from long-term savings.)

Part 2: Jobs to do because you live in a house

He has jobs (chores by a less negative title) he has to do regularly just because he is part of a household. All three of us have work around the house we have to do. Many of those tasks are specifically delegated; some are “whoever gets to it.”

Right now, he is responsible to clear his dishes from the table and, if the dishwasher is dirty, rinse and put his dishes in. He needs to sweep the area under his seat after each meal as needed. He sorts his dirty clothes and folds or hangs and puts away his clean laundry. He empties or helps empty the dishwasher if he’s around when it needs to be done, and for dinner, he needs to either help with preparation, set the table, or clear the table.

Part 3: Jobs for extra money

He also has the opportunity to do extra work around the house for pay. Most jobs pay $1, though a few pay more (and a few are broken into smaller $1 pieces).

Each of these jobs is written at the top of a notecard, and the rest of the card details how to do the job. This way he can make sure he’s done all of it before asking one of us to check it.

The cards are hung on a board with a clothespin and are divided in two piles: “available” and “not available right now.” So when a job is done—regardless who completed it—it gets moved to the not available side until it comes around again.

There are things that need to get done that aren’t on any of these lists. The rule is that he helps with other tasks as requested. We will tell him ahead of time if it’s a paid job or not. No need to ask—it will be laid out.

He also can’t complete paid jobs if his “because I live here” jobs aren’t done.

The whole thing hasn’t been in place for all that long, but it’s working well so far. He can do extra work when he wants to, choose work he’d rather do (or money he’d rather make—the best-paying are often the least desirable) and I don’t need to nag.

We’ll see how long it takes for him to earn what he needs to buy his Saturn V…