Posted in differences, know better do better, mindset, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

If it ain’t broke…

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Who defines “broke”?

So much of what has been going on socio-politically here for decades (centuries?) really boils down to this question, I think.

People yearning for “the good old days” were, as far as they were concerned, part of a system that was working just fine. Ain’t broke, don’t fix it. (These are the “I don’t have a problem so no one does” people.)

Everyone else was not.

(I would argue, though, that even if it’s working (whatever “it” is), that maybe re-evaluating and looking to improve is often worth the time. Not in the way that we see so often, where we shake things up just to shake them, but in a way that is thoughtful and methodical.)

And so we try to fix it, with constant resistance from people for whom it wasn’t broken to begin with. (Or from people who have been convinced that it’s not broken. Or from people who don’t know that everyone isn’t in their same situation. The “I didn’t know my family was weird until I was 24” kind of scenario.)

A bit of self-reflection I heard, paraphrased:

I did a thing with positive intent to a person who is different from me. The person I did it to received it negatively because of how people like her are seen and treated. At first, I argued that that’s not what happened here, because that wasn’t my intent. But when I stopped caring only about defending myself and looked at it from her perspective, I realized that she was right and I was wrong, and I felt terrible. So we talked a little and I apologized, and I was grateful that she accepted the apology.

I think it’s the “feeling terrible” part that people in general look to avoid—of course!—but you can’t learn and grow without making mistakes, seeing the mistakes, and correcting the mistakes—even if the only opportunity for correction is moving forward.



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Posted in education, meandering, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Self assessment

In my elementary band classes, I’ve spent a fair amount of energy this year on a few non-musical topics: grit (a focus of my whole team), self-awareness, and emotional safety.

Grit is a topic for another day.

Self-awareness is necessary for any of this to be useful. You can’t change a thought or behavior that you’re not able to notice. Applies to learning any skill or changing any behavior.

Emotional safety is not given as much time or emphasis as it deserves, in any realm.

We can’t learn to play instruments in an environment that is emotionally unsafe. While some of that is my responsibility, the kids have responsibility to each other to make the space safe.

(This is also true for math, reading, writing, any art, sciences, sports, families, and on and on and on….)

We don’t have to be each other’s friends. But we have to work together while we’re here in this room. Every single person here needs to be able to try to play something and mess it up without fear of ridicule.

That necessity increases by orders of magnitude when we’re composing. (Creative pursuits are scary!)

At the end of every class, my students have a short self-assessment to do. Two of the questions they need to reflect on are: “Were you kind to everyone in the room today?” and “Were you helpful to your group?” (They give themselves a simple yes or no. Kinda, maybe, sort of are all “no.”)

Don’t talk to me about how anyone else acted. How did you act? If there is a situation that needs my attention, please tell me about it, but not in the context of self-reflection.

Just like adults, some of the students are really hard on themselves, some of them are accurate, and some of them are really easy on themselves.

Where do you fall?



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Posted in differences, know better do better, mindset, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Do you hope others learn from your mistakes?

There seem to be three ways of looking at the plight of other people in relation to one’s self.

1: I don’t want anyone to suffer like I did. This person wants to mentor/coach people through it, or try to fix the problem entirely to decrease the number of people who go through the same experience. “It wasn’t good, and let’s see if we can reduce or eliminate it.”

2: I suffered; why shouldn’t they? This person wants the score to be even and resents people who avoided pain that they endure(d). “It wasn’t good, and haha now it’s your turn.”

3: I’m not suffering so no one else is. This person doesn’t understand that other people have different experiences and that their own experience isn’t able to be generalized to the population at large. “It’s all good.”

I see a lot of all three.

Less of the second and third would be ideal, but that requires a level of empathy that a lot of people don’t seem to have lately. (Maybe they never did and lately it’s simply more apparent.)

You don’t have to treat others the way you were treated.

Empathy and vulnerability are not weaknesses.

The proverbial rising tide raises all boats.

Love and kindness are not a zero sum game.

Hurt people hurt people. Help others. Let the tide rise.



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Posted in about me, know better do better, mindset, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Poor people are still people

When The Tall Daddy and I split up, I moved out in January and was in a really bad position financially until August, after I had gotten one or two paychecks.

The following is something I wrote at the time. I have edited it slightly, just to take out or clarify references to things that readers here wouldn’t necessarily know about, to take out names, etc. All of the rest is the same.

My intro to this at that time was that this is long and it’s not actually about me. Still true.


Due to general disorganization and being overwhelmed by life, I just sorted receipts for March and entered them into my budgeting software last night.

It was ugly.

Without getting into detail, I will just say that there was a significant difference between incoming and outgoing.

I just started subbing early in the month and only got paid for 1.5 days, so that will improve next month. Paychecks from the college will continue. [I was an adjunct at one of the local community colleges. Was supposed to teach two classes, but only one had enough students to run.]

I applied to sub in early January, but because of many things out of my control (length of hiring process, waiting for an orientation day, etc.), I couldn’t start until mid-March.

I applied to countless other jobs—generally what I’d consider “grunt work” because crappy work is better than no work—but was “overqualified” and not hired.

I am working on other income—a big health-related online class, private lessons, other opportunities that are currently behind the scenes—but they are not panning out yet.

In my budget deficit, there was just under $300 in IKEA pieces (so nice to have the computer off the floor, among other things) and around $25 in eating out. I have been thoughtful but not extremely so in my grocery shopping; that will change.

If you take out those extras and factor in more money that I am likely to earn as a result of consistent subbing, I might come close to breaking even in April. And these jobs are paying me more than minimum wage.

I’d need to work 32 hours per week at minimum wage to make what I make in three days of subbing. And another 20 hours per week to make what I am at the college. 52 hours per week to maybe make ends meet, as long as I had no extra expenses. Like an extra tank of gas. Or an oil change. Or a doctor’s appointment. Or any of the not-monthly payments that need to be made. Or an electric bill that includes air conditioning.

“Heat, what is your point?”

My point is this:

I have some savings to fall back on.
I have a degree. (Two of them, actually.)
I have a network of people who have helped me to get the work that I have and have been sending me other jobs I could apply for when they see them.
I had a lot of donations from friends, outfitting this apartment when I first moved.
I have an ex who is helpful, with sharing parenting time and cost. (Actually, he has taken on the bulk of both.)
I have a reliable car that is fuel efficient and paid off.

Despite all of that, it still sucks. And it’s still hard. And I’m still spinning my wheels and falling behind.

I know that if nothing else, I’ll have a teaching job in August, and my financial worries will be more or less gone. (Other stressors that are eating away at me will remain, but those aren’t necessarily relevant to this rant.) I just need to make it to August. (Or earlier, if I can find a job that isn’t teaching…which is my preference right now.)

I see first hand right now how easy it is for a single mom (or dad, but it’s usually moms) to fall into public assistance. (The majority of people on welfare are single moms.)

What if I had no savings?
What if I had no degree?
What if I had no transportation?
What if I had no free child care?
What if I had no other person contributing (significantly!) to the expenses of a toddler?
What if I had no friends to help?

It is easy to blame and judge, but I think the reality is that we judge because somewhere in the back of our heads, we know how close we really are to that being us. And it is scary.

I also am reasonably sure that I would qualify for some sort of assistance right now, and that pride prevents me from even looking into it. [I did end up on food stamps and state-run health insurance not long after I wrote this.] I assume that most who are standing in line, waiting to be questioned, talked down to, ridiculed, are human like I am, and feel shame and embarrassment in being there.

Choose empathy. You never know people’s story.



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Posted in gifts, know better do better, mindset, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

The Golden Rule, and how we get it wrong

Treat others the way you want to be treated.

We get stuck in the details.

“Well, I like pedicures, but if the person I gift one to doesn’t like pedicures, then they’re not happy even though I treated them how I would like to be treated!”

That’s not what it means.

We want to be respected. We want to be known and heard and understood and loved.

Do that. The process, not the outcome.

(It’s harder than just giving other people things we like.)