Thursday, February 26, 2015

Part of the Solution

Parentunplugged - Part of the Solution - Parent Actions Speak Loudly
If you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem. I wholeheartedly agree with and live by this statement.  It’s truly not enough to just have opinions on the way things should be.  It’s necessary to actually live your life under the umbrella of what you believe in.  

Once enough people do this….making daily decisions regarding behavior, practice, and lifestyle based on the values they hold, other people start to notice and think, 'Hey, maybe I should think about X and incorporate it into my world.’  It spreads.  It becomes commonplace to act or think X, and next thing you know it is an issue, a real hot button topic and the masses at large are weighing in on it and sometimes putting it to law or banning 'it.'  It’s amazing how it happens, really.

There will always be opponents to whatever you believe or hold dear, and I’m not necessarily talking about politics or religion, two of my least favorite topics, but just simple viewpoints or beliefs.  That’s okay, heck that’s even great, as it’s the various takes on the “hows” of the world that make us think and consider the opinions we’ve actually honed, or in some cases, should develop.  Discord keeps us on our toes and in some cases, forces us to take action on our beliefs.

Complacency, on the other hand, does nothing to help a cause.  Never considering your own opinion on a topic, thereby choosing not to weigh in at all, or even worse, doing nothing when you know the right course of action, based on your own opinions and value system, can actually inflate a subject.  Just as taking a stand or an action is contagious, doing zero, or doing nada except complaining is also infectious, causing those around you to do as you do.  Desensitized to the issue, it actually becomes worse, as it appears as if there is no case at all, since there is no attention being pointed its way.

Let’s apply a super general example to prove my point:  Using common manners when interacting with others.

It’s super important to many that manners be used, as they are a symbol of respect when communicating with other people.  If you share that principle, most likely you utilize manners yourself when you interact with the population at large.  You teach those niceties to your children, and they in turn, model your behavior and that which is expected of them, in their own.  Hopefully, if one of you occasionally ‘falls off the wagon’ and forgets or consciously chooses not to be respectful by, the family, subscribing to the same belief system, will keep the individuals in check.  

But other people other people enter the picture. 

“I want a snack now” a 6-year-old whines while at the house visiting.  “What do you have?”

What do you do now?  It’s someone else’s kid….in your house.  To me it’s the same as those mystery books I read as a kid where you could choose the outcome of the story yourself, based on the choices you made during the book….If A, then turn to page 114, if B, then turn to page 64…..the ending was different every time.  You can correct the child and suggest he use “please” or give him the opportunity to rephrase his statement as a polite request.  Or you can take a mental note of his lack of manners, but ignore it and give him his snack options and deliver the goods.  Or maybe you’re already so desensitized to so many kids not using manners that you don’t even notice the infraction or recognize the teaching moment.

Your action, or lack thereof, has impact.  If you create a learning experience and give the child an option to use good manners, not only does it have affect on him, it also is recognized by your own children and teaches them how to use and ask for respect in their own lives.  Maybe the child will say please or thank you next time he asks for something from another child or teacher or parent.  Maybe he won’t.  But he’ll know that the expectation is out there, even if just at your house. Choose another path, and do nothing, and the child learns that there is no expectation whatsoever.  Your child learns that she has to use good manners but her friends don’t, and maybe your child even deducts from the situation that she doesn’t need to use manners at another friend’s home.  

Now multiply this exact scenario.  If every parent acted on the principle of good manners with every child, not to mention adult, that crossed his path, imagine the effect!  Every child would know, in no uncertain terms, that manners were not only expected, but required.  Manners would, by necessity, be incorporated into acceptable behavior.  Conversely, if every parent opted out of mentoring manners in those crucial teaching moments with their own or other people’s kids, children walk away feeling not an ounce of obligation toward respect, but also with a cemented behavior pattern.  After repeated exposure to enough passive parents, lack of manners in communication simply becomes a way of life for kids.

Now take this elementary example and apply it to every other creed you follow.  Your politics, your religion, you human rights stance....are you talking the talk and walking the walk with each view, or are you on cruise control and only setting the behavior portion to action when its convenient or non-confrontational?  I feel like it’s a constant struggle to put myself out there and consistently live the life my personal philosophy dictates.  But then I remind myself that it’s not just about me.  It’s about what my kids and their friends and my associates and friends and the community at large sees me practice.  If I don’t break down my own ideals into actions that are clear, my complacency makes just as loud of a statement….that my beliefs aren’t really that important.  

Look at your own actions in relation to your beliefs.  Are you part of the solution or part of the problem?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Stick to Your Guns

Stick to Your Guns - ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder
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Living Large is not always easy.  While living well within your means and enjoying the things you love most in life sounds like a no-brainer, it actually requires discipline.  And restraint, whether it applies to your interaction with your kids, your employees, or yourself, can be taxing.  It is totally doable, though, and you’ll be happy you stuck to your guns on following your budget once the end of the quarter or year rolls around and you’ve managed to save more than you thought or spend less than you’d bargained.  

Once your budget is in place (click here if you don’t have a budget yet) the key to success is following it.  Assuming your budget is thoughtfully construed, meaning it's a relatively accurate account of expected expenses and is zero-balance based, meaning all money coming in over a specific time period, is accounted for as going out, whether to expenses, savings or investment, you’ve won half the battle. 

Planning and flexibility is required to stay on point with your budget. While you’ve probably already anticipated unexpected expenses in your yearly budget, you may not have considered the will power necessary to spend just the allowances set aside for each category, especially when shopping on the fly.  

Even though I have subscribed for years to the mindset of only purchasing what I’ve planned on buying, and nothing more, each day can be a new challenge. Just today, I visited a new gym I had planned on joining with my wife.  I had already researched the gym’s website and acquainted myself with its fees, its offerings, and its commitment and cancellation policies, yet I still decided we should visit it to get a feel before joining online.

I knew I hadn’t budgeted money in our recreation category for the year.  My wife already owned a pre-paid membership at a gym downtown and I had an existing membership at local pricey gym, currently on hold because I was on a long road of recovery from a recent knee surgery and was facing another one in the upcoming months, which will keep me off my feet and unable to utilize the gym for quite some time.  However, our situation had changed recently in that my wife’s gym was no longer easily accessible after a job change and I was recently given the clearance to use an elliptical machine, which I desperately wanted to try.  I was confident, however, in the fact that if I finessed the budget a bit and spent X number of dollars on gym memberships this year that I hadn’t planned for, I could spend the same X number of dollars LESS in another category in order to make my zero balance budget jive.  I just needed to adjust to the situation.

Armed with a dollar amount in my head that we could spend this year on memberships, we visited the gym, prepared to try it out and join on the spot if we liked it.  But we were met with roadblocks that made us reconsider.  There was no “trial” the gym offered for before joining unless a $20 fee was paid per person per day. No thank you.  The low monthly, no-commitment-based fee with an almost nonexistence sign-up charge was no longer available as of 2 days ago, but was replaced with a decent wad of cash for a joiner fee.  Top that off with the full-court sales press toward the super-sized membership that touted bells and whistles and had a price tag double the monthly fee plus a year-long commitment, and our day was all of a sudden not so clear cut.

My wife and I had to take a minute to regroup on our own without the salesman.  We considered every angle of the membership info that was thrown at us.  We quickly moved past our inability to “try the gym out” for the day before deciding and went right into negotiations.  We went back and forth with our separate lists of wants and needs, haggling the terms for half an hour.  Our visit ended with the two of us walking out, each from a separate set of doors on opposite ends of the gym because we were barely speaking, with no membership at all as we couldn’t make and combination of concessions work for our budget on the spot.  

On the longer-than-I’d-like-to-drive-in-a-car-to-get-to-a-gym car ride home, we bickered over the outcome of our gym visit, and ultimately I decided the location was too inconvenient an option for me to personally consider.  My wife went back and purchased the mac daddy membership she had, unbeknownst to me, wanted all along, for the exact price we had allotted for the total money spent for gym memberships.  She received unlimited guest passes with her sign-up, so I’m in for an elliptical workout or two a week with her.  It all worked out in the end after much scrutiny, but there was nothing enjoyable about keeping those scales balanced.

Some days are much easier than others and it just becomes a way of life.  It’s all a tradeoff though.  If you get into the habit of putting more thought into your purchases, maybe even just large ones at first, that will spill over onto smaller ones, it will become a routine.  Just like quitting a bad habit like smoking, it takes the same 21 days to institute a new good pattern, like sticking to your guns on your finances.

Give it a try.  It’s amazing what you can accomplish in just a short period of time.  And then your attitude starts to change when you see how much money you can actually save just by preparing for purchases and honoring your budget.  You’ve got nothing to lose…..but spending too much green!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Teaching Moments Important, Despite Disappointment

ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder - Teaching Moments Important, Despite Disappointment
You can’t help but look at the story of the Chicago Little League team that was stripped of its US Championship title this week and feel sorry for the kids involved.  They played their butts off and showed heart to win that standing and then got it taken away because of a technicality.  

But what a great teaching moment for these kids, their parents, and the population at large watching this story unfold!  While the situation seems a bit unfair to the kids, who themselves had nothing to do with Jackie Robinson West using a falsified boundary map to build a super team of excellent players, they’re old enough to understand right and wrong.  They’re mature enough to realize that every action has a ramification and that sometimes you end up standing on the wrong side of the equation, regardless of whether you make the active choice or end up there because of someone else.  Bottom line, they’re learning accountability.

They’re witnessing first hand that you can’t win by cheating.  It stinks that the lesson is at their playing expense, but I’m guessing that this particular gem will stay with them and help build their characters, which will affect the type of players and adults they become.  

I bet those kids are mad and they have every right to be.  Maybe they’re upset with the officials that made the under-handed boundary changes responsible for their unseating.  Could be they’re annoyed at their parents for buying into the scheme or not questioning the change.  Possibly they’re ticked at themselves for no listening to their guts, which may or may not have alerted them to a potential problem.  I can’t even imagine what they’re feeling, but I do hope that they will take away from this moment in time a great lesson in integrity.  Doing the right thing, or playing fair, as it relates to sports, even if it feels so horrifically bad right now, is always the way to go.

While no one want to see kids lose trust in a coach, a parent, or an organization, the reality of the world is that there are cheats out there, folks that want to win or get or take, no matter what the expense of the actions taken to get there.  What better way for our kids to learn to trust their own basic instincts and common sense when it comes to navigating their own lives?  If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.  

While the specifics of the involvement level of the parents is up for grabs, there is no question that this scandal exemplifies the entitlement trend of adults and parents conveying the clear message to child athletes, students, and participants of any activity, that its no longer good enough to play, compete, or do just for the sake of fun, recreation, and building life skills  No, in today’s world we will stop at nothing to make sure our kids are THE BEST at whatever they do.

It gives me pause to re-evaluate the “why’s” of my own children’s activities.  Am I part of the trend?  Are you?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Is That Money Mine?

ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder - Is That Money Mine?
Have you ever rummaged through one of your coat pockets to see if you might have left a few dollar bills in the pocket, as you head to the door to tip the pizza guy, catch the ice cream truck, or catch the bus?  It’s always such a thrill to find a forgotten fiver or ten-spot.  Now imagine your delight if it was $20,000 you forgot about.

I was walking with a friend a few weeks ago and she had to finish our walk early so she could meet her husband at the notary’s office.

“Bummer,” I stated.  “That sounds like a drag.”

“Actually, it’s okay,” she replied.  “I’ve been meaning to do it for a while.  I need to notarize some paperwork so I can collect money from a check that was sent to an old address where I used to live some years ago.”

“How did you even know it was there?” I asked her.

“I randomly checked the Illinois State Treasurer’s Unclaimed Property Website.  After buying some shares of such-and-such-stock at the IPO some years ago, I ended up moving and forgot about the statements.  The company did well after a certain point in time, they cashed out my stock and sent me the proceeds, so now I have a $20,000 check that I need to claim.”

“Ex-squeeze me?  Baking powder?” as Wayne Campbell would say. 
ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder - Is That Money Mine?

I went home and immediately checked my own name, as well as my wife’s.  I have a payroll check under $100 and she has 2 checks, each over $100 from a previous company’s stock plan, waiting to be claimed from one of our old addresses in Chicago.  I am LIVING LARGE today.  Free money always works for me, even if it was my mine to begin with and I had forgotten it!

Do you have unclaimed property or money attached to a previous address?  Check today and find out.  In Illinois, visit Illinois State Treasurer’s ICASH.   In California, visit California State Controller’s Office and in Indiana, visit the Indiana Attorney General.  In all other states, simply search online for ‘unclaimed property search’ for that state.  Maybe today is your lucky day!