A blog for my writerly ramblings, my rambly writings, and all things in between.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Whose Problem Is It Really?

We’ve all seen the ranting posts on facebook- things like:

“Certain people just need to keep their noses out of other people’s business!”

“If people say they’re going to do something, they need to step up and do it and stop hiding behind stupid excuses.”

“I can NOT handle this crap anymore! I am not your verbal punching bag!"

What do these kinds of posts have in common?

Typically the author knows the accused will not see it (or if they do, it is vague enough to allow for deniability) and they take pleasure in venting to the world in a way that does not rock the boat with the accused, but may elicit sympathy from others.

Why is this a concern?

1. This does not solve the problem. So often, people get angry about others’ behavior, but rather than actually talk to them about the way their behavior is negatively affecting them, they choose to rant and rave about it to everyone EXCEPT the person causing the frustration. How is this person supposed to know that you’re upset? (Hint: subtle, nonverbal cues like aloofness or sarcasm do not count.) How is this person supposed to fix the problem if they don’t even know that there is a problem? (Despite your narcissistic beliefs, they are probably not out to get you. Just sayin’.)

2. You teach people how to treat you. Any time you have an issue with someone but you choose to grumble about it to others while keeping the perpetrator in the dark, you are teaching them that their behavior is okay. Because as far as they know what they’re doing isn’t affecting you at all. And then, when the same behavior continues from them, you are surprised and angry and the rants intensify.

Really? And this makes sense because...?

3. The ones causing your wrath are not the ones experiencing it. You save that for the people you actually like. You feel comfortable with the ones you love the most. You know you can rant and rave and they’ll still love you. You can be vulnerable with them, so you take advantage of it, and they get to hear all about how ticked off you are as you make snide comments at texts coming on your phone, or go off about how dumb your boss is.

Newsflash: This is not fun for them. And it’s not fair to them either.

Here’s the long and the short of it: Because you are afraid to be vulnerable, you let people get away with treating you like crud, then you abuse the ones who love you the most (and would never treat you like crud) by treating them like crud because of the person who did it to you. The more you get treated like crud, the more you spew the effects of it all over the special people in your life, while continuing to let the original crud-creator go on his or her happy-go-lucky way.

In the words of Dr. Phil: So, how’s that working for ya?

Chances are, IT DOESN’T.

So what do you do?

1. Pick your battles. Ask yourself, is this worth fighting for? Can I brush this off, or am I willing to do what it takes to stand up for myself? Often at this juncture, you may realize that, for the sake of your sanity and your love of those around you, you can simply let it go. But if not...

2. Be honest. Boil down the problem: why is it a problem? Is it a matter of respect? Is it possible the person simply doesn’t realize what they’re doing? Is someone taking advantage of you? Get down to the heart of the problem and really think it through. You need to have confidence that you have a case before you go any further.

3. Make a plan. Personally, if I have a big issue with someone that I know needs attention but I’m afraid I’ll screw it up if I try to talk to them, I will put it in writing. That gives me time to organize, to edit, and to decide if it’s really something I can take ownership of. Also, most people are happy to accept a well-written letter, as most people like to avoid confrontation. (Sometimes I write the letter, realize I’m being an idiot, then crumple it up and throw it away and move on with my life.)

4. Just do it and leave your loved ones out of it (mostly). Now it’s time to confront the offending party. You can do this in person, on the phone, or in writing.

To prepare, you can ask someone close to you if they would mind hearing your thoughts on the matter. But- THIS IS NOT A GRIPE SESSION. This is a practice to see how your concerns might be received by the offending party, and your loved one will probably be happy to help you out. Then just do it. Send the letter, arrange the meeting, make the call: whatever you have to do to start communicating like a grown-up.

**Emotional Troll Disclaimer** There are some people in this world who, for whatever reason, feel it is their purpose in life to make others’ lives miserable with the things they say and do. I like to call these people Emotional Trolls. I would like to think that some of them are just oblivious. And that maybe some of them have deeper issues that have nothing at all to do with the people they hurt. Others could be vengeful for whatever reason. But no matter why they act the way they do, they exist, and usually- here is the important part- they do not change. They will continue to trample you under their angry feet for as long as you let them.

If these trolls are people that you don’t know (many of them lurk online and leave nasty comments and snarky reviews) then simply ignore them. If, however, they are people in your life (*cough*extendedfamilymembers*cough*) your best bet is to simply love them from afar. Accept that they are who they are, and avoid them if you can, but if not, just try to roll with the punches. Don’t let them be the ones causing you to grumble at the ones who are actually good to you. Remember that their behavior has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with them and their own issues. Be thankful that you and the ones you hold dear would never treat people that way.

You can do it. You can ditch the cryptic Facebook posts and gripe sessions and start being a grown-up. I know you can.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Few Words on Robin Williams

Since Mr. Williams’ passing yesterday, I have heard the whole gamut:

“He committed suicide. It was his own choice.”

“He had depression- he couldn’t help himself. Now he’s at peace."

“What did he have to be miserable about? He was rich and everybody loved him!”

“Why is everyone talking about Robin Williams? Don’t they know there are innocent children being murdered all over the world? Why isn’t anyone talking about them?”

Here is what I know for sure:

- We all fight our own battles, which are as varied and individual as we are. If being rich and loved fixed all human problems, then the world would have far fewer problems.

- Only God knows what’s in our hearts and in our minds. It is not up to us to judge one another, just to love one another.

- Mental illness is real, and its effects are difficult to comprehend or to measure. It is not fully understood by even the medical community, and so the best the rest of us can do is to recognize that it exists and to love those who might suffer from it, and help them as much as we can.

- Many people knew of Mr. Williams and thought highly of him because of his work. It is natural for them to be sad that he is gone, and to discuss that loss with others and remember the positive things he did through his work. Because of his widespread fame, this means he will be spoken of quite a bit, and other stories- important and worthy though they might be of our attention- will be put aside for awhile.

- I thought Robin Williams was a brilliant performer. His improv skills were second to none, and his dramatic acting was certainly notable as well. I am sad that I will not get to enjoy more of his remarkable work.

- I wish him nothing but good. I know that what happens to his soul is up to God, and I am glad that I do not have to judge him or his works. I know that God will be fair and merciful.

- There is a lot of pain and suffering in the world, most of it unfair and unjustified, its victims innocent. This breaks my heart, but I know that I cannot be all things to all people. I will focus on doing my best in my own little corner of the world where I feel God has placed me with the work He wants me to do, and I believe that is what Robin Williams did, in his own way, and what we should all strive to do.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Why You Don’t *Get* Common Core Math

I have been seeing this image of this math problem supposedly comparing the “old fashion[ed] way" to the "new [common core] way" of teaching, and people around the net are shaking their heads at the absurdity of it. 

I agree.

THIS problem looks absurd when comparing two different math strategies, and the way the method is laid out in this photo is also significantly exaggerated (which I'll get into later). But the people mocking this new math strategy (and the person who created this image) clearly do not understand either the method or the reasoning behind it. They say things like, "China is laughing at us right now." Yes, China is laughing at us right now. Because they can't believe it has taken us so long to teach math in this way and they really can't believe that educated grown-ups can't even grasp it, and instead are having hissy fits over it because they don't understand it.

Let me explain. First, mocking a problem like this one as an example of this math strategy would be like harassing a 4-year-old for counting on her fingers when you ask her what 2 + 2 equals. When kids are young, they are still trying to understand numbers as representations of other things- like fingers- and they have to take it one step at a time. So, they begin with counting on their fingers. This particular problem, with its long, drawn-out, rounding up and down answer, is the common core version of counting on fingers: it’s the next step in understanding how numbers relate.

 You might have also noticed, if you have kids in public schools, the use in recent years of math tools like number lines and hundreds charts. At first I didn't understand these, but once I did, it made a great deal of sense to me. These tools teach kids to understand numbers as a sequential buildup organized in sections of 10. They understand numbers spatially, not just in the abstract.

One of the issues I have with this particular example problem is that the frustrated student or parent decided to exaggerate the method by rounding to 5, rather than 10. Personally, I have never seen that done, and it looks to me just like the author's way of trying to make it look even more ridiculous. Either that, or they REALLY didn't get how to do it (and no wonder they were frustrated). 

Let's go back to that problem: 32-12. A grownup who has been doing math for years can clearly see that, since both numbers end in two and 3-1 equals 2, then the answer is 20. Easy, right? Big fat duh. Very uncomplicated. 

Let's say, however, that you, the grownup, are given a slightly harder problem, like 326- 78. A little bit harder to do in your head, right? 

Now let's take the common-core-educated student who will be using the rounding up and down strategies. If given this harder problem he will not ask for a piece of paper and start borrowing and carrying. He will say:

"Well, 78 rounded up is 80- just had to add 2. 

If you round that up to 100 you'll have 20 left. 

20 plus 2 is 22. 

326 rounded to the nearest hundred leaves 26. 

300- 100 equals 200. 

26 plus 22 equals 48. 

So the answer is 248.” 

Of course, he probably won't need to say all that. By the time he gets that far, it will be second nature and he will be able to do it very quickly in his head without even thinking about each step. 

How has he gotten to that answer? Using the exact strategy being mocked all over the web. He has used number lines and hundreds charts- he knows numbers are not just abstract digits with rules to be followed that only make sense if you have a piece of paper and pencil. He can see how the numbers relate in his head, and he has been doing this ever since he was learning to solve problems like 32-12, so he can easily manipulate large numbers without writing a single thing. He has spent time knowing what plus what equals 10, and he understands how blocks of 10 stack up to build bigger numbers. He has practiced rounding up and down, understanding how adding differences leads to the right answer.

It's not rocket science, people. It's basic math.

I would also like to point out that, at least in my kids' school, this is not the only method that is taught. Kids are also taught borrowing and carrying, and they are encouraged to use whatever method is more comfortable for them. There are many kids whose analytical minds thrive with the shortcuts that borrowing and carrying provide. But, thanks to this mathematical foundation, they also understand exactly why they cross out that 2 and make it a 1, and why that 1 gets tacked on next to the 6 to make 16. And the kids who are not mathematically-minded, whose minds work better with pictures and space, they finally have a method that embraces their way of seeing the world and gives them an effective strategy to solve difficult problems in a linear way. 

The great thing is that the beauty of this method goes beyond basic subtraction. By learning to separate numbers into their individual parts and whittle each part down to its simplest form, it becomes a stepping stone to higher math, allowing them to not only understand how to get to the right answer, but understand why it is the right answer. 

So please, please stop complaining, people. Before you mock something, take the time to truly understand it and the reasoning behind it. It might not be as bad as you think.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

There Is No Bar.

You may have seen this video floating around the web recently:

Great video, awesome to see a mom and her son having such a fun time on his wedding day! However, I took issue with this caption from the Today Show that accompanied the video:

"The video, which was posted in March, is going super-viral as moms and sons everywhere prepare to up the ante for their own moments on the wedding dance floor, no doubt.”

My question is this: Why? Why should this video make “moms and sons everywhere prepare to up the ante for their own moments on the wedding dance floor?”

I feel like we live in a society that, especially due to visual media and the ease of sharing it, has become a  world of one-uppers. No longer is it considered “good enough” to throw a birthday party for your kid with a cake, ice cream, balloons and streamers. Now every party must have a theme with matching printables; adorable treats that you make using some combination of Twinkies, licorice, and chocolate chips; games; costumes; a photo booth with props and so on. The party must also be photographed with your DSLR (using manual mode and appropriate bokeh techniques) and you must make adorable thank-you cards to send to all the guests.

When did this become the norm?

From birthday parties to Elf on the Shelf to St. Patrick’s Day leprechaun traps to any number of exceedingly ridiculous new “traditions”, we seem to see something that is unique, out of the ordinary, and above and beyond, and decide that because everybody loves it, it must now be a necessary part of our culture and everyone must do it and there is something lacking if you do not. Each unique and special creation isn’t appreciated for what it is- a single, awesome thing that one person did- instead everyone says it “ups the ante” and “raises the bar.”


No, no, no. Newsflash, friends: THERE IS NO ANTE. There is no bar. The person who created/did whatever thing you saw was not issuing you a personal challenge (and if they were, then they clearly have a deeper problem). Life is not a competition. The way you celebrate and the things you do are entirely up to you. If you see something that will work for you and make you happy, then do it. If not, then don’t. Not because you don’t have the time, the talent, or the money (though these are all valid reasons as well) but because you choose not to.

Just don’t.

No ante. No bar.