Saturday, March 26, 2011

Less Stuff, More Life

“If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, then this is the best season of your life.” - Wu-Men

I am intrigued by minimalist principles. I even practice modified minimalism in some areas, at least part of the time. Do I aspire to be a radical minimalist? No. What I seek is serenity. And serenity is impossible in the midst of clutter. Whether it’s too many possessions or too much too do or too much to think about, it’s all clutter and clutter kills serenity.

I just got The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life, an eBook by Leo Babauta, and would like to share some of his wonderful wisdom. First we have the Minimalist Principles, Babauta-style:
  1. Omit needless things.
  2. Identify the essential.
  3. Make everything count.
  4. Fill your life with joy.
  5. Edit, edit. (In other words, it’s a journey, not a destination.)
Then we have How to Become a Minimalist:
  • Realize you already have enough.
  • Cut back on clutter and possessions.
  • Simplify your schedule.
  • Slowly edit everything you do with minimalist principles in mind.

On the how-to areas, I’m pretty good in the first and third but really need to pick up the pace in the second. Area four? I’m working on it.

So, how about you? Have you been on the minimalist path for a while? Are you a frustrated minimalist at heart? Do you fail to even see the point?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

How to Raise Kids to be Successful Adults

Got an interesting tidbit in one of my many email newsletters today. From Franklin Covey Guru Advice-giver, Stephanie Vozza:
"Dr. Martin Rossmann of the University of Minnesota found that the best predictor of a child's success is that they began helping with household chores between the ages of three and four. His study found that the teens who had been given responsibilities as preschoolers were more likely to finish their education on time and have quality relationships."

I remember chores as a child. Did I appreciate them then? No. Did my kids have chores? Yes. But it seems that many children nowadays don't have chores. Are we raising a coddled, entitlement-minded generation? Could be. What's the answer? Hint: It starts at home.

That being said, do your children/grandchildren have chores? If not, why not? Every person in every family needs to be a contributing member.

What About Allowance?

Of course, then we get into the thorny issue of allowance. Should kids be paid for completing chores? Or should contributing to the betterment of the family as a whole be it's own reward and allowance distributed based simply on household membership? Well, I've done it both ways (as well as a few hybrids) and I could argue any side of any one. So I say give it some serious thought and do what works for your family. And if what you're doing isn't working, change it.

My personal preference for my four kids, based on financial circumstances and trial and error, was a monthly allowance based on age ($1/year/month, with annual raises in the birthday month) and chores assigned based on age/ability and not tied to allowance. What? Only $1/year/month? Are you kidding? Was this in the 1950s? NO! It was actually in the 80s-90s. What did my kids say? "Well, my friends all get $5/week." Oh well. Did I cave to the pressure? No, I let them take turns writing out the checks to pay the bills each month, after which the complaints ceased. Our budget was a completely open book and there's nothing like real-life experience on the planning end of making ends meet to make a believer out of your kids. Also, it inspires the kids to get a job and work for what they want. "Yearn and earn," as Dr. Laura says.

Bottom Line

You won't always be there to bail out your kids. You won't always be there to even help them a little bit. Teach your kids practical skills from an early age and, even if they don't appreciate your efforts at the time, they will thank you later in life. How to handle money, how to care for clothing, how to clean a house - yes, your kids can learn these things after they leave the next but adult life is so much easier if the basics are already second-nature.

Added bonus? Life has a way of throwing us curve balls when we least expect it. How reassuring to know that not only can your adult kids take care of themselves and their families but that they'd even be able to give you a hand if the need arose? While I don't intend to have to rely on my kids later in life (physically or financially), it's nice to know I can depend on them if need be.

So, what do you think? How do you handle chores and allowance in your home?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

High-tech Dentistry in the Hills

Blackberries - Karen Balvin,
 Almost three years ago, I was enjoying some homemade blackberry jam. As I bit down, a teeny tiny blackberry seed broke one of my fillings – yes, just like David and Goliath – took it completely out. Who knew something so small could be so mighty? Fortunately, the tooth didn’t hurt at all but it sure felt funny with the whole middle missing.

My dentist of 25 years, the wonderful Dr. Kizziar, laid out my options – crown the tooth or fill it again. Well, I have a few crowns already and wasn’t looking forward to option 1 so I chose the re-fill. Problem being that the tooth was mostly filling so it was questionable how long it would last.

Answer to that question? Almost three years. This time it was soft chicken that did the job. Although the filling didn’t fall out, it felt loose and the tooth hurt. So back to the dentist I go. This time there is no discussion about options – it is definitely crown time. So be it – now I’m ready.

Well, guess what? I was anticipating the usual crown schedule – prep the tooth, install a temporary crown, and come back in a couple of weeks for the real thing. Was I ever surprised when he said it would take him about an hour to make the crown if I’d like to wait? Since getting to the dentist takes over two hours, that was a no-brainer.

Within the past year, my dentist in a little town of under 2,500 people in a mountain county of only 13,000+ got high-tech. He’s got a CAD/CAM system now that allowed him to scan my tooth and generate a crown right then and there. Not only that, but the new tooth is solid ceramic rather than a veneer. This tooth will probably outlast me! And it looks just like a real tooth, too. Isn’t modern technology amazing?

So if you’re in need of a crown, don’t despair. See if your dentist is all high-tech yet and if not, get a referral to one that is. And here’s a Wikipedia link if you’d like to know more about CAD/CAM dentistry.