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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Weekend Reflections: Minimum Wage Wars on Humanity

I stumbled across (not upon) this article via the Washington Post without knowing the history of the person who started at Hardee's and is now some sort of political person. I didn't bother to look her up. I know many rags to riches success stories -- but many more rags to more rags stories. But I digress.

Trashed dreams?
WPost: Day in the Life of Hardee's Employee Article

Stock photos courtesy MorgueFile & used with permission.

Ann Hull wrote quite the short story / expose about a day in the life of the average fast food worker. As a human interest story, it tugged heartstrings. As an educational piece promoting raising the minimum wage -- it fell short. Very short. Just look at the comments.

Judgmentally, I was saying the same things. A $200 tattoo? Cigarettes? Who needs multiple HDMI cables? Who has kids at 18 by multiple dads? Who misses financial aid deadlines?  

Where are their parents? 

Having a tattoo doesn't make one a bad parent.

 In a perfect world, everyone would have parents helping make sure that s/he struggled a little less and was at least a little more successful in life than the parents themselves. We don't live in a perfect world. Not to mention that such perfection would mean different things to different people. Being rich and being happy may not be mutually exclusive, but happiness seems more attainable to me than wealth. To a rich person, happiness may be just as elusive. To a person living in poverty, I am wealthy. Compared to the superintendent of my son's school district (who has been in the same position since I started school in the same district over 30 years ago), the CEO of WalMart (or pick a Walton), any living president of the University I graduated from, or even the people who live in the posh neighborhood across the street from me, my family's paycheck-to-paycheck existence and rented home keep us very near the poverty line. It's all relative.

Many things I wanted five years ago have been acquired -- debts paid off, new car, better place to live. A trip to Florida to see the Harry Potter amusement park with my kid. A book published and sales to my name. Having accomplished those, I'm not satisfied. Debt has crept back in -- new car, furniture for the new house, moving fees, funeral expenses, a new laptop, and the trip. We got out of debt only to climb right back into bed with it. Like a child, I still want more things. I want more vacations. I want to worry less about money. I want savings and retirement accounts. I want health insurance that costs less than my car payment and would kick in before I'd spent $10K out of pocket. I want someone to typeset, edit, and format my books for me. A marketing director who would do the asking so I didn't have to. I want money to pay an artist -- or a team of them. I want, and I don't feel like I'm asking for a lot.

One person in the article thought that $28,000 a year was good money. That's what her mother made. And she wasn't doing better than that working at Hardee's. Granted, it's more than I've made in book sales and speaking fees. A lot more. But it isn't a living wage, as far as I'm concerned.

I don't have tattoos. I don't drink. I've never been to jail. I have an undergraduate degree with no student loans to repay. (I did attend, but did not graduate from, graduate school. I had a student loan for that. It has been repaid. My husband, who earned a PhD, still has student loans.) All four of our parents were college graduates. We both have friends whose parents were single tattooed chain smokers, and some of them grew up like the young people in this article. Others grew up and have jobs that make more than we do. My husband and I did not seek wealth as a primary reason for employment. We wanted steady incomes in jobs that made a difference -- for both of us, the difference we wanted to make was combatting combating (that just looks wrong, like the a should be long) combatting (it may be wrong, but it looks better) ignorance. But neither of us are doing the work we went to college to pursue.

There are opportunities in this growing Arkansas area that don't exist in truly rural areas -- like where my father grew up. My mother's family was never in poverty, but as an army brat, my mother spent time worrying about her dad in combat in an existence I don't wish upon any kid. To know that these days, active military service does not set a family up for financial security is an outrage. The growing gap between the haves and the have nots just gets wider and wider. And people do lose hope.

Until we can effect true change in our nation, we will have hopeless citizens striving to be happy because financial gain is elusive. And if tattoos, cigarettes, and cable TV makes someone feel life is more than suicide, or homicide, or some other kind of felony -- then we should support that. After all, it is a lot easier and cheaper to support the poor's extravagances than to fight the massive crime spree of our nation's politicians, Wall Street, and the terminally elite.

Author Photo by Tori Brunson

Phyl Campbell is Author, Mother, Dreamer. She writes on a variety of topics: Parenting, How-To, Grammar, Women/Feminism/Equality, Book Reviews, Work in Progress and Reflections. Her books are available on Amazon and she's pursuing her dreams as a motivational and professional speaker. If you'd like to see her speak at an upcoming function, contact her through her website or Facebook page.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Work in Progress Friday: Matt Summell Explains Why Writing Is Hard

In a post from a member of the Insecure Writers Support Group, I found this post by author Matt Sumell. I feel this one. I plot and plan now more than I used to, and I'm on my third draft of anything I'm writing the first time my fingers touch keyboard keys to record my ideas. Draft three rarely bares more than slight resemblance to draft one. I spend so much time recovering from memories -- putting experiences into useable art -- and keep my fingers busy without being productive. It happens.

The road not taken is not the road forgotten. [MorgueFile]

And it's never the big scary or sad memories. It's the description of someone's hair that reminds me of someone I used to know. It's the color of the sky that I never quite get on paper because it takes me to a different place and time. I get lost there. It's the reason I remember the (really, it's not) silent letter C -- because an ex used to tease me about it -- and other grammar rules that are deeply embedded in my daily usage. It doesn't matter who dumped whom or what the circumstances were. Even the worst date had something funny: the purpose of some lives IS to serve as warnings to others. Looking back, many of my warnings were hilarious.

And then there's the moments where I can't breathe. And it's all these teeny straws that just can't be explained to someone who wasn't there back then. The camel's back is broken, but each little piece of hay seems insignificant for explaining the memory. These little straws have me running for covers and my couch -- or wide awake at 3am, reminding myself to breathe.

And like this blogger, it's why I can say sincerely that although I might have drawn upon some experience in creating my fiction, no character is ME. I mean, they're all me. Jagged pieces of me.


Phyl Campbell writes fiction, non-fiction, and pretty much whatever floats her boat. She's struggling to finish editing a book of grammar, which just exacerbates all her typographic fears!!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Women Wednesday: Amazing Women

Today's post is going to be short because I'm in over my head with my grammar book edits and I REALLY need to finish them. But March is Women's History Month, and so it's a bad time to skip Wednesday posts or Women Wednesdays.

First, I'm grateful for Geena Davis and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Since I joined the Facebook page, I've seen so many affirming things about being a woman in this day and age. We still have a lot of work to do, but in working together, we can get it done.

Next, I'm grateful to literary agent Kristin Nelson (not my agent -- as an indie I've not queried her, but I'm happy to follow her posts on FB) for sharing this information about women in indie publishing. I'll sum up the article by saying that self-publishing women are breaking through all kinds of gender barriers in their success. I hope as I continue to put my work in the hands of readers, I can join that group of successful indie authors. I am a work in progress.

Speaking of works in progress, thanks to a great book by Jennifer Weiner (Good in Bed), I am making some changes to the Jane's character in #25 Reasons. I had already made her a character whose body changed after becoming a mother, but I'd pulled back from making her a larger woman, in part because I did not need more "evidence" I was writing a memoir. While the experiences in #25 Reasons are things I can relate to as one half of a married couple, I have worked diligently to write something MOST women could relate to. Jane's story is Jane's, not mine. But after a breakfast date with a friend and a couple of nights with Weiner's book, I realized just how rare it is for plus-sized women to BE protagonists -- even in chic-lit. If I want to see changes there, I have to be part of those changes. 

I want to say a HUGE THANK YOU to a local lady named Dawn DeShazo. Dawn went further than I did in finding research about the PARCC standardized test third graders and up are supposed to take this year, and helped a group of parents (including me) REFUSE to test our kids via PARCC and REFUSE to open all our children's school information to a third party's market research whims. Parents did not think we could refuse the test for our children. Many school admins across the country have used scare tactics and misleading information to make parents would back down from protecting our kids' well-being and privacy. Dawn didn't back down. She did the research to show parents COULD, especially in light of our legislature working to end the contract with the third party company, and SHOULD refuse PARCC testing. There's still a bunch of shady stuff going on in our legislature that negatively impacts our kids. As long as parents work together, we can support our teachers (largely a female group) and help our kids be more student and less guinea pig for FOR PROFIT corporations.

Finally, I am great friends with MANY wonderful unsung women heroes. A mom took time out of her busy day last week to help me pull articles from my blogs and organize them for my grammar book. (That link will take you to some of those articles and blog posts.) Several moms have been sounding boards for me these past few weeks. Others are just there when I need them -- we don't talk as often as we'd like, but we can pick up three months of happenings in two hour phone conversations and if one needed something urgently, the other would drop and run to save the day. Having people like that in my life is just good.

So much for keeping this short!! There is so much going on by women and for women that I think needs to be shared.

Phyl Campbell is Author, Mother, Dreamer. Right now, she's in over her head with two book projects whose (author-self-imposed) deadlines passed by. She waved, and only cried a little. But sometimes the Mother and Dreamer get in the way of the Author, and the Author has to catch up. Check out her author page on Amazon.

Monday, March 9, 2015

How To Monday: How to BALANCE Screen Time for Young People

Children in middle school have a surprising amount of independence. They attend multiple classes with over a hundred different students. A parent does well to keep up with a small percentage of the ones the young adolescent talks about – and that is when, in the case of my son, the kid bothers to put names with events, or even learn the names of the people he sits by day after day. 

And I figured between being overly permissive with the XBOX and allowing friends over whenever they felt like coming would help me know my son’s friends better (Unlike some other platforms, XBOX allows players to play online with their friends, each from the comfort of his or her own home. And since those classmates did not feel my eyes upon them, I saw -- for good and bad -- what kind of players and people they really were. So did my son.).  Teamwork is such a vital part of so many jobs – as is technology – that my concerns over too much were competing with preparations for the real world. Even Mr. Rogers said that playing was an important part of a child’s education. Who am I to argue with Mr. Rogers? 

[See one parent's list of rules for Minecraft here.]

I don’t overschedule my son – in fact, the opposite may be true. The things that interest him now are, in no particular order, XBOX, XBOX, and XBOX. He tried a team sport last year, but did not have a good experience. He was stage crew in a play last semester, but didn’t have lines to study and wasn’t as invested as other actors or stage hands might have been. He tried a computer class, but he wasn’t learning what he wanted, and then the sport took place at the same time as the class, so he dropped it. When the sport was over, he had no interest in picking [the computer class] back up again. XBOX, like a beloved pet, ice cream, or cable TV, was always there for him.

His friends don’t care if he’s the best or the worst. He doesn’t care when they beat him (unless they cheat/grief him -- and I got upset before he did at the levels of griefing). This is good experience for teamwork and life in an office. XBOX rewards him and levels him up -- win or lose. Unlike real life, no matter how many targets he shoots or zombies he kills (or kill him) – XBOX is a magical land where nobody dies.

But, with the warmer weather approaching in the weeks to come, I have a plan to take back my living room and the scarce remnants of my sanity. I am limiting screen time. (Now, a limit for my house might be an expansion in yours. Our children are different and so are we.)

Starting Monday, XBOX can be run between the hours of 5(PM) and 7(PM). This allows everyone who take a little longer to get home from school to get home, and allows for family dinner after 7 (since my husband sometimes gets off at 5 and other times not until 6:30 or later). It gives boundaries. It returns XBOX control in my house to my house. No more “well, Aloisius* can only get on at 3:30” or “Beelzebub* can’t get on until after baseball practice.” No more “well, I’ve got to text Hezekiah* to see when he can get on.” 

Enforceability was one problem I had with imposing time limits. When I said “two hours a day,” it became an argument as to whether that two hours started from powering on the system, or two hours starting when everything and everyone was logged in. Two hours became three or four, and “if I don’t want to watch [show], can I keep playing with my friends?” Since part of me was already having a hard time justifying the educational or recreational difference between playing alone with Yu Gi Oh cards, Bakugan balls, or Legos in his room, I usually gave in. Why not?
This comment was not MY 11YO (spells about the same, though). I found it interesting. He thinks 3-5 years later it won't be interesting anymore. I know 9-29 year olds who are addicted, though I can't prove when the 3-5 years started and stopped, and figure there are some late starters. So it's interesting that this kid replied at all -- it was time away from actually playing.

It didn’t seem to matter at the beginning of the school year. When my child did his homework without complaint, he got time to unwind. It seemed only fair. What happened over time was that he stopped bringing homework home – clearly thinking that what Mom didn’t see didn’t cut into his XBOX time. He’s not a bad kid – and SOME homework still trickled home. Just enough that I wasn’t raising an eyebrow. And I know some schools and teachers are giving less homework because a lot of parents can’t help with it – and I agree that they shouldn’t have to, because forty hours in school is more than enough time to cover a middle schooler’s educational needs. Except that middle schoolers still haven’t learned how to study, and they need homework to reinforce the concepts that are presented to them in class. Not all students. Definitely mine. And he does not like hearing that. 

I’m not a heartless mother. We’re not replacing all his screen time with studying (as much as I might like to). The current time frame gives me the option to add more restrictions if grades continue to go down instead of up. At school, it allows him to say “these are the times I’m available to play XBOX” to his friends – one simple time frame five days a week regardless of THEIR myriad schedules. Then, it allows him to be a kid – separate from his phone – to play inside with his neglected toys or outside on the trampoline or just sit somewhere zoning out, creating stories, singing, or doing nothing.

I do have to add, given just a smidge of my research here, that my child's attitude has not changed toward me since bringing XBOX into the house. He does chores to earn the LIVE GOLD subscription. He is still respectful. He is still kind. When I tell him to turn it off, he does so with a lot less grief than I see from his classmates to their parents. Maybe because he knows how fast it would be gone without the respect. Maybe because he has no siblings to fight with over its use. His teachers aren't as concerned about his grades as I am, and he seems well liked by his peers. If there were a different case, I probably would have cut screen time a lot more and a lot sooner.

While being respectful of everyone’s different parenting styles, feel free to comment: how do you limit screen-time?  

 *I tried to use names that had no connection to people I knew. Any connection at this point is coincidental.