Thursday, December 18, 2008

An Emotional Month of Reading

I've had a book titled (Not) Keeping Up with Our Parents by Nan Mooney on my reading list for several months - probably a year. I spotted it at our local library a couple of weeks ago, and snatched it up.

I was quite surprised at the emotional response this book evoked in me, especially since most of the book reads like a report or thesis (complete with end notes), with a few anecdotes thrown in. I expected more interviews and anecdotes. Mooney introduces topics with anecdotes, and supports their experiences with research and general observations of American culture today.

What emotions did this book elicit? Relief - my husband and I are not alone in my struggles in this economy. Sadness - that people in my generation are facing these issues. Relief - again - that I was able to graduate from college without any student loan debt, unlike almost everyone interviewed in this book. Sorrow - again - wondering what assumptions and expectations do we have as a generation and as a society that we feel so 'on the brink' of survival?

Mooney's message throughout the book is that we, as a society, need to pressure the government to continue to pressure the government to provide health care, child care and retirement funding so that people can feel safe. She scoffs at the individualistic spirit that America is founded upon.

I think that America was more founded upon individual responsibility within a community than individualistic spirit. In our homeschool for the past year and a half, my children and I have been studying American history. I have been struck by the intense sense of community in the books we've been reading. While people generally felt a high sense of personal responsibility, I've noticed that rarely did people live in isolation from some sort of community. Even in The Little House on the Prairie, the Ingalls depended upon their neighbors.

Perhaps part of our underlying sense of panic - financial and in general - is a result of our isolation from community - our near neighbors and our faith communities. Before our parents' and grandparents' generations, our families and our faith communities gave a sense of security. The idea that no matter what happened, we could get through it together.

That changed with the Great Depression, when collectively, society looked to the government. Today, however, the government has proved it's not a great steward of money and responsibility for our personal financial security. No matter how hard it is for my family to make it financially, I do not want to hand over more taxes to the government, assuming that they'll take good care of my children, my health or my future.

Bottom line: our security should rest in a personal relationship with Yahweh, not in our government.

After reading this book, I am all the more committed to working with my children to get them through college without any school loans. From what I read, in most of the people's lives profiled in this book, the student loan payments are the proverbial 'straw the breaks the camel's back.' That, and child care costs. Which is why it makes sense for a parent to stay home with their children when they're young. It's certainly worth crunching numbers.

After reading Mooney's book, I see similar symptoms not only in my family, but also in those of my friends. However, I think the cause of those symptoms are different than her conclusions. As a society as a whole, we've shifted away from local, faith-based communities, we have high, perhaps unrealistic, expectations of what our lives should be like, we have become dependent upon debt to finance that life which has left a huge burden on our shoulders, and we have shifted away from the traditional family model of society - mother, father and children at home with a loving parent or family member as a caretaker.

In my case, we've made some choices with hard consequences, which has made it hard for us. Plus, we live in a high-cost area, which squeezes our dollars more. However, my faith is in Yahweh, who sees me, my family and will provide in ways I cannot see. And just because we cannot save right now for our children's college education doesn't mean that we won't have the income to pay for it when the time comes. Especially if we can continue to be disciplined in managing our expenses.

Speaking of income - if you feel a sense of affinity with Mooney's book, I'd recommend to you also read Rich Dad, Poor Dad and Cash-Flow Quadrant by Robert Kiyosaki. A new economy requires new thinking.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


I thoroughly enjoyed this little book from Seth Godin. It's more of a theoretical book about how and why tribes are formed rather than a 'how-to' guide to building your own tribe.

You may be wondering, "What exactly IS a tribe?"

Good question. According to the book flap, a tribe "is any group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea."

Tribes are nothing new, but using technology to create tribes is a rather new concept, and one that Godin explores in this book.

There are no chapters in this book, which I found a little frustrating because I wanted to go back and review and think over some things more. However, it's so small, that re-reading the entire book is not overwhelming.

In fact, I want to do just that.

The interesting thing for me was recognizing examples of tribes in my own life.

The Myth of Multi-Tasking

I read this book in about an hour in the van on the way home from a family trip. It's a very easy read, told in story form, but with helpful forms in the back that you can copy and use.

In it, a consultant works with a CEO on becoming more effective in her job and in her life. The author explores topics that I've been thinking about recently - how I'm working on three things at once and it's taking me three times longer to get them all done, plus then I'm ignoring my children or having to ask them to repeat a question three times because I switch my focus in the middle of their question.

Before I even read this book, I was trying to focus on one thing at a time, keep lists for things I need to do later and divide my days into segments in which I can focus my attention on one person or project. Obviously, a difficult thing when I'm teaching four children at home. However, reading this book enforced what I am trying to do, and gave me hope that I am on the right track.

If you're a strong believer in multi-tasking, this book is a definite must-read. It might even change your thinking!

Word-of-Mouth Advertising

I found many useful tips for creating buzz for my own business in Lynn Thorne's book with the really, really long title: Word-of-Mouth Advertising, Online & Off, How to Spark Buzz, Excitment, & Free Publicity For Your Business or Organization, With Little or No Money. Honestly, it almost seems like the title was search-engine optimized (read the book if you're not sure what that is).

I particularly enjoyed Thorne's sense of humor. A couple of times I laughed out loud. It made the book an easy read, and got her point across.

I would not say Thorne has introduced any new ideas as much as consolidated current thought into an easy-to-read how-to guide for word-of-mouth marketing.

She even includes a chapter for non-profits in particular, which I found interesting.

Another thing I appreciated about Thorne's book is that she includes a discussion of ethics in marketing - really common sense things for anyone with common sense. But since so many of us don't exhibit signs of common sense, she covers them in Chapter 10 just to make sure.

The Table of Contents is very detailed so you can find the topic you want to read about very quickly. Plus, each chapter includes an "Afterwords" - a summery of the main points covered in that chapter - great for skimming.

I picked up the copy I read at the library, but I think this would be an excellent reference book for my personal library.

A Family Favorite

My children were the first to find these "Rabbit Ears Treasury of..." CDs at our local library. This is the one we checked out - "Rabbit Ears Treasury of Fairy Tales."

Honestly, my first impression was, "What a rip-off!" There were only four stories and each one takes about a half-hour to tell because of all the musical interludes they include.

But, by the time we finished the entire treasury (2 CDs), I had completely changed my mind. We all LOVE these CDs! I cannot call them books on CD, because they're not. The librarian who checked us out thought they were movies, which they are most definitely not. They're tales, told by celebrities with original music composition to accompany them.

On this particular CD, my favorite is 'The Talking Eggs' set in the bayou of Louisiana. Sissy Spacek brings the story to life and the music by BeauSoleil sets my feet to tapping. I could listen to this story again and again. In fact, I have.

There are a whole bunch of titles in the "Rabbit Ears Treasury of..." series. So far, we've also enjoyed the "Tall Tales" (Nicolas Cages' Davy Crockett is outstanding! and my kids love Garrison Keillor's Johnny Appleseed), "World Tales" and "Fables."

I would not hesitate to pick up any title in this series, because I'm sure that we would all enjoy them - from the five-year-old to the 10-year-old to the ??-year-old mom - and that's quite a feat.