A bridge over troubled water

“Kids in jail are children too” ~Fuzz

This was my summer motto. I had the wonderful opportunity to work as a counselor/instructor for the Teens and Police Service Academy summer program. TAPS Academy is a non-profit organization that provides interactive learning programs to help reduce the social distance between teens and law enforcement. This organization meets at-risk youth right where they are in socially disadvantaged schools and detention facilities. The relevance of their work cannot be overstated. (Please click their link for more background and program information.)

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“Social distance between at-risk youth and law enforcement has risen over the past few decades.”

We need practical ways to bridge that gap. We need people to fill that space with hope, love, and skills of empowerment.

Bridge-building-takes

I had the absolute pleasure and terror of facilitating empowerment lessons to nine males, ages 14-15 years old. Talking about a hard crowd to please. My jokes were outdated. My swag is rusty. But my candor seemed to be a respectable trait. Just tell the truth as you know it. And don’t forget that kids in jail are children too.

His business is his to keep…

I did not know the circumstances of why each young man was there in that dorm. I did not ask to know their crimes. As a matter of fact, if one tried to tell me about another I quickly shut that down with “That man didn’t ask you to tell nobody his business. His business is his to keep. I suggest you keep to yours.” Of course, some of the young men would tell me of their struggles in their journals or our group discussions and I welcomed that openness. Kids want to talk to people they trust, but it has to take place in an environment of emotional and physical safety. Without showing fear or doling out judgement, my only job was to listen and suggest coping tools.

What I learned was that kids in jail are just children. This was a “not-so-obvious” lesson.  When you hear about property crimes, school threats, and teen violence, all you know is that the perpetrator needs to be locked up.  They are to be held responsible for their crimes, whether ditching school, fighting, or stealing.  They must learn that there are real life consequences for anti-social behavior.  But I was not there as a judge or as part of a jury, I was just an instructor trying to give a handful of young men tools that they can use to avoid further troubles. And they taught me an important lesson too.

Boys will be boys…

Everyday my boys argued over games, complained about boredom, and begged for candy as rewards. Some would get mad and brood.  Some would get sad and retreat. Under constant surveillance, expressing emotions was tightly controlled. So we talked at length about developing emotional intelligence.  Learning the physiological response that your body has and connecting it to the correct emotions.  Understanding that being sad and being mad can look the same if you do not know how to express sadness. Frustration and anticipation feel the same, so you must connect the “feeling” to the root to understand what reaction you are actually having.

This was a hard lesson. Here is my opening speech:

“In our society, the feelings of boys and men are dismissed and discarded. Happiness, joy, anxiety, anger, frustration, guilt, and fear are all human emotions, yet men and boys are only allowed to be either happy or angry. Do not allow society to strip away your humanity by numbing your range of emotion. Learn to know what you feel and why you feel it. This will make you a strong man, a supportive husband, and a loving father. Without emotions, you are only a paycheck for your family or for the state.” Even the guards nodded in agreement to that!

sadblackmaleslimphatty
Image: http://www.sonyaparker.com/2014/05/men-get-used-hurt-abused-and-played-too.html

Everyday my boys had to resolve conflicts in their dorms. If a person was being released, the entire dorm went through a range of emotions. At first, everyone would be happy for the person, even helping them pack up their belongings. After a few hours of waiting, many of the other boys would “crash”. They would become sad, depressed, and/or angry. They wanted to go home too. If they were expecting a family visit that did not come through, this same cycle of emotions took place.  It was not uncommon when these things happened that a fight would break out. Tensions were high and they struggled with what to do with all the emotions that they were experiencing.

Side Note: Don’t worry, my safety was never in jeopardy. The juvenile security officers were on their jobs! They always knew what was brewing in advance and who to look out for. They treated every situation with the upmost respect, authority, and compassion. And I’m no fool! I caught on quick! 

I witnessed a young man graduate with his GED and no family showed up to the ceremony for support.  The pain was unbearable. It was no surprise that later that night he got into a fight.  He had nowhere to put his hurt. He responded like an abandoned child.  Knowing these things happen, the program focused on teaching them skills to channeled their negative emotions through writing, group discussions, art, reading, and/or playing games. We worked on developing conflict resolution skills that could help move them a little closer to diffusing negative emotions in the moment.  The residents did not do all of this willingly.  Remember they are teenage boys.  Oh they bickered through it all. I heard a lot of “he keeps interrupting me”, “he keeps trying to take over everything”, “he touched my puzzle”, and “he took the picture that I wanted”. Typical tattle-telling.  And just like any teacher, I spent a lot of time redirecting us back to the task at hand.  “Stop doing that.” “Don’t touch his paper.” “Everyone listen.”  I felt like a parent of young children all over again.  Sigh.

I used a variety of games for play therapy and team-building. My observation was that their maturity level stopped at the age that they may have experienced trauma or that their behavior turned delinquent.  So even though they were 14 or 15, they behaved in many ways like they were 10 or 11.  Activities in that age range let that inner-child out to play and let their emotional guards down for a few hours.  They loved using the beach ball! They looked forward to Battleship tournaments.  They really enjoyed the game of Clue. They hated worksheets, but they would do them anyway.  Some liked journal prompts, but most liked to draw.  Puzzles were a big hit! We made a lot of poster boards! Games and art opened our conversations up and helped them cope with difficult topics.

Bullies are homegrown…

You cannot talk about domestic violence without child abuse. You cannot talk about bullying without talking about domestic violence and child abuse. You cannot talk about the dangers of human trafficking without talking about victimization, domestic violence, and child abuse.  There was not one child in my dorm that did not have personal experience with bullying/victimization, domestic violence and/or child abuse. They shared with me how some of their anti-social behavior was learned in their family, whether they were being groomed to be aggressive or as a bi-product of violence they witnessed.

100% of the time, the boys told me that bullies are homegrown.  They are created by their environment. “Miss, if you follow a bully home I bet you’ll find a bigger bully.”  One of them told me he was/is a bully.  I asked him if he thought he learned it at home and he said “yeah, how else would I know how to get over on weaker people.”  I am not going to debate whether their theory is true.  They said it.  I believe they had reasons and experiences that told them this was true.  I was much more interested in what they thought the solution to bullying is.

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Image: https://www.boredpanda.com/cousin-gets-revenge-school/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=organic

A 15 year old, who had previously been found guilty of assault for intervening in a bully’s assault of another young man, gave me a very emotional response when we talked about our experiences with bullying. He told me that he got tired of seeing a “tough” guy pick on someone weak, so he jumped in to help the victim. The original victim refused to tell authorities that he had intervened on his behalf, because the victim was afraid of what would happen to him at school if he told the truth. This is the solution that my resident offered:

“Miss, they need to stop focusing on the bully. He’s already been beat into beating people, so he’s not finsta’ change. You gotta focus on the victims, because once you’re a target, you’re the target of the whole school. The bully. The teachers. Everybody cus they know what’s going on and they don’t do anything. They let it happen and then the parents send you right back to school for it to keep happening. So it don’t seem like nobody cares about that kid ’til he’s dead…or becomes the bully.”

From the mouth of babes? Maybe. I know that not in-spite of, but because they are in detention, the environment and interaction forced me daily to remember that these were still children living out very adult consequences. Each one has a story, so you don’t get to have sympathy, but you can have empathy that somewhere along the way someone failed these kids. We can’t go back and fix it, but we can teach them new tools to use going forward.  Bridges are the only solution.


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Life plans

Life is what you make it. So I’ve been told. Sometimes, I wonder if life actually makes me.

Image: https://youtu.be/QzWCrkvbJo0

I try to be a good planner. I update tasks in my daily planner, on my phone calendar, and in my strategies book (as needed). I’m not tightly wound around my system, but I do get flashes of anger when the day won’t let me tick off tasks. It’s highly possible that it’s a hot flash that was just waiting for an excuse; nevertheless, I think it’s something a smidgen less sinister.

The flow of life doesn’t play well with other forces.

You are either going with the flow or you aren’t. Life does not let you have it both ways. The directive force within life can be collaborated with. It can even be finessed at times. However, it cannot be controlled.

Control is the antithesis of the flow. Control crunches good vibes into a box and then tells it to stop being square. Control restricts the energy of the mind and the body of the visionary from being able to see and do.

Where list making is a wonderful technique to stay on track, it cannot become so legalistic that you are unable to live off the grid. There are days when you may have to constantly readjust your priorities. That’s ok, within reason. You do not have to scrap your entire agenda, because the baby got sick or an visitor stopped by. Let your plan be good enough to leave room for life.

Don’t plan your way out of opportunities.

Guilty, as charged! I have most definitely planned my way right out of great opportunities. I was so focused on getting everything right for when a door would open, that I didn’t even notice when the door DID open.

Image: Fortune Builders

I get sucked into the planning vortex; blurring my peripheral vision. I’m caught up in the excitement and can’t see a damn thing. I kept my focus on the tasks, but forgot the purpose.

You do not have to compromise excellence in order to keep a balanced focus. I have experienced the strain of mulling a question over and around in my head and it wasn’t until I played with my grandbabies for a little while that the answer became clear. I gave myself a break and my thoughts slowly untangled. I could follow the linear thought train much easier than digging out ideas from the hot heap.

Look up from your papers sometimes.

Diligence is a great quality to have. In so many ways, good old fashioned hard work can help you accomplish more than planning can. Planning let’s you logically map out responses to every conceivable contingency. The hands on dirty work brings you face-to-face with previously inconceivable scenarios that push you to craft solutions on the spot. Innovation!

Image: Buzzle

If for no other reason, look up so your neck will stop hurting. Seriously, you are carrying all that stress and tension in your neck and shoulders. Relax. When you look up, you will spot new possibilities. You won’t lose sight of the world around you. You won’t miss out on opportunities to live.


My humble submission to DP Prompt: Compromise

Copyright, 2018. R. Frank. All rights reserved.


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Google Masters

I try not to call people dumbasses

So saying rube will do

It has nothing to do with locale

I’m not trying to be real rude

But there is no Masters of Google Science

Their informations late

They read an old fake article

And now they can debate?

Give me a break

Zilch first hand experience

about the topics they discuss

Pundits of bad politics

Opinions ooze like brain puss

I am all for public discourse

Conversations to relate

But when I tolerate a dumbass

It makes my left brain ache

This meme really lit my wick! I live in an open carry state, where we now have college campus carry laws and yet our major Independent School Districts are closing schools because of budget cuts. 🤔 The two things seem only loosely related huh? Except that in the near future, college educators can expect more ill-equipped students to show up in our lecture halls armed! Giving out failing grades to emotionally immature young adults or over zealous ol’ heads is hard enough, but it’s a little tougher when you know that there are GUNS in the room and you don’t know who has them! Oh and my guns aren’t schooled issued because it’s not in the education budget!!! It’s a gotta bring your own kinda thing 🤷🏽‍♀️


This is my humble submission for the DP Prompt: Rube

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Copyright, 2018. R. Frank. All rights reserved.


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Speak on it

Your purpose is always tied to your service ~ Fuzz (I say that)

I’ve been doing some soul searching and prioritizing. I’ve been asked if I do speaking engagements. I have and I do, but I’m ready to really just focus my topics to those things I am most passionate about.

I’ve had the privilege of knowing so many people that champion for different aspects of social change. They are in the trenches empowering the youth, educating the delivered, and embracing the brokenhearted. I will gladly add my voice to uplift those who are working towards solving problems in their communities and schools.

The following topics run my entire life.

  1. Homeschooling as a economic and political answer to the prison-pipeline school systems. Parent’s choice.
  2. Economic empowerment through entrepreneurial education. The fundamentals of structure, strategy, and compliance.
  3. Perpetrators, advocates, and the targeted other. The personification of genocide and war crimes.

I am not an economist, but I do recognize how the allocation and distribution of resources influence all three of my bullet points. By education, I am a criminologist and paralegal. A researcher. By design, I am an orator. A teacher.

Maybe that explains my list. Taking control of the education of our children will be key in developing future innovators and entrepreneurs that will be in position to advocate for those who were denied access to tools and opportunities. The goal is to be at the top where the C.R.E.A.M. rises, so that individually and collectively we have leverage in unequal systems.

Topography: Kent Flores

So I guess the first step is offering my thoughts on why it is vital for parents to take control of their childrens education. In my personal experience, the school structure (public, private, charter, etc) does not predict successful outcomes. Parent involvement does. Parents acting as advocates for their children is an essential responsibility that cannot be minimized.

There will always be reasons and objections to why it may be impossible to homeschool. To each, his own. If your child is failing, being bullied, or just not thriving, you owe it to that child to at minimum educate yourself on the many options that exist.

Remember, the economics don’t lie. Some schools are seriously underfunded. They have teachers and administrators who care. They are staples in their communities even as they struggle to meet students needs. Schools that are substandard still receive a certain amount of funding based on student enrollment. If the teachers are great and the community around the school embraces the youth, then forming study groups and reading clubs can be wonderful ways for the parent organizations to maximize the school’s efforts. Sewing clubs and cooking classes can be organized in apartment recreation rooms or neighborhood youth centers. These locations may want to offer life skills programs, but they need parents like you to volunteer.

Deviant Art: Jeremy Pixeller

Now for the schools where there is more danger than education, then it’s time to reallocate funding. Most homeschool programs are connected to conventional school districts, so only a portion of the funding remains with the district. Many who join the homeschool community do so because of lax discipline policies, discriminatory treatment based on race, ethnicity, and religion, and their child’s lack of engagement and excitement about learning. The bureaucratic policies that lead to these conditions will not be fixed by protests, complaints, or news stories. They will be corrected when there is a monetary penalty imposed by unsatisfied tax payers. Reallocate your funding.

I homeschooled for various reasons and at several stages in my children’s education. The first time was about 20 yrs ago and there were no standardized curriculums for free. I used Abeka curricula books that I would purchase from teacher supply stores. I did it because I wanted them to know that there is more than one way to accomplish goals. I wanted them to know that they could learn to create opportunities for themselves where none previously existed. I wanted them to know that all learning styles matter.


Affiliate resources (see Disclaimer below)

Learn to educate your children

A Beka K5 Homeschool Child Full-Grade Kit (Manuscript Edition), NEW EDITION


By the time I decided to homeschool my junior high student 7 years ago, these great free online programs were available! These programs are typically connected to your local school district, so that State testing and college readiness activities are still available to your child. What made it even better is that colleges and universities began accepting students from accredited homeschool programs in a more streamline way. Students in non-accredited programs must make sure that they participate in all mandatory State testing requirements in order to qualify for enrollment.

Well I really went in a slight tangent about bullet 1 lol. I believe in putting this option in front of my other objectives, because our children are our future (literally)! I want as many parents as possible to know that the platforms of education are still evolving. You do not have to submit your children to the status quo. It is not enough to recognize that systems are breaking our children. We are culpable if we leave them in environments that are stomping out their innovative and creative lights. We have a responsibility to at minimum consider our choices… Conventional and unconventional.

(c) Copyright, 2018. R. Frank. All rights to text reserved.

Want to know more? Read this great article by The Brookings Institute.


Disclaimer: This article may include affiliate links. Utilizing them does not result in additional charges for you, but it does allow The Fuzz Blog to earn a few coins to keep the movement going.

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Study Right

Enjoy your day off! Reflect on why the schools and banks are closed. Study a new solution to an old problem. Have faith. Do right.

One day left! Christmas break is OVER!! 😩

We get MLK day as a reminder that governments kill the righteous to maintain status quo and then pretend like they loved em all along in order to pervert the historical record of their crimes. Yay!! But there’s no school today and it appeases my student/teacher soul. That’s lesson one: contradictions exist, but they still don’t erase truth. There is a contradiction between what I know is true and what I pretend to accept as true just so I can sleep longer. From a illusionary safe haven, I can enjoy parades and a late start to class. Power to all the people!< em><<
day is also the last day to finish building my Blackboard lessons. I waited until a few weeks ago to adopt a new edition; notwithstanding, I must appear competent with the content and prepared. Not too hard. Not too many changes. The few the publisher made are conducive to learning and were way past due. Still, we're talking about young adults in a virtual class setting. A missed placed common can throw them into panicked confusion. Lesson two: Consistency in structure is the key to consistency in results.< img src=”https://fuzzyknotz.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/img_3828.jpg&#8221; class=”wp-image-570 size-full” height=”200″ width=”300″><<
en I first started teaching, I thought that young people (18-21) would easily navigate online learning platforms. I also thought they could spell without using slang and acronyms. My experience has taught me that the former and the later are not necessarily so. In some ways, they have greater difficulty adapting to the layouts and requirements than my middle aged learners.

That observation truly seemed like an anomaly at first. I've deduced that the common sense factor takes a little life experience to fully develop. No judgement intended. I think at times we all have to practice "the simplest answer is usually right" approach to hands on learning. Overthinking is flirting with the dark side. The GPA killer lives there.

< strong>Observation: Young adults have greater difficulty navigating online learning platforms.

Hypothesis: Young adults have less life experience; therefore, they are less likely to apply approaches that would seem common to a middle aged instructor.

Conclusion: K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid Students) <<
least tomorrow, I won't have to get dressed to moderate the class. The purest perk of online courses. I also won't have to weather the outside chill factor to attend my final courses for this latest degree plan. Once again, I get to be the middle aged student in an online course. It may seem like I have the small advantage of knowing how the platforms are set up, but that doesn't nullify the need to study. In all honesty, I’ve had to fine tune my study habits over and over again. My pre-menopausal brain sometimes randomly deletes information 🤦🏽‍♀️ so notes and calendars are vital!

Enjoy your day off! Reflect on why the schools and banks are closed. Study a new solution to an old problem. Have faith. Do right.

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Holidays make me sick!!

Ugh. I hate being sick for the holidays. It never fails. A cold or flu will hunt me down like a kid stalking Santa.

I really would like to figure out why I’m instantly susceptible to viruses on Thanksgiving day (I end every year with a warm cup of dieter’s tea and a vitamin cocktail) 🤒 Is this the morning after food blues? The honest truth is that I did gorge on foods that are not necessarily part of my regular diet. I admit I ate turkey and ham 😩😩 Please don’t flog me🤚🏽 I do know better than to eat filthy dirty pig but dammit it tastes good. And well turkey is turkey.

I don’t have the discipline to follow a dietary plan. I love my vegetarian, vegan, and Paleo friends (cudos), but I can’t commit to a regimented anything. I just eat what makes me feel good and avoid what doesn’t. Everything in moderation is my guide (unless it’s cake then moderation doesn’t apply). I only eat meat maybe three meals a week. I just don’t like meat very much. And with a semi-sedentary lifestyle like mine, animal protein is not necessary. So imagine my digestive and endocrine systems reaction to these meats high in sodium and hormones. Well that probably explains the muscle fatigue (you know- stiff shoulders, heavy arms and legs). Which also can be thought of as body aches.

What about the stuffy nose though? 🤔 Can’t blame that on meat. Of course I could say it’s just a head cold. But it can also be an allergic reaction to something I ate. So let’s just consider that. Remember, I go through this every Thanksgiving without fail. So what are the most common factors? 🤔 what could it be? DAIRY!!! 😩😩 I ate dairy. 😳

I have not had a drink of milk in over 25 years. I don’t like milk of any kind. Not goat. Not almonds. Not rice. Not hemp. But definitely not from a freaking cow 😷 (No judgment to milk drinkers, I just can’t do it). When I tell people I don’t like milk, they automatically diagnose me as lactose intolerant. Nope, that ain’t it. I had no problem digesting it, I just think the snotty texture is gross. Cheese sure tastes good, but some blends make me feel flush. (Did you know aged cheeses can bring on hot flashes?) But milk and sharp cheddar cheese are key ingredients in my Mommy’s baked macaroni and cheese and milk and salted butter in her sweet potato pie. Mother (in-law) used milk and butter in her pumpkin pie and milk in her scratch cake. All of which I ate with total abandon. Could those be the mucus causing culprits?

I have been taking remedies since yesterday to help me feel better. A vitamin cocktail (2 vitamin C, 2 flax seed capsules (3,6,9), 2 vitamin E) two times a day, and a cup of fresh brewed cranberry, echinacea tea twice a day. Oh and two teaspoons of Apple cider vinegar before bed. I’m almost back to normal.

67D4FC57-080D-4375-AF0E-F4F758002CCD
I woke up like this!! My eyes are tired and itchy. I think I should take another nap. My headscarf gives me life tho! 

SN: I can’t believe e I posted such a hideous picture of myself 😳😩 but fuck it 🤷🏽‍♀️ I’m a real person and I happen to think that I am not the only person that looks like crap the day after a harvest feast. Soooo… reserve all judgment please & thank you

I wonder though.. Am I the only one this happens too? Does holiday food leave any of you with unpleasant symptoms?

The biggest question is what an I gonna eat at Christmas 😩😩😩 or better yet what am I not going to be able to eat🤔

Unsolicited Wisdom

Work diligently and don’t be lazy. Ask questions and don’t remain ignorant. Be in authority and don’t be a dick about it. Be wise and don’t just be smart.

Criticism. The unsolicited kind. Unexpected barrage of perspectively altered truth.

A course grader stops me on my way out the door to give me his insight on why the class’s performance in lab is sub par. I didn’t know that I had a “gives a shit” look in my face, but I listened anyway. He started off sorta hesitant. After I smiled and nodded a few times, he upchucked every late night thought he had on the subject. His musings had obviously been bottled up too long not to let his frustrations blow. I guess I just appeared to be the most understanding target.

So this young man goes on to tell me that the class is simply not asking enough questions about the material and their flailing efforts to comprehend on their own had them collectively headed towards failure.

I ask: “What do you think is preventing them from asking the professor questions?”

His answer: “Their laziness.”

Humph.. That’s simple enough. It also seems too simplistic considering we were talking about a class of 25 students with individual motivations, competency levels, and skill sets. So naturally I decided we should discuss whether or not these were dependant variables to consider.

I ask: “Considering that this course is a core requirement, the student body is made up of various unrelated majors, and the students range from freshman to seniors, do you believe that a consistent misunderstanding of the material lies solely with the students or is it a reflection on instruction as well?”

His answer: “This is college. Read the instructions, comprehend it, and do what it says. If they can’t comprehend what’s in front of them, then they lack the aptitude to compete at this level. It does not matter what the course is, if you actually apply intellect to it then you won’t have a problem.”

Lazy or stupid. Whelp. I guess it can be just that rudimentary. I will admit to you that I became aware that my posturing was showing my irritation, so I took a breath and leaned into a casual stance. I had already assessed that he had low emotional or social intelligence (no judgement). My shift was purely based on mirroring him so that he could continue to feel comfortable exposing more of his mental self. Now that I was sucked into this analysis of the root causes of the class’s performance, I figured I might as well hear it all.

I ask: “Some of the students did a few of these exact labs in the previous course, so they turned in the same copy again. But they received a lower grade this time then they did from the previous grader for the exact same work. How is that possible?”

His answer: “The previous grader was lazy. They didn’t care about holding students to a standard of good quality work. I’m not like that.”

My follow-up: “Do you know the previous grader?”

His answer: “No.”

Criticism. The unsolicited kind. Unexpected barrage of perspectively altered truth can still teach you a few things. Work diligently and don’t be lazy. Ask questions and don’t remain ignorant. Be in authority and don’t be a dick about it. Be wise and don’t just be smart.

Discontent

I drank the higher learning kool-aid and it was laced with discontentment.

Discontent. That's the only way to describe how it feels to want a life that you can never catch hold to. If only that word had a simple action that could erase it from your heart.

As a little kid, I knew that I would have a house with a pool in a suburban neighborhood where the median income was $120,000 a year. The idea of that income was equivalent to $120 million dollars in my childish fantasy. Still, I planned to rise early to a refreshing morning swim and drive off to my mystery job in a flying car (like the Jetsons).

Obviously, I grew up. I have a much better understanding of what it takes to earn that salary, pay for that house with a pool, and pay association fees to keep my neighbors homes uniform with my ideal suburban oasis. I accepted that cars don't fly (yet), but I still want the best on four wheels.

I went to school and got a degree that is little more than a conversation piece. Yes, I gained knowledge in an area of study, but it has done little to enhance my earning potential. I believed so strong that a master's could do what a bachelors could not; consequently, I'm told I'm overeducated. I see people that have used education to their advantage. I am sure it can be done. I've seen it on TV, in magazines, and in books, yet me and my peers can't find the answer to the riddle. "What do you call someone who goes tens of thousands of dollars in debt to pay someone to teach them things out of books that cost hundreds of dollars, but still can't figure out how to use the information from those books to secure a job that can repay the debt?"

I guess it's apparent that my discontent stems from the disconnect between the life I envisioned and the one I created. I take personal responsibility for trying to do everything right by the book. I don't even know how I was supposed to create something different. I mean I did what my parents said; what society said. I drank the higher learning kool-aid and it was laced with discontentment.