Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Debt Ceiling

Jack and Jill just bought a house. They make $50,000 per year. Fortunately, they found the perfect home. It has:

1. Five bedrooms: a master for the two of them, one for each of their three children, and a guest suite for their many unexpected guests.

2. An indoor swimming pool. Jill is trying to lose weight, and an indoor pool is a convenient alternative to a gym membership. Because they are in a northern climate, it needs to be indoors so it can be used in the wintertime.

3. A spacious home office: Jack is trying to start his own business (and rejuvenate the economy), so he’ll need sufficient office space to do so

4. A 5 car garage. In the future, they’d like to have room for a boat. Plus, they each have a car, and two of their children are driving age, so they’ll need their own space, too.

5. A professionally landscaped yard, 20 acres worth. Jill likes to garden; it’s therapeutic. Plus, a large yard is healthy for the children.

The cost of this home? $2.2 million.

Today their mortgage is due, but they don’t have the money to pay it. A crisis is looming! Clearly, their credit limit needs to be raised. You see how it is not possible to reduce spending to bring debt back under control, right?!!! Surely you don’t want this family of 5 to go without a roof over their heads, or take away Jill’s health plan, or Jack’s small business!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It’s all good.

I’m at a healthcare executive conference.  It’s quite awesome.  Conferences generally get me jazzed up.  But I’m more than professionally and academically jazzed.  It’s bigger than that.  My future’s so bright, I’ve got to wear shades!

I do have a problem, though.  I need to decide my future / focus.  I was thinking the CIO track might be the way to go… where IT and Lean collide.  Providing efficiency and effectiveness on a strategic and systemic level.   Or I could focus on strategy and growth.  It’s really a good problem to have.

My program has been so supportive of me (and all my classmates).  I know they care about our futures.  It’s so different than the world I exited nearly two years ago.  A world where I had to fight to be perceived as valuable.

But it’s not just my program that’s interested and supportive…it’s the executives I’ve met thus far.  During conversations, I might proffer some idea… and they LISTEN.  And they tell me I should talk to [this guy].  But they LISTEN.  I’m not dismissed.  Was my world really that broken?  I’m thinking it was.  But I’m not going to mourn what could have been, because if I had what could have been, I’d be missing THIS.

This is a field to be passionate about.  A field undergoing dynamic, rapid, meaningful change.  A field that positively impacts so many every single day.  And though I know I’m not called to be a practitioner of medicine… I can make the delivery of that care more cost effective.  I can make it more comfortable.  I can have an impact that MATTERS.

So yeah.  I’ve held positions in toxic, abusive locations.  But it’s all good.  I’m here.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

I don’t care about teachers

Okay… I don’t mean it like it sounds.  Not really.  But who’d read a post titled “Education reform and priorities”?  Me, neither.  I’ll warn you, some of my ideas are not going to be popular.  I don’t want to be the person who only says things that are popular.  That’s not what leaders do.  Do keep in mind, however, that I have plenty of close friends and family in the field of education.  While I am not I primary or secondary school educator, I am an educator.  I teach adults Lean Six Sigma for a state college.  Not exactly the same thing… but I’m no ignoramus, either.

I think our priorities are wrong.  All messed up.  They’re a bowl of spaghetti… mixed in with a few scant other noodles and plenty of meatballs.  I’m a fan of a “little” book called “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”  One of my biggest takeaways from that book was the very basic idea of “KEEP THE MAIN THING THE MAIN THING.”  Seems so simple, yet us human types are very easily distracted by extraneous politics.

So I don’t care about how much teachers are paid, what licensure requirements are from state to state and if they include master’s degrees.  I don’t care about teacher unions or collective bargaining. I care about the kids.  More specifically, I care about my sons.

FOCUS ON THE KIDS.  Teacher pay… what is the level of pay that will attract and retain qualified instructors?  That is what teacher pay should be.  Currently, the national average for teacher salary is $50,000.  That’s fair…in an area with a cost of living index somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.0 (average); it follows that pay should be commensurate with cost of living.  Teachers often bristle at the reminder of the 180 day work year (plus a few CE and prep days)… but it is one of the benefits of being a teacher, and it should be considered.  I used to work at a place with a gym.  That was cool.  Not as cool as summers off, but it should be considered as part of my (past) benefits package.

Teaching isn’t a job that will get you rich.  Everyone knows this.  If the pay makes you crabby,  you’d be wise to find a different occupation.  People do this every year.  Did you know that the nursing profession has a very high turnover rate?  Nurses, who are arguably paid VERY well (for the privilege of dealing with less than charming individuals and 12 hour shifts with scant (or no) restroom privileges).  They leave the profession.  They decide the pay isn’t worth it, and they find a different job.  The best engineering manager I’ve had the privilege of working for had a BS in Forestry Management.  It happens.  A teaching certificate is not a guarantee of employment any more than my diplomas and certificates are for me.

I’ve read arguments that since teaching requires a master’s degree, they should make more than the $50,000 average.  And some teachers have PhDs, therefore they should make six figure incomes. I’ve read the FB post flying around about how if teachers were paid minimum wage, they’d be making hundreds of thousands per year, because they’d get paid per child.  Perhaps I’m just a party pooper… but that post is illogical.  People don’t get paid a wage multiplied by a unit (be it a widget or a customer or a student) in any profession.  A PhD is not some income multiplier by default.  I know plenty of PhDs in more lucrative fields that don’t make anywhere near six figures.  If the guy at Starbucks brewing up my skinny grande hazelnut latte has a PhD, that doesn’t mean he should be making 6 figures, either.   I don’t need a cardiologist to look at my annual labs to tell me that my cholesterol levels are healthy.  Any job has a required skill set, and the pay for that skill set is $X.  Based on the PhDs I know… I’m also thinking that I don’t want a PhD teaching my kids.  Their heads work differently.  This doesn’t mean there are no PhD types suited for education in a primary/secondary classroom setting… but by and large they don’t.

It’s about the kids.  What is the value that will attract and retain individuals with the hard and SOFT skills to mold my children? 

In Idaho, the legislature is considering a few moronic measures, one of which is to cut kindergarten.  The other is to greatly increase class size and give every student a laptop. Moronic.  Honestly, I don’t care if teaching jobs are lost.  I’ve been laid off twice.  It happens to the best of us.  The test for rightness and wrongness isn’t about the fairness to the teachers.  It’s about the fairness to our children and our community.  How do the children and the community benefit from the absence of kindergarten?  The legislators responsible claim that kindergarten is a glorified daycare, and is only for lazy parents.  I take all sorts of umbrage to this.  Studies show (and I’m too lazy to look them up… for now) that kindergarten greatly improves overall education outcomes, and that full day kindergarten has a greater positive impact at graduation.  Studies also show that school districts save money with full day K, as the midday bus run is a huge finance drain… but I digress.

Increasing class size to give kids laptops is insufferably moronic.  Not because 700 teachers might loose their jobs, but because the class size increase proposed is absolutely detrimental to the quality of education.  45 kids in a room is … nuts.  The priority with this proposal is not about increasing the quality of education (or even maintaining it through a cutback including a technology implementation), but it’s about the utter hubris of one elected official.  Put him on the MAP!  Idaho gives kids computers!  … so what?

In Wisconsin, the nation watches as the debate over union contracts grows increasingly heated.  Over teacher contracts.  Over asking people to pay into their own retirement and their own health benefits. Did you know that healthcare expenses rise 16% every year, while all other industry averages a 2.5% to 3% inflation rate?  The rest of us suck it up.  What is so offensive about the idea that public employees follow the employment trends of the rest of industry?  Certainly it’s worth a conversation.  It doesn’t hurt the kids, and it benefits the community.

It would seem as if a lot of the controversy is regarding the “pay for performance” aspect of the proposal.  Granted, at first face, pay for performance sounds like a super idea… but the only real way to measure teacher performance is with standardized testing.  Don’t get me wrong… I’m a big fan of “you can only improve what you measure (~Lord Kelvin)” but I also see how my nine year old comes home with homework centered around test performance.  I don’t want him go graduate high school skilled only in knowing which circle to fill in with the #2 pencil.  I want him to be a critical thinker.  I do realize that a lot of that is on me as a parent… but critical thinking should be inherently built in to all of education.  IF the PhDs in education (see… I do think they have a purpose) can find another way to measure teacher performance, I’d be all over this.  And again… it comes back to the MAIN THING… what’s best for our children and our community?  There has to be a balance between measuring teacher performance and teaching strategy.

As for pay cuts… why shouldn’t teachers experience the same cut in pay that the rest of industry has in the last few years?  Now… before you get all crabby on me… let me finish my thought.  The rest of industry also pays leadership based on performance.  This includes CEOs, the C-suite, and upper level managers.  Generally, these positions are paid handsome bonuses if particular performance measures are met.  This would translate into Governors, Congress, and high level public employees.  Leadership also takes greater pay cuts, and they take those pay cuts FIRST.  I think this same model should be followed in education (and in state legislation).  I have never been able to fathom why lawmakers hack away at safety and education spending as one of the first lines of business when it comes to saving money. KEEP THE MAIN THING THE MAIN THING!  Education and Safety come FIRST… not in budget cutting, but in priority.   Pay the superintendent based on the overall performance of the state education.  I wonder how education policy would change?  I wonder how overall public policy would change if the public sector was forced to align more with industry and business in terms of financial policy.





Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Weekend in Bullets

  • Bonus!  Trip to Costco!
  • Double Bonus! Shapeups at Costco for $49
  • Triple Bonus!  They had some in size 11! (This NEVER happens)
  • Took the pooch for a walk,  The sun broke out for one day (it was splendid).  Poor old man can only do one loop (half mile).
  • Missed Swing’s well-child visit
  • Cosmo had Friday off
  • Got homework done.  At Starbucks (YAY) where a woman wore so much perfume that you couldn’t smell coffee (BOO)
  • Swing has a cold.  And is crabby.
  • Had fun with Cosmo and his new Microscope.  Brine shrimp are growing!
  • This cold and soggy has got to go.  The boys are going insane indoors.  Not sure who will win the race to insanity… them or me.
  • Slept in.  Snuggled with sniffly Swing.
  • Discovered Cosmo has eaten two containers of chocolate frosting over the course of 3 days
  • Reminded my mother how lucky she is that her children NEVER talked back to her.  Or fought.  Or broke or lost expensive games / toys.
  • Swing shared his cold with me.
  • Papa Murphy’s deLite pizzas are good.  Plus, I don’t have to cook or do dishes.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Internship Cover Letter

Dear Preceptor,

Please like me.  See how this letter is a genius blend of professionalism and personality?  I’m an amazing catch for a student (at least I’m supposed to say so in a manner that comes off as confident, but not arrogant).

I don’t have experience in this field, which is why I’m seeking an internship.  I’d write about all of my fantastic experiences for you if I had any.  But alas.  So let me charm you with tales from my past; I have chosen to highlight information that is supposed to seem relevant and desirable to you.

My career aspirations are to rule the world; however, this is A) unlikely, B) not in your control and C) may be career limiting insight, so I’ll provide you with aspirations that are slightly under your position so that I don’t come off as overly ambitious (and therefore threaten your ego), but ambitious enough to prove that I’ll work hard and not play mahjongg all day (since Facebook is blocked).

Thank you for reading this letter and looking at my resume.  I hope you have found me to be as charming and intelligent as I intended. [insert polite smile here]


Thursday, October 21, 2010


Before I return to the subject of my continuing education, I’d like to ponder this: how many blogs out there are powered by insomnia??

Midterms are done for this semester.  I survived!  There’s a REASON this blog is so spotty.  There are weeks where I barely get up for air.  But it’s all good!  Busy learning!  It feels good to be half done!

My folks are on vacation in a warm, sunny place.  Sounds nice.  Though the days have been beautiful here… high 50s into the 60s, sunny, colorful.  But laying on the beach while people bring you beverages and guacamole that’s straight from the Hand of God… sounds tempting.

The boys


Cosmo’s good!  He’s so “enlightened.”  He was saying something about his brother the other day and how Cosmo had “a lot more life experience” than Swing.  It was all I could do to keep from exploding with laughter.  He was a handful while the Woodsman was out hunting.  Kids thrive on structure… even a small rift has such a big impact!  My kind, helpful boy seemed to somehow return with his father, even though his body never left…

We had quite a good time tonight thinking about birthday treats.  Someone in his class had a birthday today, so we were talking about it.   Last year, we packaged up some veggies in gift bags and Cosmo went to give those out for birthday treats as a gag before he handed out the ACTUAL treats.  This year, he thought it might be fun to hand out random canned food type items.  You know, a package of taco seasoning, a can of garbanzo beans, a can of green enchilada sauce… He’s at a new school, so it would be a fresh gag.  We’ll figure something out.  He’s pretty excited about it.  2 months will be here before we know it!


Swing is … still a charmer.  He’s no dummy.  He knows how to turn on the charm to get his way.   I’d like to say he’s not as effective as he’d like to be, but I’m pretty sure I’m just deluding myself.  I think he’s the preschool teacher’s favorite.

The days have been pretty nice here, and we’ve had a couple picnics at the park.  One day, I was scrambling to get schoolwork done before class.  I wen to pick him up from preschool with plans of setting up a date with Swing and Nick Jr so I could finish, but he said to me “It’s such a nice day mom, it’s perfect for a picnic in the park!”  How could I say no to that???  So we packed up some food, I grabbed my homework, and he played while I briefed health law cases.  I also discovered that we live close enough to the park to still be connected to wifi.  How cool is that??

The Woodsman

The Woodsman just got back from his second and last hunting trip.  He did his best to keep the number of days down so that he could have the best of both worlds… being able to hunt with his lifelong friend, and being here to make sure I had everything I need to go to school.  He did a good job.  :) 

We have a new pet

Before I go, I should share our new pet with you all.  He’s orange, and fuzzy, and the boys were quite excited about our new addition: cat faced spider 003

If I’ve googled effectively, he’s a cat faced spider.  And no, my dear sister, we did NOT BUY it.  He was free.  A “gift” from God, if you will.  He just showed up.  He’s HUGE.  He’s gone now, which I’m not disappointed about.  He was outside, so I didn’t want to hurt him… besides, you can’t really squish something with that large of a body.  Well, you can, but I’m certain there would be unpleasant consequences.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Swing’s in a Sling!

My poor boy broke his collarbone.  It’s not broken all the way through, but it’s definitely broken. 

He was running through the living room pushing a laundry basket and “lost control around a corner” and hit the ottoman.  He cried so hard, I was pretty sure he was really hurt right away.  But I had him lay down for a bit and he slept… but he woke up crying.  When he walked out of his room and his one shoulder looked like a ski slope, we left for the urgent care center right away.

Funny thing is… the group project I whined about (immediately below) was regarding the profitability of a hypothetical urgency care clinic. 

Anyway… he’s in a sling, and he’s doing pretty well.  Though it’s strange to see him not be able to use one arm.  He gets around differently, and we need to help him with some things. 

I always knew that we’d end up with broken bones at some point (since we have boys) but did it have to be the 4 year old?  Well, maybe that will keep them both from running indoors for a week or two?

Like it or not, life keeps coming… full speed ahead!!

Seth's clavicle 001Seth's clavicle 003