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Your Stuff and How to Deal With It

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Stuff

I have stuff. I love my stuff. I admit to accumulating stuff.

OK. A moment of reality. I’m pretty sure that someday I’m going to die. And you probably will too. No, not now. Eventually. So there will be stuff in my apartment and odds are the cats won’t sort through it. I think about this every so often.

When I had my hip replaced some years ago, I spent a little time reflecting on my life (couldn’t do much else for a week or two) and I realized that I probably was no longer interested in putting up a Christmas tree and that the entire top shelf of one closet was devoted to Christmas tree ornaments and festive decorations. Hmm. When my cousin, who had two young sons, came to visit, I offered her anything and everything she wanted from this collection with a few exceptions. We spent a wonderful afternoon telling stories about the decorations, especially the ones I’d bought with her mother. She went home with two huge bins of ornaments and I gained an entire shelf in my closet. We were both very happy.

In contrast, another cousin and I were not so happy clearing out her parents’ home. They were not exactly hoarders, but they did keep a lot of stuff. Like back issues of magazines. And clothes. We were heartbroken to discover that vintage clothes and other potentially sellable items had been destroyed by an oil leak. And not too excited to throw out years of food and craft magazines along with a few projects her father never got around to completing – a Datsun rusting on the lawn and a partially restored organ. Similarly, a friend spent a month clearing out her sister’s apartment.

So what does this mean for me?

George Carlin said something about your stuff being someone else’s trash (cleaned it up a tad). No, your kids probably don’t want your Hitchcock chairs or the family silver or even your favorite china figurines. It’s simply not their taste. Ask. Confirm. Get over it.

Planning and Disposing – A short List

  1. Make a will and a plan. Please. Even if you think you don’t need one. And name an executor. It’s impossible to sell your car or deal with bank accounts if there isn’t an executor. Yes, you’re going to live to 110, but you’ll be too busy doing the tango to want to be bothered with this stuff. Make a plan now. Here are some ideas to get you started.
  2. Give things that you don’t use away now. I had my great grandmother’s gold watch. It was beautiful. I wore it maybe a half a dozen times over twenty years ago. I gave it to a cousin who also may never wear it but will appreciate it and pass it on to her daughter. I gave a niece my grandmother’s diamond ring and she turned it into a lovely pendant. I also gave her some antique coral beads because she enjoys chunky necklaces.
  3. Ask people what they might want of the things you’re ready to pass on. Send pictures before sending stuff. That saved me the trouble of sending my niece some lovely china plates that she didn’t like or lugging a bronze tea towel rack out to my cousin. It also gave me the satisfaction of seeing my great aunt’s inkwell every time I visit my cousin. Or knowing that another cousin has the family bible. I also got to sell some unloved gold jewelry with no regrets.
  4. Get rid of as much paper as possible. No one wants those articles you so painstakingly Xeroxed in college. Or old term papers, course outlines, work-related materials that are outdated. Or newspapers. Everything in those old recipe magazines that you really will cook can be found online or can be scanned into a file. This does NOT mean throwing away treasured old letters or cards. Store them neatly.
  5. Transfer everything you can to the Cloud. Set these files up as private. This makes it easy to share photos with the whole family but not the whole world. Get your old tapes converted to DVDs.
  6. Give away, donate, sell or throw away a lot of old books. I recently got rid of four shopping carts worth of books. Some I gave away to senior centers and shelters. Most neither thrift shops nor the library wanted. All my thirty year old research books and training books went into the trash.
  7. Label things. Never, never, never use indelible markers if you expect things to have a resale value. Instead, get a package or two of those round stickers and put them underneath or on the back of items. You get to enjoy your possessions now and someday someone will thank you for making it clear what goes to someone and what gets trashed.
  8. I love this option if you have a close family. It was the plot of a book I read decades ago. Leave instructions for everyone to come to your place (if you’re really nice, pre-arrange a little nosh) and have everyone given those dots I mentioned above. Each person gets to put their own color on items they want. If more than one person wants something, they work it out. In the book, they told stories about their memories related to the object. No fights, lots of bonding.

When?

This is a good thing to do when you’re bored. Or it’s raining. Or snowing. Work on this little by little. You’ll be glad you won’t have to think about his when you’re off having fun. And your family and friends will be delighted.

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Teaching Styles: Guide on the Side or Sage on the Stage?

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In the early 90’s California teachers were getting released in record numbers. There was a huge budget crisis, districts were raising class sizes and eliminating classrooms, which meant many of us had to go. I was a second year teacher, untenured. I received my goodbye notice in March then set out scrambling to find another position.

I found myself interviewing in the growing community of Moreno Valley. I felt I was ready for anything, but I’ll never forget the interviewer asking my about my style of teaching. He asked, “Would you consider yourself a Sage on the Stage or a Guide on the Side?”

What a great question. Simply asking the question implies so much. If I say that I am a Sage on the Stage, immediately I might be considered a micromanager. A power hungry control freak of a teacher who needs his/her students to act only on command. Or even worse, I might be seen as a showoff whose main goal in teaching is to hear ones’ own voice.

As I sat in the interview room, it seemed the more politically correct answer would be the Guide on the Side. “Guide” doesn’t seem like such a loaded word as “Sage”. A guide leads the way. A guide points out facts. Guides know what pitfalls to avoid.

I had to make a snap answer. It’s been almost two decades, and I still think about my response. I expected that in time, I would make revisions to my answer. Surprisingly, I feel still feel good about the response I gave.

Basically, I believe that there are times when a teacher needs to be the Sage on the Stage and times when the teacher needs to get out of the way and be a guide on the side. Additionally, I’ve seen very effective teachers who can work a class, create amazing discussions, and help students construct learning all from the front of the class. By contrast, I’ve seen other teachers who spend very little time in front of a class, choosing to do most of their teaching in groups. Therefore, the situation and the personality of the teacher play a great role in the debate: Sage on the Stage or Guide on the Side.

Reflecting on the question “Sage” or “Guide” is not a bad idea. My philosophy in teaching, as well as life, has always been balance and moderation. There have been times when I’ve been stuck in the Sage or Guide roll for longer than is necessary. Just asking yourself the question might lead to some meaningful soul searching and deeper understanding about yourself as a person and a teacher.

The Merits and Demerits of the Sage on the Stage

There are definite merits to the Sage on the Stage approach. The teacher on his/her stage, managing the flow of information is definitely faster than the Guide on the Side. I’ve tried to incorporate “guide on the side” strategies for my grammar lessons, but I’ve found that direct instruction works best when introducing initial concepts. I may use “guide” strategies to aid mastery of the information. However, there are dozens of grammar and punctuation skills the students are required to learn in ten months which does not lend itself to the Guide on the Side philosophy.

This benefit is also the biggest argument against the Sage approach. As more and more demands are heaped upon teachers, it is easier to get through the curriculum with this method. However, besides being exhausting for the teacher to be on the stage all day, students require time to digest and process information. Sage techniques such as lecture and group discussion tend to favor the quick thinkers. These students do most of the critical thinking for the class. Consequently, the majority of the class misses out on this important skill.

The Merits and Demerits of the Guide on the Side

I recently began a sixth grade unit on the Hebrew’s exodus from Egypt like this:

Imaging that you were a guest in someone’s house. After a few weeks, you realized that you were doing all the chores in the house, your mom was cooking all of the meals, and your dad began to pay all of the bills. You were once a guest in this house. Now, what have you become?

The students had to read the material from their social studies books and explain how the Hebrews were like your family in the story. The connections they found were excellent. The follow up discussion continued to bear fruit as one group after another pointed out new ways to look at the analogy. I was a guide on the side, interjecting hints along the way.

The follow up to this was that the students had to create the second part of my “guest” analogy. They read about Moses and the Exodus and had to create an analogy about how they were able to move out of the house where they had become slaves.

The lesson was time consuming, but very effective. As effective as it was, I noticed that there were still things that I needed to teach the students directly. Many students, having no background knowledge on the topic, needed me to put this time in history into context. Once again, I was back to being the Sage on the Stage.

Final Thoughts

The moral of this story is that the art of teaching is knowing when to be the “guide” and when to be the “sage”. Once again I return to my original point: Simply asking yourself the question “What Kind of Teacher Am I?” is enough to help make you a better teacher. Being ever mindful of the balance between the two provides the opportunity for the self-reflection we all need.

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Greatest Ever Barcelona XI

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Like many of the best teams in the world, its almost impossible to have just 1 team as a greatest XI. Barcelona arguably have had the biggest turnover of superstars to have played for the club. You have a who’s who of football to have turned out for the club. I could quite easily go for 3 teams for this great club, but I have settled for 2 teams.

Goal Keeper

Like most attacking sides, they have not had the very best goal keepers to have kept goal for them, so I have gone for Andoni Zubizaretta. He is Spain’s most capped player with 126 caps and was a very good goalkeeper.

Right full back

I have gone for Albert Ferrer, who was part of the first “dream team”. He was a very good defender as well as being excellent in going forward.

Left full back

I have gone for another member of the so called dream team, Sergi Barjuan. He was very identical in play to Ferrer as they were both quick, great on the ball and he could defend very competently.

Central defenders

I have gone for Miguel Nadal and Carlos Puyol. Both excellent players and whilst Nadal was known as “the beast”, he was very good on the ball. Puyol always gives his all in every game that I have seen him play.

Midfield

I have gone for a 4-man midfield comprising of 4 all-time greats of the game in Michael Laudrup, Johan Cruyff, Luiz Suarez and Laslo Kubala. Michael Laudrup was a wizard with the ball and perhaps did not get the world renown that his talents deserved, partly to do with the fact that he was Danish. Cruyff is a living legend and his reputation goes before him. Suarez is arguably the greatest ever talent to come out of Spain whilst Kubala was voted Barcelona’s greatest ever player.

Forwards

I have gone for Diego Maradona and Romario. I have read too many times that Maradona was not successful at Barcelona, but that’s comparing him to himself and not by any other player’s standards. I have seen matches that he was involved in at Barcelona and he was breathtaking at times. Romario was just a born goal scorer.

Team 2

Goal keeper

I have gone for Francisco Platko, the Hungarian, whom, I have to admit I have never seen play but he is reported to be very good and I did not that many options.

Defenders

This time I have gone for 3 defenders and they are Jose Ramon Alesanco who captained the club for a long period of time and was a very good defender and leader, Ronald Koeman, okay, he was not a very good defender in terms of actual defending and maybe he would just pip a tortoise in a 100 metre sprint, but he could pass the ball like no other and had a shot on him to die for. He also scored 1 of the most memorable goals in the club’s history, when he scored the winning goal at Wembley, against Sampdoria for Barcelona to win their first ever European Cup. The third defender is Migueli who played for Barcelona from 1973 to 1989.

Midfield

I have gone for a 5-man midfield comprising another array of wonderful footballers. The first is Luis Figo, whom I felt played his best football at Barcelona and he was absolutely terrific. Whilst teammate, Rivaldo, was getting all the plaudits, Figo. I felt was the best player. The second midfielder was a mainstay of Cruyff’s dream team and that was Pep Guardiola, who was one of the best playmakers, I have ever seen. Injuries blighted a bit what should have been a superlative career. Ronaldinho is my third midfielder as he is truly majestic and surely, even at this stage in his career, already an all-time great. The next is his Brazilian compatriot, Rivaldo who will always be remembered fondly at the Nou camp for scoring, perhaps, the greatest hat-trick ever, against Valencia, which enabled Barcelona to qualify for the champion’s league, on the last day of that particular season 2000/2001. Last but not least, I have chosen volatile but brilliant Bulgarian attacking midfielder/forward, Hristo Stoichkov. Stoichkov had a seemingly love-hate relationship with equally brilliant and equally volatile Romario. One minute they are hugging each other for setting up the other for another brilliant goal and the next minute they are sniping at each other because one of feels that the other did not pass the ball to him.

Strikers

I have gone for the absolutely brilliant Brazilian Ronaldo and Sandor Koscis.

I know I said I will only pick 2 teams but way too many players that I like have not been picked because just too many greats played for Barcelona, so I have managed to squeeze in a third team

Goalkeeper

For Goalkeeper, I have gone for Antoni Ramalletts who played for Barcelona in the 40s to 60s and won the best goalkeeper award for 5 consecutive seasons in the 50s

Defenders

I have gone for Abelardo Fernandez, a very capable defender who always gave his best, Juan Asensi who was also a very good defender for both Barcelona and Spain and Eric Gensana.

Midfield

I have gone for Bernd Schuster, the current manager, who was a brilliant midfielder and should have won far more caps for West Germany, if not for his bad relationship with the West German FA. Luis Enrique, one of my favourite players with his all-action style and loads of goals to boot. For a midfielder, he scored a fair amount of goals. Allan Simonsen, the brilliant Dane, who was European footballer of the year in 1977. Johan Neeskens, the current assistant manager, who was a wonderful midfield player.

Strikers

I have gone for a 3-prong attack and they are Paulino Alcantara who though I have never seen play scored 357 goals in 357 matches, now that is impressive. Josep Samiter who scored 326 goals for Barcelona and Hans Krankl just edging out Samuel Etoo and Patrick Kluivert.

Some of the players that I have not mentioned include the present crop of players like Rafa Marquez, Thuram, Xavi, Deco, Messi, Zambrotta and past greats and good like Hagi, Prosinescki, Laurent Blanc, Gica Popescu, Carles Rexach, Jari Littmanen, both De Boers, Cocu, Laarsson, Mark Hughes, Lineker, Beguiristain, Goikoietxea, Edgar Davids, Riqueleme and Sorin amongst others.

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5 Simple Steps to Be a Media Star

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This series of articles are focused on how to become known as an expert. Today we will focus on how to gain media attention.

Dale Carnegie said in his famous book – How To Win Friends and Influence People, “babies cry for and grown men die for”. We all want attention and recognition. We seek media attention to get our name splashed in newspapers, radio and TV. Not only is it something we personally want but it is also a great strategy to gain expert status and get clients.

I have been written up in print, interviewed on radio and TV. Did you know one appearance on TV can catapult you into fame and launch your career into the stratosphere? Fawn Germer, who I recently hear speak, was featured on Oprah. She has leveraged it to the hilt. We all know what can happen if you are seen on The Oprah Show. Businesses become hugely successful and a million books are sold! Dr. Phil and Dr. OZ started as guests on The Oprah Show. Now they have their own shows.

So how do you get attention of the media?

Here are 5 simple strategies:

  1. Find an angle that will appeal to the media: It is quite easy to look up what current stories are already being covered in the media. Just find an angle to latch on to the story. It is not enough to say that you are a chiropractor or a massage therapist. What is new, unique or newsworthy about your profession?
  2. Prepare you story: Once you know the angle, create a pitch that is easy for you to communicate. Human interest stories are featured all the time. Pick a struggle and how you or a client overcame that struggle.
  3. Get a list of reporters: Today it is easier to find reporters on the internet. Social media has made reporters and journalists much more accessible. Pick the target market you want to focus on and find the reporters who cover such stories.
  4. Call or email them: Depending on the information you have and how timely it is, you can just pick up the phone and call the reporter. Make sure you are aware of simple protocols. TV, radio and print media – all have different strategies in collecting and sharing information. Pay attention to when and how you should approach the media.
  5. Build a relationship: I consistently write comments to the reporters. You will be amazed how many of them will reply back. Make it a habit to communicate with them so you can be recognized. Today the media is required to build a following and be in touch with their audience.

These simple and effective strategies will help you start moving towards being a media star.

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