School Students Shouldn’t Be a Revenue Stream

I get it. There’s money to be made in high schools and grade schools. Between school pictures, sports pictures, yearbooks, and the like, I understand there are businesses that crop up surrounding our students, and I don’t (for the most part) begrudge them the chance to carry on their business, or at least make it available. But this year, something seems different to me.

It started with the early request to buy athlete pictures for Tomas and DC. No big deal. Seemed like a fine request, so we ordered a package for each of them. Then came the reminder for school pictures. I ignored that one, because Denisa and I decided to get private pictures done this year for all the kids. It was less expensive, and the end result was much better, so it was kind of a no-brainer for us.

I deleted the first reminder. The second reminder. The third reminder. I’ve got three kids, each of them in different schools. I didn’t pay too much attention to which school was reminding me about what. Except the reminders kept coming. And coming.

I just went through my email to check. I’ve received TWELVE reminders since August 25th. That’s four reminders per child. That’s . . . beyond excessive. And then that email search reminded me that I was asked to buy “spring portraits” last March. How many class pictures does one child need? And did I really need to be reminded I could buy those spring portraits nine times? Five of the emails this fall have been from my children’s actual schools. (Seven from the company taking the pictures.) Two of the nine reminders came from the schools in spring.

But it isn’t just pictures. Yesterday Tomas came home with a big packet advertising class rings (the cheapest of which starts at $200). Apparently in the middle of school, they were sat down for an ad pitch from the ring company, in which the company said, “All you’ll need to do is go home and even mention class rings to your parents, and you can watch as they run and get their class ring and start telling you all about it, and that’s when you should ask them for the $75 deposit so you can get yours.”

I never bought a class ring. I think they look gaudy and dated. Tomas has no interest in getting one, but I recognize they’re something that might be desirable to some. I get that my personal distaste for them might not be shared by all. If the company wants to send home a flyer about class rings, fine. If they want to send home a half-inch thick packer all about it, I might say that’s a wasteful use of resources, but it probably wouldn’t get me to “I need to write a blog post about this” territory.

But taking up my child’s school time (or even a break during school time) to pitch them on sales techniques to get their parents to buy them a $200+ piece of silver or gold? That went beyond the line for me. At that point, I have to assume the school district is getting a kickback on the rings. (They better be, for the sort of access they’re giving to my child.) Even then, I find it objectionable.

I don’t live in a wealthy area. The median household income in Franklin County is around $45,000. (The median for the US is about $59,000.) There are many, many families who can’t afford a $200+ ring. Why is our school district letting companies market directly to our students this way? Yes, I get that budgets are tight. And again, I realize some kids or parents might really want a ring. But still, send a flyer home. Let students opt-in to hear the ad spiel. Anything other than the approach that’s currently being used.

There are times I feel like the district has started seeing me more as a revenue source and less as a parent of a student.

Am I the only one noticing this?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

How to Say No

I’m feeling pretty stretched thin at the moment. A lot of balls up in the air, and a few feel close to dropping, which is something I never like. It’s made me reflect on the importance of saying no to some things. My default position often feels like it’s “Yes.” I want to be able to do the things people ask me to do, and sometimes I say yes without even really thinking things through completely.

The problem, of course, is that people rarely ask me to do anything at the last minute. I have no problem saying no to something when I literally have no time to do it and it needs doing right then. I acknowledge it’s beyond my capability, and I encourage them to go find someone else to do it. No guilt. No hard feelings. I just couldn’t do it, end of story.

But when they ask me to do something down the road, it always feels like I’ll have more time then than I do now. So why not say yes? Why not agree to help them out? Present-Day Bryce is always angry at Past-Day Bryce for committing him to do things, and yet Present-Day Bryce always seems to be ready to commit Future-Day Bryce to just about anything under the sun. I’ve been on this earth over 40 years now. You’d think I’d have figured out by now that Past-Day, Present-Day, and Future-Day Bryce are all (spoiler!) actually the same person, but I haven’t, it seems.

So I’m working on doing a better job of saying no, even to seemingly little things. Any commitment I make is a commitment I need to pay attention to and complete. It’s another item on the To Do list. Yes, some of them are small, but they all do add up, and the overall effect can be overwhelming. Somehow, I need to get better at identifying requests that can be turned down. Ideally, larger requests, since jettisoning a few small requests does little for my overall sanity.

The biggest problem, I suppose, is that I have a hard time saying no when I look at my schedule and can think of a way to cram in whatever I’m being asked to do. I *could* do that thing, so how can I reasonably say no to doing it? But saying yes is contagious. People start knowing you’re a person who won’t just say yes, but then actually go through and do the thing you said yes to, and that’s not a trait shared by everyone. When people hear you’ve got it, more and more people start coming up to you to ask you to do things . . .

So: No. “I’m beyond capacity right now, and I’m having to turn things down until I get my backlog better in order. I’m sorry.” If I can just remind myself to say that when I’m asked to do things from here on out (and they’re things that aren’t an absolute necessity), maybe one day Present-Day Bryce will have as much time as Past-Day Bryce always seems to assume Future-Day Bryce will have.

How do you say no to things, and how do you decide what can be turned down and what’s mission critical?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Origin Factory Tour

The local chamber of commerce had arranged for the public to go on a tour of the Origin USA factory this morning, and I’m always a sucker for a good factory tour, so I walked down the street (5 minutes away) to check it out. I’m glad I went.

For those of you who might not be aware, Origin USA started out as a manufacturer of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gi tops. I learned this morning that they’re actually the only gi manufacturer in North America. The closest other one is in Brazil. Most of the American companies that sell gis import them from Pakistan, which is where Origin had originally outsourced its production. Then they discovered that the Pakistani company that was assembling its gis was also using the same pattern (the pattern Origin had supplied them with) to sell to other companies, just embroidering a different logo on them. After that discovery, they decided to move their manufacturing line to Maine.

That move was a fascinating process. They knew next to nothing about the actual creation of the clothing–how the machines work. How it’s done on a large scale. But they decided that they wanted to do things the old fashioned way. Manufacturing used to be huge in Maine, and they went around to old factories, buying the old machines that haven’t been used in years and years. In some cases, those machines didn’t exist in America any more, so they’d buy them from abroad and ship them back to Maine. (Ironically, one such machine they purchased arrived, and when they looked at it, they discovered it had “Made in Maine” stamped on it. It had been made in Maine, shipped to Europe, and now finally made the return trip years later.)

These days, they’ve branched out to making gi tops and bottoms, t-shirts, jeans, and boots. All of it is locally sourced. They bought looms and weave their fabric on-site with American cotton. They buy leather and dye it locally. They’ve taught themselves and their team how to service the old machines. It’s a knowledge base that was on its way out in America, and they’re working on bringing it back in a big way.

I had a vague idea they were in town, but I had no idea just how much business they’re actually doing here. They’ve got 50-60 employees, they’ve bought multiple buildings across the area, and they’re shipping a whole slew of orders world wide. It’s a compelling story, and it made me want to find out more about them and what they do. They strive to make products that are built to last. Their jeans are made with rugged material throughout (even the pocket linings), so they won’t wear out. I might try getting a pair the next time I need jeans, since I’m sick of my jeans always wearing out at the knees too easily.

Anyway, it was a great tour, and I’m glad I got to go on it. It’s wonderful to see a manufacturing success story right here in Western Maine, where so many businesses have closed over the years. I’m willing to pay more for something that goes to help local workers in such an immediate way, and I wanted to pass the information on to all of you, in case any of you feel the same. I’m not sure how often they offer tours, or if they will again, but it’s worth the time to go on one. Check them out!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Mr. Forgetful

There are usual symptoms that come up in my life when I’m reaching the “I’m Overwhelmed” stage of things. My room gets messier. Office gets more cluttered. I run on a shorter fuse. But I’ve started coming across a new sign that hasn’t come up in my life before.

I’m losing track of time.

Not in an “I thought it was noon, but it’s actually 2pm” sort of way. That’s happened to me all the time. No, I mean in an “I can’t honestly remember what day of the week it is.” Is it Monday? Friday? Am I supposed to be excited that it’s the end of the week, or dreading the week to come?

It’s not just the days of the week, either. There have been multiple times the last month or two when I’ve forgotten what season I’m in. Maybe that’s normal when you live in a place with seasons that blend together, but I’m in Maine. In autumn. You just have to glance out the window for a second to see a gorgeous display of changing leaves that only happens once a year. Still, the other day I was on my way to Bangor for another meeting, and I couldn’t for the life of me remember what time of the year it was. Spring? Winter? Summer? It didn’t occur to me to look out the window.

It’s not like this quandary went on for a long time, but it was a good couple of minutes. Sort of like when you’re looking for your sunglasses and then finally find them on your head, but on a more cosmic scale.

These days, I just rely on my calendar for everything. I try to shut out everything but what’s on my schedule right there in front of me. I know I’ve booked things in a way that I can get all the things done that need doing. As long as I don’t think about them all, then I don’t feel too overwhelmed.

I just don’t remember when I am.

Does that happen to anyone else, or is it just me?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Death of a Pet

Yesterday when she went to feed the degus, DC noticed one of them had collapsed. Shadow wasn’t breathing much, and he wasn’t moving at all. I came home from a trip to Bangor to assess the situation. Was there a vet we could take him to? How did things look? But it didn’t take much examination to know he was in a pretty bad spot.

When we woke up this morning, Shadow had died.

When we bought the degus seven years and a half years ago, we did it fully aware that they typically live six to eight years. That seemed like a long time at the time, but here we are. Tomas was eight when we bought them. A year later, we discovered Shadow and Shooting Star weren’t two boys, but a boy and a girl, and we had baby degus that followed. (We solved that problem soon after.) Reading over those posts reminds me of how much fun we had with them over the years. I’d completely forgotten DC had named the baby degus (including the one who’d crawled up my sleeve and into my shirt, who was dubbed “Mischip,” because DC had trouble saying “Mischief”).

These days, they’re much more DC’s pets than they are Tomas’s. She was very distraught to see one in such pain. It all came to light after MC had already gone to bed, so MC found out this morning. Sad times all around.

We won’t be getting a replacement degu. We still have Shooting Star left, and we’ll take good care of her, even if she might be a bit lonely. Losing pets is never easy. I remember each of the ones I’ve lost over the years. Just because they’re smaller doesn’t mean it has any less of an impact. I do think it’s important to go through the process, though. To learn how to deal with loss. (Of course, when we bought the degus, I didn’t suspect my kids would have to deal with the loss of a grandparent long before they dealt with the loss of a degu . . . )

In any case, it was a pretty somber mood around my house this morning. Believe it or not, I have a pretty soft spot for pets. (My original dream job was to own a pet store, back in the day. That never materialized somehow . . . ) We’ll have to pick out a good spot for Shadow to be buried. Maybe someplace with a good view, where Shooting Star can see him.

Good-bye, Shadow. You’ll be missed.

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