Does Salary Show What We Value?

Surveys talking about salary always intrigue me. I’m not quite sure why, although it possibly stems from my father. He used to cut out graphs that showed the average earnings of people with a high school diploma, an associate’s degree, an undergraduate degree, and a master’s or other professional degree. I’m sure he did this to make us value education.

It worked! My brothers and I are all college graduates. (But I will tell you a little secret: that might actually have more to do with my mom, who made sure we had the opportunity to work during potato harvest. There’s nothing like long hours standing on a combine or in front of a conveyor belt looking for vines and dirt clods among the thousands of potatoes sweeping by to make you desire a nice, cushy desk job.)

Anyway, for today’s Survey Says, I thought this was an interesting comparison.

On the one hand, we have average annual public school teacher salaries, which have increased almost $12,000 over the last ten years. Not bad, school teachers. $56k is a fairly decent salary.

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Howsoever, when we look at the Highest NBA player salaries for 2012-13, we see that Kobe Bryant earns $27,849,149.

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Is it just me, or is something seriously wrong with this picture? School teachers–who educate our children, the future of our country–make only 0.2% of what an NBA star does. And, granted, these are the highest-paid NBA players . . . but still. The disparity is too much.

I could get on my soap box about this, and point out some of the excesses in society and the upside-downness of what we’re willing to pay for, but I don’t think there’s any need. These numbers speak for themselves.

Stage Fright

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I am kind of a chicken.

Not totally, but, you know, kind of.

I had thought I had reached a fairly safe spot in my maturity where I was content and confident in my abilities.

Well . . .

Apparently not so much.

I had been talking to someone I knew from Narnia. No, wait–high school. We were catching up on our lives and I mentioned I’d been to a writing conference.

“What do you write?”

I told him I was writing a book.

“What’s it about?”

I explained I was writing a Regency.

After a few sentences, which included “Jane Austen” and “some of those historical chick flicks,” he said, “That’s great! I think it’s nice when older people go after their dreams.”

Wait. Did he just call me old?

Before I could remind him we were practically the same age, he said, “Can I hear some of it? Read me an excerpt.”

Gulp. An excerpt.

Remembering my own assertion–I am a writer–my brain scrambled to figure out what part I should read. I made small talk while my mind raced. Also, I was having a difficult time locating my manuscript, or even my notebook.

I was flustered.

And completely caught off guard.

While many people had read my writing, no one had asked me to read my writing, other than at a specific critique group with other writers. And over the phone–!

(Now is probably a good time to mention that I only talk on the phone when I have to. Otherwise, I dislike it with a potent and bitter loathing. I’m awkward enough in person; over the phone the awkwardness reaches new heights.)

I fumbled over my words, apologizing, still not finding my MS anywhere.

Awkwardness galore.

Luckily, my friend is a good-phone talker and he basically said, “That’s cool,” without drawing attention to my ineptitude on the telephone.

In an attempt to be bold and make up for my earlier chicken-heartedness, I am now going to post an excerpt here. “He [or she] who hesitates is lost!” (Props to Mr. Snicket.)

This is the second scene, where we are introduced to the hero of the tale.

Sidney Thomas Francis Carmichael, Duke of Ottley, Marquess of Shelbourne, Earl of Loxley, stared across his desk at his solicitor Frederick Feld of Banks and Feld, Esq. “There’s an estate inĀ Scotland? Why is this only coming up now?”

Feld cleared his throat delicately. “Some papers appear to have been misplaced, Your Grace.”

“Misplaced?” The young duke’s brow furrowed as he thought of the ramifications of that piece of information. He let out a frustrated sigh and raked his fingers through his hair. “Blast.” He thumbed through the pages of the appointment book sitting atop his desk’s blotter. Most, if not all, of the pages had things written on them. “That means I have to make a trip to Scotland.”

Feld considered a moment, then ventured, “You could send someone else to check out the property, Your Grace.”

Sidney shut the appointment book with a click. “For whatever reason, Sir Howard appointed me as trustee.” His voice was quiet, clipped. “Although it isn’t particularly convenient for me to take a trip to Scotland just now,” he cast a baleful glare at his appointment book, “I will fulfill my duty.” Sidney let out a pent up breath. “It will just have to wait a couple of months.”

“Your Grace, someone with your responsibilities cannot expect to do everything personally.”

“Thank you, Feld,” the duke said with a smirk. “I’ve found that lots fewer papers get ‘misplaced’ when I attend to things myself.”

Feld turned an unbecoming shade of red, but before he could stammer an apology Sidney held up a hand to stop him. “You’ll have to forgive me, Feld. It had already been a long day before you decided to lay a mysterious estate in Scotland in my lap.”

Sidney stood and Feld followed his lead. “Come talk with me tomorrow,” Sidney said, his words a dismissal.

After Feld left, Sidney walked over to the window and looked down at the street below, leaning against the sill. The manicured shrubs and the fine carriages passing didn’t register in his mind. If he was honest with himself, the Scotland estate didn’t weigh so heavily, either.

The weight he felt was the weight of the dukedom, the weight his mother had piled on him earlier during tea, the weight of duty.

“You are now a score and ten,” she had pointed out unnecessarily. “You must find a wife.”

Favorite Books of 2012

I’m slow getting this out–but, hey, I’m still not done with my Christmas cards. Don’t judge.

Here are my favorite books out of the 120 (or thereabouts) that I read this year:

My Ridiculous Romantic Obsessions by Becca Wilhite

Venetia by Georgette Heyer

Divine Signatures by Gerald N. Lund (I think this is the first time a non-fiction title has made my “Favorite Books of the Year” list. Maybe I’m a grown-up, after all.)

Time Riders by Sierra St. James

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

Hope was Here by Joan Bauer

Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson

Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielson (with props to Amy Hackworth, as well. Fantastic.)

Big in Japan by Jennifer Griffith

Erasing Time by CJ Hill

The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry

The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright

Endlessly by Kiersten White

Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale

 

Happy reading!

 

I Am a Writer

I got back late last night from Arizona and a writing conference I attended there.

I met some lovely people, ate some delicious food, and attended classes about the craft of writing. Much of it I already knew, but some of it I didn’t. I enjoy learning, and loved this opportunity to delve deeper into certain aspects of writing.

My biggest take away (I think I’m going to do a post on annoying buzz words soon) was this:

I am a writer.

I know this. I have known it for a long time. But one thing that the experts stress about writing (and maybe this is an annoying writing buzz word) is having a platform. I, myself, have written a post on having a platform before. The problem was, I could never figure out my platform. I knew someone whose platform was cancer, another person whose platform was PTSD, and another whose platform was helping people with disabilities. Those are all wonderful platforms–but I couldn’t figure out what my platform was.

Does a platform have to be about a disease, or a mental condition? I considered making autism my platform, or maybe osteogenesis imperfecta. I have experience with both of those. Music programs in the public school system? How floral design can have a positive impact on the world around you? Star Wars as a metaphor for life? The importance of motherhood? Laughter as a healing agent? There are infinite platforms out there, but none of them fit what I wanted my platform to be.

I could easily discard things I didn’t want my platform to be, but had a harder time deciding what I did want it to be. Because of that, I wondered if I could really do this writing thing. Maybe I wasn’t cut out for it.

Except that didn’t make sense, because I felt like it was something I could do for a reason. A gift.

That made me doubly grateful for the snippet I heard in one of my classes at the conference. Or maybe I didn’t hear it. Maybe I thought it, and it was just what I needed to know.

The thought was this: You have to have a platform (this is where my insides began to despair), even if your platform is only “I’m a writer.” (Angels singing.)

And my heart lifted and I thought, “I can do that. I am a writer, so I can make that my platform.”

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I write.

I am a writer.

The Advent of “Survey Says!”

For Christmas in 2011, I asked my Dad for a newspaper subscription. He and my mom are inveterate newspaper readers (they subscribe to at least four), and I had noticed how enjoyable it was when I was visiting to read their papers. So I’ve been a subscriber to USA Today for over a year. Some days I read the whole thing, and other days–er, weeks–the papers stack up and I go for a quick skim before tossing them into the recycling bin.

One of my favorite parts of the paper are the little surveys they have on the main pages, called “USA Snapshots.” I’ve been saving some of these–the ones I find particularly interesting or funny–in order to have a feature on this blog called “Survey Says!” [Nods to Ray Combs.] Here’s a great one to get us started:

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Now, nothing against Apple. I myself have an iPhone and a Mac. But A YEAR’S WORTH OF FREE FLIGHTS IN THE US? 43% of you are obviously out of your minds. Sure, it’s nice, but iPhones aren’t that cool. I would also give mine up for a two-week cruise or a $500 shopping spree.

Does that make me disloyal? Cheap? Or smart?

I’m going to ask the same question, but with a twist: what wouldn’t you give up your iPhone for?

(My answer: my old flip phone.)

New Ad Writer Needed

Some words you expect to make you cringe: “murder,” “fornication,” “lewd and lascivious,” or “rectal.”

There are others, though, that don’t hint at such awfulness, and yet saying them still tastes a little awful.

Obviously, the people at SaraLee are unaware that “moist” is the least favorite word for nine out of ten people.

I am one of the nine.

It is followed closely by “moisture,” “boudoir,” and “conglomerate.”

What are your least favorite words?