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Category: Tech Fixes

How my Mother Influenced my Parenting Style

My mom was always there for me. It’s a high bar to match as a parent today. And one might ask if it’s actually too much. Here’s my parenting story for the day. You decide…

I have this memory from when I was a child. I don’t know why it’s lasted. I was twelve years old, and I needed to finish a seemingly insurmountable school project. It was a research paper, and I had left way too much of it to the last night. I was overwhelmed, and I guess I didn’t have the skills to plan it out better.

My Mom Saved the Day
What I remember from this sliver of my past is that my mother stayed up with me past midnight to help me get it all done. She sat at my desk while I did my work on my bed with numerous books surrounding me.

I think my mom was there mostly for moral support, but I do retain wisps of a moment of her going through a particular book, looking for some key information for me to use, and then writing it down on a yellow note pad.

I think I successfully turned in my project the next day, but that’s not what I really remember. It’s my mom helping me out in the middle of the night, when I couldn’t help myself.

Was that good parenting? Was it the right move to create a study group fueled by the organizational power of an adult? Wouldn’t the lesson of failure due to poor time management taught me more at that early age?

But that’s not how my mom was wired. And for better or worse, my wiring is based on that.

Role Reversal
This memory is particularly present, because I recently found myself in a similar situation with our twelve-year-old son. And now I’m the parent.

Our son had a history research project to complete. It was a group video project that he was working on with two other students. And yes, they fell behind. (And I knew with my own understanding of video production what technical challenges they might encounter.)

Fast forward to the night of the deadline… Their video needed to be finished and uploaded by midnight. The three were furiously working together virtually, and they were completely focused. There’s nothing like a looming deadline to keep you going.

Learning Visual Storytelling at an Early Age
A quick aside… I’d like to call out the fact that these seventh graders were editing a 10-minute video, complete with a script, b-roll, VO and music. They had collaborated mostly virtually and built their video project using an online platform.

This blows my mind, because these kids had to figure out how to line up all of the necessary workflows and proper collaboration to get a complex video finished by a challenging deadline. Plus, they needed to lock a narrative and find collective creative alignment.

That’s what I do for a living!!

So yes, I think this was a particularly big lift. These boys were still building their plane as they flew towards midnight.

Finding the Right Level of Parental Support
When our son announced at dinner six hours before the deadline that he would have to work through the night to try to get it all done with his schoolmates, it prompted my flashback to my own homework gauntlet when my mother came to my rescue.

So I told my son that I would stay up with him to help as I could. (No, I didn’t take over the video edit, though a part of me really wanted to offer!) He had his own team to work with. He wasn’t alone, like I was all those years ago.

I was simply there for moral support, and I prepared some late night snacks to help him feel fueled as he burned the midnight oil.

Perfection not Required
I’m happy to report that the team did complete their video, and I was pleased to see my son celebrate their accomplishment, bleary-eyed as he was.

Yes, it was an entirely imperfect process, and the sprint to the finish line contributed to that hard reality. I hope it was a good lesson that will contribute to future improvements in how he tackles these types of challenges.

Flexing a Growing Skillset
The next morning, he premiered his video for me and my wife, and he separately displayed his complex video editing timeline with pride.
His ability to align appropriate imagery and photos to his VO track seemed almost effortless and entirely organic.

I can claim some genetic talent that I’ve passed down, but it’s just my son getting it done using his own talents. Plus, I think it’s an example of his generation growing up with digital technologies. It’s simply second nature to them. Amazing.

No Need to Come to the Rescue
Our son didn’t require our last-minute help. He just needed our support. And I think someone to stay up late in a nearby room.

I camped out on the couch in the family room. And after I brought him his snacks, I actually may have dozed off for a bit. (I had set the alarm on my Apple Watch to ensure I didn’t miss his deadline.)

Remembering my Mother
Sorry, Mom. I know I didn’t have your endurance in this moment. But your grandson, who you never met, didn’t need it. He was just fine as he approached his own finish line.

Thank you for being there for me all of those years ago, because that’s what I needed.

Though I’m thinking a lot about Dad these days, I’ve been thinking about you too.

I miss you.

My Life in 30 Seconds

A friend drew this wonderful pencil sketch of my face as the basis for the birthday gift piñata she made for my party. I’ve found that my birthdays have always been a time of reflection. Last year was particularly intense…

With my father’s recent passing, I’ve been thinking a lot about his legacy, which has led me to think a bit more about my own.

And I’ve been reflecting back on my journey to date. I’m talking way back and trying to take in my whole life. What’s my story so far, and how has it evolved?

One way I’ve gone through this exercise is to review the photos I’ve created and collected over the years. They document many of the moments that have helped to define me.

Create a Photo Montage of your Life
Five years ago, I created a little photo project, which I’ve decided to return to and update. It’s been really useful to jog my memories during this time.

The goal is to select just a very few pics that represent my life so far. And then create a photo montage in a short video. The result is inevitably influenced by the chosen group of pictures, which will vary each time I try this.

Still, these photos do represent one way to look at your life. And I’ve enjoyed this exercise to help regain a broader view.

My Life in 10 Seconds?
How many photos do you select? Well, one option is to squeeze down the number to how many can fit into a defined amount of time. Sure, if you don’t want to restrict yourself, the video might last for hours. But what if you just limit yourself to just a fraction of that?

When I first tried this five years back, I held my video to just 10 seconds, and
I explored a few different photo montages at that length.

Okay… That ended up being a little too fast, as my pictures needed to fly by so quickly you could barely register each image. Some of my viewers complained.

So this time, I’m giving myself the luxury of a whopping 30 seconds.

Barrett’s Birthday Photo Montage
Each birthday is a marker in time and one simple way to collect a group of photos to tell a story. So here are my birthdays…

Though birthday pics can look visually similar across the years (mine certainly do), when strung together, the collection acts as a sort of time machine.

For many of these photos, I tried to represent my age by holding up certain fingers. (I eventually gave that up when I ran out digits!)

Barrett’s Life Photo Montage
Without the guard rails of a specific life event to work with, which photos should you choose to represent your life? Yes, that’s a much harder exercise and one that will take more time to figure out.

I created this draft, but it’s hardly ‘finished.’

This montage offers more visual interest as it shows me out-and-about in the world (as opposed to stuck in front of a birthday cake). But it’s still missing a key ingredient in any life.

You’re Not Alone
Of course, it’s all the people you know. Your family and friends are such as important part of your journey. You need to include them in any photo montage that truly reflects your life.

So, happily, I’ve still got a lot of work to do on that front. Until then, my little photo montage is hardly complete.

What Comes Next?
No, 30 seconds is not a lot of time. And hopefully, it’s not enough for anyone to really work with.

If anything, it’s just a taste or an echo of something much larger… and longer.

But I’ve still found it to be a useful exercise to try to hone in on just a few highlights.

And perhaps, it might help focus me on what my next highlights could be.

Time machines can work in both directions.

The Double-Edged Sword of Repeat Deliveries

Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program is a great time saver, but over time it may be more than you need. Here’s why…

Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program originally made me feel like I had been transported to a Star Trek-like future where people could focus on higher-level cognitive challenges as opposed to pondering if they were about to run out of toilet paper.

It was a magical leap forward in shopping design, where you could automatically receive your supplies without worrying that you’d forget to reorder. Plus, you’d get an ongoing discount on these Subscribe & Save orders. How great is that?!

It was set-it-and-forget-it, and your stuff showed up.

What could possibly go wrong?

Too Many Vitamins!
This morning, I woke up, walked downstairs to the kitchen and opened up the cupboard to take some vitamins, including my daily Omega 3 supplement. I grabbed the plastic bottle, unscrewed the top and took out the very last capsule.

I smiled, because I knew I was ready for this moment. There would be another Subscribe & Save bottle in the back of the cupboard ready to go. I peered behind some other vitamin bottles, and I squinted to be sure what I saw. I didn’t see a replacement bottle. I saw three.


Clearly my family and I weren’t consuming as many Omega 3’s as my subscription was providing. You might say it’s an easy arithmetic equation to figure out. It is, but somehow it had gotten way off balance.

And I hadn’t been paying attention, because it was set-it-and-forget-it.

Inevitable Imbalance
I sat down at my desk with my cup of Joe and finally allowed myself to fully face the other recent clues of imbalance in my shopping utopia from the future.

  • I had collected in my basement an extra year’s supply of AC/furnace air filters.
  • My paper towel subscription for the premium Bounty brand had been inexplicably cancelled and replaced by the less luxurious Brawny.
  • My toothpaste subscription was also cancelled, and I needed to actively replace it, which I didn’t. (I was supposed to “forget it,” right?) Then, I ran out of toothpaste.

The Best Price?
Amazon clearly states that prices go up and down. If you’re looking for the best pricing over time, I’m not sure that repeat deliveries will get you that, even with the subscription discount.

You’ve got to keep track. And that doesn’t align well with the set-and-forget mentality.

The Easy Fix
Yes, the odds are running out of supplies are certainly lower with repeat-delivery subscriptions, although it can happen if your subscriptions get cancelled, and you don’t choose an alternate item (guilty).

But unless your estimated consumption metrics are perfect, you’re likely to over order.

Subscribe & Save will save you shopping time, but over the months, your supplies may start to pile up.

It’s not like I was entirely unaware of this, and it’s easy to fix by going online and adjusting the frequency of the repeat deliveries. But it’s the kind of thing you tell yourself you’ll do tomorrow.

And then tomorrow never comes.

Until you realize you’ve got an extra year’s worth of Omega 3 tablets piling up in your cabinet.

So today, I reviewed all of my subscriptions and made the necessary adjustments.

It’s Time to Wake Up
Amazon would tell me that I regularly receive reminder emails to check and adjust my Subscribe & Save items. And I do.

So why didn’t I just follow their ongoing recommendations to perform a little subscription maintenance?

Because I wanted to set-it-and-forget-it.

Autopilot-mode is nice. But you really shouldn’t disconnect for too long. Otherwise you may wake up one day and realize you’re surprised by what you see.

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