Posts Tagged With: math

Making Change

My first job as a teenager, aside from babysitting, was at McDonald’s.  I learned a heckuva lot at that job, and not just about work ethic or stuff like that. I learned to appreciate what it’s like behind that counter trying to work with a diverse and strange group of people. I recognized that turning over the running of a restaurant to a group of teens and twenties had potential for disaster as well as for leadership and growth.

We used a preprinted pad of paper for the orders. A customer would tell us what they wanted and we’d write as fast as we could, then figure out the math on the paper, then key in the total on the cash register. Sounds so archaic now, doesn’t it? Seriously, it wasn’t that many years ago. Some places still do it that way, amazingly. (The fabric store I worked at ten years ago did it that way, too.) I’m not sure how the till ever balanced out at the end of the day using that method. Boggles my mind.

photo-17 copy 15I used to take great pride in my ability to figure out change. Nothing quite matched the satisfaction of reverse counting in my head and then forward counting the customer’s change into their hand. Occasionally, I’d catch myself in an error as I counted it out to them. I’d apologize and make the correction, glad for the process that double checked my math.

Even now, when I make a purchase using cash I have the change figured out almost before the computerized cash register does. And I double-check the money in my hand since the cashiers rarely do that counting back thing anymore. In fact, I’m not sure most of them even understand that concept or could figure the change without looking at what the computer tells them.

So why would I bring this up today?

I’m talking around a topic I don’t want to address directly.


Making change in the monetary sense is easy. Always has been.

Making change in my life. Not so much.

Cash Register

Yes, this is an actual cash register. (Photo credit: tarale)

It’s Monday and I just had one of those weeks where every flaw I possess seemed highlighted by neon markers and flashing red and blue lights in the rearview mirror. I’m not just talking physical flaws, but also bad habits, misplaced priorities, skewed ideas, and misaligned ways of thinking. I found myself wondering how often I justify dumb decisions and behavior with little lies I tell myself.

Went to bed last night weighed down by it all.

Woke up this morning determined to do something about it.

Almost noon and I’m feeling buried.

Maybe I need to slow down and figure out the balance owing and what change is due. Y’know, get a handle on things. Stop acting like an emotional tornado.

It’s tough to be objective about your own life. It’s easy to see all the crap and garbage and think that’s reality. Others see only what you allow them to see and you know they just don’t really know the real you. I know that somewhere between the two perspectives reality sits, waiting for me to acknowledge it and get my groove on.

Does reverse counting change exist for making change in my life? Can I forward count the change somehow to see my way out of the weighed down math-challenged thinking I’m stuck in?

Piggy Bank

Piggy Bank (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)

It’s awfully tempting right now to swing by that drive-up window and get an order of fries and a coke. Throw in a Big Mac while I’m at it. Throw in an apple pie, make that two because they’re cheaper that way. Eat away my sorrows. Forget the math. Tell the cashier to keep the change.

But I won’t. Not today.

Today I keep the change and the whole wad of cash. Today I begin to make change happen.

Categories: Hope, Wondering | Tags: , , , , , , | 9 Comments

A Pledge, A Prayer and a New Math Concept


Classroom (Photo credit: Willow (Chengyin))

Every school day began the same way.  Every day but one.

Every day we stood behind our desks, placed our right hands over our left breasts, recited the pledge of allegiance to the flag hanging in the corner of the room near the door between the pictures of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  Then we sat, arms folded or hands clasped while someone recited a prayer.  The chairs scraped linoleum and papers shuffled and books opened and knowledge spilled out over us.

Every day, that is, until that morning. That morning the fluorescent lights were humming overhead to compensate for the lack of sunshine that usually poured through the wide slatted blinds. That morning the blinds hadn’t been opened at all.

Oddly, the teacher wasn’t in the room when the bell rang and we ready to stand and pledge. We did stand, but we waited, our allegiance hanging midair, unmoving, like the flag in the corner.  There was a moment of uncertainty and then the click, click, click of heels in the hallway.  The doorknob turning, hesitating, then opening into the room.  Our teacher’s presence breaking the silence.  We scrunched into our chairs, pulled up to our desks, expectant, curious.

I caught only snippets of words as she spoke.  “Stanley” and “heart” and “sleep.”

I heard confusion and felt a buzzing sort of talking.  This new thing baffled and stung.


This meant no black rimmed,  curly-haired Stanley. He was the one with the ready hand, the right answer, the toothy grin.

Having never encountered this new thing in my seven short years of life, uncertainty and questions swirled around me.  I did understand the empty chair and the paperless desk, sort of.

Every school day after that one was the same again.  Predictable.  Reliable.  Regular as the clock ticking above the teacher’s desk. Except, he was absent.  Always absent, not even on the roll call list.

We never did vow our allegiance to the flag that day.  Or pledge, our hands over our hearts, to the republic.  We did, however, pray for Stanley, for Stanley’s Dad and Mom.

And somehow, silently, we each prayed in our own way, for understanding of this new, very hard concept to take in.

What subject, in second grade, does “death of a child” fall under?  Social Studies?  Biology?  Math?

Ah, yes. Math.





Categories: Death | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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