Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


March 17, 2014

Tidbits: Skills for the real world

CROSSVILLE — There's a lot of talk about making sure kids are career and college ready by the time they graduate from high school. We test for it. We rank our states on it, and states turn around and they rank each school district and school on it.

We want them to be critical thinkers and creative thinkers and resilient and able to graph an equation and recite the periodic table of the elements.

But there are some things that may not be on that list, but probably should be. You might think kids would pick this stuff up somewhere as they go about their school days, but just to be sure, parents, take a look at this list and, if you aren't sure Johnny and Susie have these tasks mastered, it might be time to have some at-home schooling.

Personally, I didn't have these all down by the time I left home after high school. Some of these I still don't have down. Some, I learned by I have forgotten over the years.

Like writing a check. Once upon a time, way back in school, they covered how to write a check in a class. I don't remember what class it was. Perhaps math. I never took a class called "Basics of living," but at the time, writing a check was a basic skill everyone needed to know.

Then along came debit cards and people stopped writing checks everywhere. I bought a box of checks when I moved in 2009. I'm just now getting to the last little packet of them because I never write checks. I have a debit card and online bill payment.

This is not a problem unless I have misplaced my debit card. If you've never had to call and cancel your debit card, you don't know how frustrating it can be. You have to wait and wait days, weeks sometimes, for a new card and a new PIN number to arrive, separately. Then, you have to activate the card and commit the new PIN to memory.

In the meantime, you're standing in the checkout line trying to remember how to write a check and trying to hurry as fast as you can because you don't want to be the person holding everyone else up. I get so aggravated when I see someone writing a check at the store because, usually, they can't find a pen, and then they can't find their ID in the carryon luggage they call a purse, or they don't know why the store wants to see their ID, because they didn't need it last time they were there.

So I don't use checks much these days, and when I do, I have to think about how to write one out.

Other things that we need to make sure kids are prepared to handle is how to return merchandise to a store. Start by making sure to keep receipts until you're sure you want to keep something or it has been worn. Please, don't try and return something you've already worn outside. You aren't fooling anyone when you do that. Keep the tags on, keep the packaging, and keep a copy of the store's return policy. When you go in, be specific, but firm. You want to return the item.

The same thing goes for canceling a membership or service contract. Trust me, those companies that take care of your cell phone, TV service or just about anything else with a monthly fee, will make you jump through hoop after hoop. You're going to have to repeat yourself to no less than 25,000 people to actually cancel that membership. Repeat after me, and start practicing now, "No, I do not want to extend my contract or take you up on that reduced service fee. I want to cancel my service. Thank you."

And after you've canceled your service, you'll have to keep reminding them you don't want to be their customer again at this time. You'll get calls, emails, letters, cards. These will continue for months and months. I canceled a service three years ago and they're still sending me letters asking me to reconsider.

You should know how to care for your wardrobe yourself. This includes being able to repair a fallen hem or sew on a button. Despite the fact we live in a world that throws away everything once it needs a little work, you can save a lot of money if you know how to fix these things yourself. It's not full-fledged sewing, so don't get too nervous about it. If you can thread a needle, you're more than halfway there.

There are also a number of home and car repairs you need to know how to do on your own. Not knowing how to handle these little emergencies can lead to big emergencies. For example, you need to know how to change a tire, check your oil and jump a battery. I've had friends say they don't know how to do this stuff, and they don't see the need because there's always someone around who knows how to do that.

While it is true few men will stand by and watch a woman change a tire herself, this sort of minor emergency doesn't always happen in a populated area, or in the middle of the day, or somewhere where it is easy for others to stop and offer assistance. After I had a flat tire on a backroad in the middle of nowhere, before there was cell phone service, I learned to change my own tires. I learned how to use a tire iron and a jack, and I learned not to depend on the kindness of strangers.

That said, it's perfectly OK to accept help should it be offered. Especially if you're dressed up. Changing a tire is not exactly a clean job.

At home, you'll want to know how to plunge a toilet, replace a fuse and patch a small hole in the wall. These are not just handy skills to have. They are, in fact, life skills.

These life skills are important not only because they are things people need to know how to handle, being able to handle those little emergencies, like a flat tire, helps to build confidence to handle those emergencies that aren't so little. And that's what we're striving for, isn't it? We want our kids to be able to handle those surprises that come along, and to do so with confidence in their abilities. Every little victory helps get you ready for an even bigger victory next time.

• • •

Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published on Tuesdays. She may be reached at

Text Only
  • Lion and the Lamb: A promised land?

    Back in biblical times there was a group of people who believed that God had promised them a segment of land on this planet that would be theirs forever. Who could have known back then that this ancient promise and territorial justification would be used by their descendants today to claim the same segment of land?

    July 29, 2014

  • We the People: Bring back the American dream

    Our economy continues to expand. The stock market is at record levels, yet many ask why so many of us are struggling?  Barely half of us believe the American dream is attainable.

    July 29, 2014

  • Tidbits: Taking a low-tech break

    Feeling increasingly strangled by my electronic leash, with phone, text messages, email, social media and a variety of other forms of communication always at my side, I took the weekend off.

    July 28, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Governing before and after mass corruption

    Laws in America were originally written simply. Every citizen could read them quickly and understand their meaning. The founders wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Northwest Ordinance and the Constitution of the United States, none of which was longer than 4,500 words.

    July 28, 2014

  • We the People: The last dance

    Charlie Hayden’s last recording session with his early partner, Keith Jarrett, was in 2007.  The songs they played were mostly melancholy.  The second album coming from that session includes Weil’s “My Ship” and Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye.” The dark ballad “Goodbye,” by Gordon Jenkins, was the final track.

    July 22, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Living in a pressure cooker

    The Gaza Strip, a small Palestinian territory about the size of Washington, D.C., has been in the news almost every day.  Its key location at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea has attracted a number of occupying powers over the years, and it has  been at the center of much Middle East history.

    July 22, 2014

  • Tidbits: The excitement of election day

    On March 12, 1996, there were 427,183 votes cast in the presidential primary election. Among those votes was mine, the first vote I cast in an election, just two days after my 18th birthday.

    July 21, 2014

  • Raising the minimum wage

    My first job from which FICA was withheld was a minimum wage job, seventy-five cents an hour. And yes, even then no one could live on that little money. However, I was a high schooler living at home where my father provided room and board. The job gave me pocket money to buy gasoline, to take my girlfriend out for movies and burgers, and to buy tickets for baseball games.

    July 21, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Children on the move

    The news this past week has focused on the humanitarian crisis developing on our southern border. Thousands of unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras seeking to escape from the violence, human trafficking and extreme poverty in their countries have been entering the United States.

    July 15, 2014

  • We the People: Memo to gun rights groups

    The recent incident in California helps us understand why we cannot rely on mental health services alone to solve the problem of gun violence.

    July 15, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Raw: Japanese Soldiers Storm Beach in Exercises Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Broken Water Main Floods UCLA Two Women Narrowly Avoid Being Hit by Train In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast New Sanctions on Key Sectors of Russian Economy Crayola Announces Family Attraction in Orlando US Ready to Slap New Sanctions on Russia Kerry: Not Worried About Israeli Criticism Boater Rescued From Edge of Kentucky Dam Girl Struck by Plane on Florida Beach Dies Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre House to Vote on Slimmed-down Bill for Border Looming Demand Could Undercut Flight Safety Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar
2014 Readers' Choice
Graduation 2014