by Risley

I just saw this Lifehack article about good and bad habits and thought of this group. It’s not real science, but I love these kinds of “small steps toward self-improvement” articles, and we’ve talked about this sort of thing here before.

The Benefits and Dangers of Habits

Totebaggers, what bad habits would you like to get rid of, and what good habits would you like to replace them with? And more than HABITS, are there MINDSETS you would like to delete and replace?

I’ll start: I would like to delete my HABIT of collapsing into my favorite armchair after a day of work and zoning out in front of Bravo! TV. This comes from a MINDSET of believing I am so mentally fried after a day of lawyering or writing that I can’t possibly focus on anything that requires real brain power.

I might not care about this so much if I could suck in 20 min of silly reality TV and then jump up, energized, and attack the evening (or even simply pick up a book). But for me, one of those shows often leads to many more, while on the flip side, doing one productive thing usually leads to an entire evening of productivity.*** I suffer greatly from inertia, and benefit greatly from momentum.

***By “productivity,” I’m talking about very easy evening activities like reading, not cleaning out the garage or alphabetizing the spices. For me, anything other than melting my brain w/ TV counts as “productive” in this context.

In terms of pure HABIT, I’ve had some success in making myself do productive things rather than collapsing in my chair and clicking on the Real Housewives of Wherever. But that’s surface-level behavior (which is what a habit is), and it feels very forced. I WANT to be collapsing in my chair; I’m simply not allowing myself to do it. A daily struggle like that doesn’t seem like a recipe for longterm happiness. By this point in my life, I’ve engaged in plenty of delayed gratification, self denial, rule setting, etc. I’m not sure I want/need/should engage in more of this.

So for me, real success would be replacing the “I’m so fried” MINDSET with an “I have a second wind!” one. I want to WANT to be productive in the evenings. (Jennifer Aniston would totally get this: “I want you to WANT to do the dishes”).

I don’t know what the secret is to replacing an entire mindset. Self talk? Years and years of forced habits until repeated action slowly brings about a new mindset?

Anyone have success with this? And what about the simpler question of HABITS? Any luck deleting bad ones, adding good ones?


136 thoughts on “Habits

  1. Great topic! Good habits that I’ve been able to establish: working out 5 times a week; putting my cell phone/computer away by 9 pm (I do this so it’s easier for me to fall asleep).

    Bad habit – stuffing myself with carbs after dinner to help unwind/decompress. Really need to figure this one out as my clothes are getting too tight! Any/all suggestions are welcome.

    I also find it easier to start a good habit (e.g. workout regularly) than to stop a bad habit (stuff my face with carbs).

  2. Last spring break I read that Gretchen Rubin book on habits and found it helpful. I’m an “obliger” so I will meet external expectations but struggle to meet expectations that I make myself. So for a habit to stick, it has to be framed in “I owe it to others to do this”.


    So I stuck to the Whole 30 because I had told friends and family that I was doing one. My eight year old in particular was really watchful and I didn’t want her to see me fail. On the flip side, once it was over and I wasn’t beholden to any one else but to myself for healthy eating, I’ve not been eating that great.

  3. This is a weakness for me because I find it very easy to slip into bad habits, and very hard to get back on the right track.

    I was able to break a large diet coke addiction when I left full time work in an office. It was a big part of my routine, and i was drinking too many cans per day. We don’t even buy soda for our home any longer unless we’re having a party. I think the change in the structure of my daily routine made this one a little easier than some other things that I have tried to give up.

    One bad habit that I really worked on, but sometimes rears its ugly head is yelling at my kid. I can’t remember if we were still OTS, but there were a couple of articles about the impact of yelling at your children. It really took some work, but I’ve decreased this a lot.

    I have to lose some weight, and there are a lot of ideas that I could borrow from many of you because this is a frequent discussion, I have been avoiding the issue because I thought it would disappear because it is just 5 or 6 pounds, but they’re stuck on me. I have a feeling that this is a new phase that is coming with the milestone birthday, and I am not willing to accept it. I definitely want to do something because it is a constant irritant when my jeans are tight, but I think I want it to be as easy as it used to be when I could just make it go away with some extra exercise etc.

    the other bad habit that I mentioned when I did my new years post is too much TV. I was trying to get back into books, and I have read some good books this year. I just can’t seem to get away from TV. For example, DD and DH have been sick in the last week with colds so we were home a lot. I managed to binge House of Cards, and find time for all of my regulars such as DA.

  4. I wish that I could get rid of the habit of procrastination and my mindset of scarcity. The mindset makes me afraid of change, afraid to take risks and try something new (because what if it doesn’t work and I lose what I have and nothing will ever be as good again?). I tend to prefer to avoid trying rather than try and risk not being good enough. So when I have to do something, I become very, very good at not starting until I am out of time — then the fear-of-failure-from-missing-deadlines adrenaline kicks in and I jump on it. And it’s *always* fine, and I could always have done the same thing on a reasonable schedule without the angst if I had just gotten started even though I felt stuck earlier.

  5. This a great post, Risley, especially the way you highlighted the difference between Habit and Mindset.

    As a retiree, especially one who is somewhat tied to home base by family circumstances, I find that productivity is no longer a top priority or highest goal. That is a giant change in Mindset. Unless it involves food spoilage or an important external commitment, there is really nothing that can’t be put off until tomorrow. That includes things with a sunk cost – if I don’t feel like going, I’ll either give away the tickets or take the financial hit. This change in Mindset of course required establishing a few new Habits – as the days flow together, I have had to rely on and check frequently an accurate electronic calendar/to do list and bill paying services to make sure that important things don’t fall through the cracks. I don’t do well with being told what to do, even by my better self from a few weeks or months ago, and as I said spent money doesn’t work as a motivator. That is why the Mindset distinction makes a lot of sense to me.

    Do I understand correctly that the author thinks one can change one’s Mindset by working on Habits rather than the other way around?

  6. Risley – I wish you luck changing your “I’m fried” mindset since by 9 pm, I also succumb to the couch and bad TV regimen. I do think it is OK to recognize that sometimes you are fried and do need to chill. But that can’t be true every evening.

    One thing I have managed to do during that chill out period is practice my Spanish. I’m trying to re-learn Spanish via DuoLingo, an app on my phone. It takes about 15 minutes a day and I can do it during commercials. =) I also try to turn off all electronics and read for 5-15-30 minutes before I fall asleep. I find that watching TV or looking at my iPhone keeps me awake, whereas if I read a book, I go to sleep earlier and faster.

    I was seeing a trainer for nearly two years, going once-twice a week, trying to build the habit of going to the gym. Well he quit and I got plantar fasciitis and I’ll tell ya, going to the gym never did become a habit. Still struggling with that.

  7. Are you reading highbrow stuff or are you reading light fiction that’s basically The Real Housewives in print form?

  8. Rhett – for me, both. But I also tend to re-read things, so even high brow stuff is not that taxing at that time of night if its an old favorite.

  9. Great article, very true! The fastest way to success is replacing those bad habits with good habits! I’ve found having incentives helps with building new good habits. Have a great week!

  10. ” I do think it is OK to recognize that sometimes you are fried and do need to chill. But that can’t be true every evening.”

    I disagree. I am absolutely fried every evening. If I am still working on something, I can push through for a while, but I cannot start any new projects. I get up at 5am, and my workdays can be pretty intense, especially on the days when I have 3 back to back classes. I don’t usually finish working until 7 or 8. Then, I check homework, eat dinner, and crash.

  11. Meme – I didn’t think the article made the distinction. I like making it because I tend to think of habits as SHOULDs and I would prefer to focus on WANTS – just seems a nicer way to live. It sounds like you’ve made some major mindset shifts – simply dint of will for you?

    Rhett – high brow, by your definition I think. Some novels and a ton of research-type things (newspaper/online articles, memoir, biographies, etc – right now I’m learning about the Rust Belt, Flint/Detroit and their downfalls, etc). All very interesting and I feel maybe the angle is to convince myself it’s so different from the law that it takes a different part of my brain. Fried from the law? No problem – this book is about the auto industry! (Let’s ignore for the moment the industry my company is part of!)

  12. Bad habit that needs to be killed: scrolling through Facebook in the first part of the day, when I really should be one of those people who dives right in to the work. Another bad habit: making to-do lists and then forgetting to read them later.

  13. I often put on one of those foodie travel shows, like Anthony Bourdain, while I am cooking. That is the main TV I watch. I try to read when I go up to bed but I am usually asleep by the second paragraph

  14. LfB, we must be separated by birth. I identify with everything you say about procrastination.

    I for one cannot write anything, ANYTHING, until I know what it looks like completely, and fully-formed in my head. (That’s why a can’t write a book– it’s just too much for my feeble brain.) As a consequence, I will sit around, doing something mindless, but thinking about whatever, until the absolute last minute. Then once when there is no time and nothing but a blue screen on my computer, whatever it is just dumps out and is okay with very minimal editing.

    I honestly think I am too old to get over this habit, but it certainly makes things more difficult.

  15. PTM, LfB and I are all the same person.

    This book: http://smile.amazon.com/Willpower-Instinct-Self-Control-Works-Matters-ebook/dp/B005ERIRZE/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1457373695&sr=1-1&keywords=willpower+instinct

    Is interesting. My sister took the continuing ed course at Stanford that the author taught. She thought it was pretty good. I haven’t actually followed any of the steps, but I’m sure I will any day now.

    Procrastination is deadly for academics. It’s why a lot of people don’t finish their dissertations. And even once you’ve started the tenure track, you basically have six years to produce two well-received books (in the humanities, Mooshi, so just hush). But on any given day, you don’t HAVE to do anything except show up to teach, maybe. Some people can do it and some can’t. Some people are much better with the kind of work where you have to have the brief written by Friday, so adrenal kicks in and gets it done.

  16. I’ve long suspected that it’s a good thing I didn’t go into academia, for just that reason.

    I mean, there are some other reasons too. But that’s a big one. Even with undergraduate and masters theses I had trouble shifting from “read another book” to “start writing.”

  17. Does anyone actually enjoy writing? I don’t recall anyone ever saying they did and most authors I’ve met find it a painful process, even where the book is ultimately a success.

  18. I love the end result of having written something I’m proud of. The day to day process of it can be a slog, though. I am slowly improving my procrastination skills with smaller milestones. I find that if I just start something– even for 15 or 20 minutes– more often than not I get engrossed and want to stay with it.

    This is a good reminder for my evenings. I’ve spent too many lately “fried” in front of the tv, and while there’s nothing wrong with that some nights, I’ve gotten out of the habit of practicing guitar. (I decided that because I always wished I’d learned to play, there is no time like the present to just start.) For me, it helps to say, “I’m fried, but I’ll be really glad I did this right now for 15 minutes, and then I will go veg on the couch when I’m done.” I often practice more, because it’s fun. But because I set an underwhelming goal to start with, I at least get in there and do more. (Or rather, I did. I apparently need to get back to this!) Once I’m on the sofa, inertia sets in. I still think of it as a habit for a good thing though, not a should. It’s just the idea of fitting something automatically into my day that matters to me, so my whole day isn’t taken up by things work, dinner, driving kids, dishes, blah, blah.

    I love Gretchen Rubin’s Happier podcast too. It can be an interesting listen, and I’ve used a couple of the tips here and there.

  19. Actually, back in the Dark Ages when you were lucky to have an office computer or ‘word processing’ typewriter and I was a college student doing secretarial work over breaks, I would write trashy novels to amuse myself when there wasn’t enough work for me. I had a good one going one summer about an unjustly-disgraced-gentleman-turned pirate. Typing busily away looked better than sitting there reading at my desk.

  20. That was in response to the question whether anyone enjoys writing. I also enjoyed writing this ridiculous column in my high school paper about the adventures of our mascot, who was constantly getting kidnapped by aliens and whatnot and escaping in ways calculated to appeal to 80s teens — his primary tools were a boombox and a skateboard.

  21. Rocky Mountain said (pertaining to academia) ” But on any given day, you don’t HAVE to do anything except show up to teach, maybe. ”
    Um, you are forgetting the endless meetings, assessment reports with absolute due dates, students sending email that must be answered NOW, phone interviews with faculty candidates, research meetings, and deadlines for making up assignments and exams (gotta make up 2 midterms and 2 practice exams this week, ugh!)

    Administrators love to dump last minute crap on us too. Last week, I got a frantic call from the chair, who had been asked to produce a quantitative program assessment score, using a particular rubric, for various aspects of each of our 6 degree programs. The dean wanted it, get this, within `12 hours. Why? Because the final Middle States accreditation report was going out in 24 hours, and the dean’s office had forgetten to do the quantititative program assessments. So we all got to scramble for 12 hours.

    The real problem is that all the deadline-driven minutetiae can really get in the way of the long term work that should be done, such as research, course planning, and so on.

    Oh, and I am aware that humanitiies folks are measured by books. We get measured by conference papers and people in the hard sciences are measured by journal articles. Each field is different.

  22. Uh… using this blog to avoid writing a section of a giant report now (EEK) due in 3 months.

    That said, this is our “let’s try out this approach and see if we all like it” section, so I anticipate a lot of corrections.

    I found that the sciences had a good metric to keep people from straying on dissertations – manuscript format. Three (or more) separate manuscripts surrounding a larger theme for the dissertation. Each manuscript a separate section of the study or separate experiment. That kept me on track. What threw me off was longer than anticipated (and harder than anticipated) methods development.

    I have a slew of habits I’d like to change… but I’m working on my writing efficiency (procrastination) as the first one. This is the one I got dinged on at work. I like my job,and I want to keep my job.

  23. “I for one cannot write anything, ANYTHING, until I know what it looks like completely, and fully-formed in my head. . . . Then once when there is no time and nothing but a blue screen on my computer, whatever it is just dumps out and is okay with very minimal editing.”

    Twinsies. Completely.

    @ATM: I *love* writing when I get to the “Athena springing fully-formed from the head of Zeus” phase PTM describes — I am jazzed and hyperfocused for hours on end, and when I’m done I feel like I just won the Superbowl. It’s like nothing else.

    OTOH, working through something before it clicks is like trying to push together the south poles of two magnets.

  24. “Even with undergraduate and masters theses I had trouble shifting from “read another book” to “start writing.””

    Thus the beauty of a non-thesis Master’s.

    I know of one college that gives out an ABD (all but dissertation) degree.

  25. “I’ve gotten out of the habit of practicing guitar”

    Tying this back to a recent thread, I’ve gotten out of the habit of sitting down at the piano, which I found quite relaxing and stress-reducing. I think it was the necessary focus on the task at hand that made it so; perhaps if I were proficient it would not be so relaxing.

  26. “I love Gretchen Rubin’s Happier podcast too.”


    I, too, want to lose a few pounds, and need to work on controlling my eating. I’m fine with most of my bad habits. I just consider them a part of who I am. Translation: I’m too lazy to fix them!

    Especially the crashing on the couch at the end of the day–I think this is a just reward for a day of hard work.

  27. ” I think it was the necessary focus on the task at hand that made it so;”

    I read recently that you should do the dishes this way, or really any mundane task. Focus completely and not let your mind wander. I read it brings stress relief. Meditation for those who can’t sit still. I have yet to try this out…

  28. With food I am very good with sticking to healthy eating during the week because I want to make sure my kids are getting nutritious food but get derailed a bit on the weekends. My problems with good habit formation is I tend to be a very all or nothing person. I don’t want to take a short walk with the kids because I should be doing an hour long one, so then I do nothing.

  29. HM – I sent you an email.

    Habits I don’t really like – plopping in front of the TV, definitely. But I am FOR SURE worn out by the time the kids are in bed *and asleep*!

    I am more motivated by fear to stop habits, vs. trying to take things up. I don’t touch my face with my hands any more for fear of getting sick, and I wash my hands a LOT when I have a concert coming up, like this week. I will also not eat as much for a few days before a big event when I want to look good.

  30. So Atlanta, what was your conclusion about following the Whole30 for a month?

  31. Yelling at my kids…guilty as charged. But at some point, maybe 5 years ago, I began trying really hard not to. And for the most part I have succeeded. I guess it lost its value to me or I no longer need(ed) the emotional outlet.

    And more broadly on whether to be pissed/angry/miffed/peeved at something someone has (hasn’t) done, I channel the “will this matter in a day/week/year/10 years?” approach.

    At this point in my life/stage of life, I realize being emotional about others’ behavior is something I choose not to do.

    No, this does not mean I have become a wimp. But I just don’t get emotional about this stuff. Sometimes you really do get more flies with honey than vinegar.

  32. RMS – I felt good, slept better, lost five pounds (mostly holiday weight gain) and had more energy. However a month without drinking and I now can’t have more than two glasses of wine without having a bit of a hangover and I went right back to sugar. I think it’s a great 30 day detox but the trick is to really do the reintroduction phase correctly which I didn’t really do (I may have introduced wine and sugar at the same time on day 31). I would recommend it if you have any sort of inflammation issues to see if it helps.

  33. Houston – I did it with one of my sisters who really needed a jump start so that kept me motivated too. She needs to lose quite a few pounds and has also been trying to get pregnant and so I was hoping it would really help her.

  34. Fred – I find myself really losing my temper when I feel the child is being disrespectful. And so does DH. And man its like a switch; it comes on so fast. I think its a vestige from how we were raised. I recall my dad having the same issue with me and my siblings. The one time my dad slapped my face was when I was being really snarky to my mom.

    Both DH and I are working on not losing our tempers and being more patient but its not easy. Before kids, I rarely lost my temper.

  35. ATM – Believe me, I’m not criticizing anyone for their parenting (except in real clear cases of child abuse), including yelling at their kids. And I get it completely re the respect thing. That is something that’s learned over time and it’s also something that will matter in week/month/year/decade, so it’s worth working on your kids about.

    I do still get angry, don’t get me wrong. I just try to keep a calm voice even when I want to be ‘highly instructional’ as one of the kids’ football coaches used to call it.

    Went to our local kind of new Duff’s yesterday with my oldest (21) after a good gym session yesterday. Every bit as good as out your way, and a fun different thing to do with him since he’s legal.

  36. “I find myself really losing my temper when I feel the child is being disrespectful.”

    I can understand this, but there have been a few times with my eldest where what I perceived as disrespect had really not been intended that way, so, personally, I need to be careful.

  37. I looked the at the Whole30 today. It looks great, but I spoke to DH and I would be flying solo. He thinks it is too difficult because of his health issues. He doesn’t need to lose weight, but I know he wants to eat healthier so I want to try to find something that would work for both of us because I don’t have time to have 3 separate meal plans for dinner. DD is still picky and eating mainly like a picky kid.

    I might try to crank up my exercise instead since I can run outside this week now that it got warmer outside.

  38. Great post. The one habit I am really trying to break is checking e-mail on my phone. I do it out of curiosity/boredom when I’m away from my desk, but I don’t process the information well on that tiny screen and can’t ever respond thoughtfully in just a quick check. Much better to wait for when I’m actually at my desk and able to deal with whatever it is that came in. I think one of my good habits is that as soon as I wake up, I put on running clothes. Makes it much harder for me find an excuse not to run (it’s cold, it’s rainy, it’s Wednesday) if I already have them on within 5 minutes of waking up.

    On mindset: I read an article once by someone who said she loved to come home at the end of the day and putter around – cooking supper, folding laundry, sorting mail, etc. because it was a relief to her body to do something physical and a relief to her brain to do something mindless after being at work all day. I thought that was a really great way to reframe what are really just house chores, and I do use it sometimes to reset my thinking when I’m feeling fried and just want to sit.

    I am absolutely fried every evening. Mooshi, perhaps you just need a slightly slower pace of life :p

  39. I had a couple of object lessons in habits, willpower, mindset today. After reading and commenting on the topic, I looked out and said, well, I have these three nearby errands to do, my self imposed plan for increasing physical activity is to walk instead of drive, let’s walk. So I got dressed with the right shoes, opened the door, felt the damp breeze (it was not particularly cold – 45 maybe), thought about needing a hat and pulling the granny cart both ways just for a gallon of milk, and said, screw it. I did walk between the destinations, but that doesn’t really count for much.

    As for productivity, today was a high plan day. The mañana mindset eliminates a lot of guilt and makes me keep my schedule more open. But things still need to get done, and today and Thursday of this week are my uncommitted days. Prep and email the season ticket spreadsheet to my partners (deferred every day since March 1), pick up milk and dh’s prescription (neverending recurring tasks), deposit a check for the volunteer organization of which i am treasurer, snailmail a birthday card (all hail electronic calendar). All done. In the kitchen – chicken stock (done), short ribs (simmering), dh’s sugar free ice cream and apple crisp (pending). I prefer to focus on cooking today and clean up tonight, and do other office tasks including submitting a new post (already fully composed in my head – I am like the others above) tomorrow while I wait for the repairman.

    I don’t feel guilty about how I spend any of my evenings – TV, movies, joint or solo games, websurfing or reading. I do want to take full advantage of daylight and good weather, and that is the mental re-set I have targeted for the spring and summer.

  40. Someone mocked the meditation last week, but it’s really helped me with my kids. I still yell. I’m still human. But more often than not when one of the kids does something and I can feel I’m close to snapping, I can stop and breathe for a minute and figure out how I want to respond. And being able to do that in 80% of the instances when I would have yelled feels like a big win from over here. “Not yelling” didn’t work for me though, I was just gritting my teeth a lot. I needed to figure out what I wanted to DO rather than white knuckle it.

    Finn– I always figured that even if someone is a proficient musician, there is still a state of flow to what you are doing. I think that direct focus (and tangible results, unlike many things) really make music good for de-stressing, even if the act of learning is not relaxing on its own.

  41. “I can understand this, but there have been a few times with my eldest where what I perceived as disrespect had really not been intended that way, so, personally, I need to be careful.”

    Same, especially with one son in particular. Often, he simply doesn’t understand how he comes across and does not know when to stop what he’s doing/saying and/or be quiet. Middle school is going to be interesting for that one.

  42. I find it hard to yell at my kids when I am sitting down. That habit has helped.

  43. Lark – that’s a great idea, reframing errands, etc as a “break” for a body that’s been at a desk all day.

  44. I’m coming off two weeks of sick kids and am in survival mode, so I’m thinking about how having the individual bandwidth to make choices (vs. having caregiving obligations or working/unpredictable long hours) influences so much of life, and how caregiving obligations (not just children- parents and other family members) affect the life trajectory of talented people who would otherwise rise from the working class.

    When we talk about “yelling at kids”, I assume we’re not talking about the volume at which “Please wash your hands for supper” is communicated to the basketball court. This is probably the biggest area for me, because I get distracted from Child A to Child B and Child A winds up not doing what he’s supposed to.

    Making deliberate decisions about what is NOT going to get done is another potential area of improvement for me. I would feel less frazzled when I’m solo parenting if I would recognize that tasks X, Y and Z are not going to happen.

  45. I had a hard time with evening snacking, and here’s what I did that worked.

    After dinner and dessert I deal with the kitchen (usually) and take the kids upstairs for winding down before bedtime. I put my own pj’s on and brush my teeth, and after that – even if it is 6:30, as it often is – the kitchen is closed to me until the next morning.

    [ When DH gets home I will sometimes go downstairs to finish fixing his dinner but try not to eat. If you don’t have someone eating 2-3 hours after everyone else, it is easier to implement :) ]

  46. I really like Lark’s idea of putting running clothes on waking up. I really need to get motivated to formally take a power walk every day. I am very active but I feel guilty about not having an exercise routine and MORE guilty when I see people running/walking etc.
    On yelling at kids…when they were younger I felt like I was in drill sargent mode. Now, I am mellower and though the annoyance may come through in my voice, I am not yelling. I just finished reading Sue Klebold’s book, it sort of solidified what I have been moving towards, the “focus on the long term”, “listen actively”, “engage with your kids” – all this of course is easier when you don’t have to rush with a child to the nearest potty.

  47. The other mindset I’ve been trying to change is to accept that it is okay – even necessary – to waste some food while dieting.

    Example: Normally I look at the three browning bananas and think I ought to make banana bread with them rather than throw out 49 cents in produce. But if the banana bread will have 160 calories per slice and I will wind up eating 10 slices (which I will), that is 1,600 unnecessary calories. I would not pay 49 cents to have 1,600 unnecessary calories applied directly to my hips.

    So I can either eat the bananas, get someone else to eat them, or just toss them and accept the waste.

  48. Atlanta Mom, that’s very sweet of you. Good luck to your sister.

    I relate completely to winding down too early with junky TV. And, yes, once I sit down I’m unlikely to get up. However, while I want to be productive, I do feel the urge to do something relaxing at around 8 or 9 (or even earlier). Even if I would just read, Duolingo, sit down at the piano, do a few dance moves, or something similar for 15-30 minutes, I would feel better about myself. Hmm. Also remember that if you’re a lark and get up at 5 or earlier, by 8 you may have been on the go for many hours.

    I was talking with a some friends yesterday and we all agreed that we were unlikely to do anything productive after about 6. I know some of you exercise in the evening, but for us we agreed that had to happen first thing in the morning.

  49. I am proud of myself. Today, I refrained from buying Althea tops, in anticipation of exercising. I need to exercise not BUY into the illusion that I am one of the models on the cover of their catalog.

  50. Does anyone bulletjournal? Saw it mentioned on Facebook today and seems like a good way to organized my 45 paper lists I leave on every surface.

    In a related note, a habit I would like to break is investing time and energy in a system of organization, instead of investing time and energy in actually getting organized. The mindset that needs to be fixed is that I believe I am just one journal, tomato or flyrag away from dealing with my mental and physical clutter.

  51. Lisa – I read something the other day about bullet journaling. Am intrigued but haven’t read the instructions all the way through.

  52. Bad habits:

    – Chocolate at every meal
    – Letting children crawl into my bed at 2 am
    – Feeling guilty that I spent $3 at Walmart on a Galileo thermometer, even though I have wanted one for 25 years, because it was DH’s money
    – Deciding to do the easy workout instead of the hard one which requires putting the toys away first
    – Swearing in foreign languages (when I remember)
    – Using five syllable words when I chastise the children

  53. Deciding to do the easy workout instead of the hard one which requires putting the toys away first

    No, a bad habit would be deciding not to work out right now because you should do the hard workout but you can’t right now because the toys aren’t put away, so you’ll wait for another time. Going ahead and doing a workout, even an easy one, is actually a good habit.

  54. Sky: Your advice about brushing your teeth at 6:30pm is great. I will try that to help cut down on snacking.

  55. Believe it or not, I never yell at my kid. I got enough of that as a child myself. Instead, I find that I get sarcastic which, I think, is in many ways worse.

    (On the other hand, my kid can return with a withering comment that does nothing but make me proud)

  56. “So I can either eat the bananas, get someone else to eat them, or just toss them and accept the waste.”

    Or you could peel the bananas and freeze them for later inclusion in smoothies.

  57. I try and follow Risley’s advice about respecting your kids in the way that you speak to them. I found this advice to be very impactful in my dealings with them, especially now that they are older.

  58. OK, I can’t stand it, I gotta yell: DD made the JV softball team!! I am SO disproportionately excited!! She reallyreallyreally wanted it, but didn’t have the experience (never even invited to try out for the travel team), just a few years of rec ball. And she did this all on her own — I gave her a little advice about hustling and keeping a good attitude, and much to my surprise she was apparently listening, because she really kicked her own butt every day in tryouts (after day 2 she called me almost sobbing, asking if I could come give her a ride home, because she was so tired and sore she didn’t want to even walk back up the hill from the fields!). And, holy cow! I am just so proud of her, and happy happy happy for her.

    Meanwhile, I had already signed her up for rec ball (assuming she wouldn’t make it), and signed DS up for baseball as well. Looks like I’m going to have to work on that procrastination if I’m going to keep on top of my work for the next few months. . . .

  59. “I find it hard to yell at my kids when I am sitting down.”

    Funny, never stopped me. :-)

    I agree with Houston, Risley’s advice struck a real chord.

    @Sky — I do the exact same thing with the bananas — the whole “don’t waste food” mindset has been a huge problem for me, too, whether it is using up the browning bananas or telling myself “there’s not enough left here to save for another meal” and eating the rest. Definitely something I’ve had to be extremely conscious of to push back against my habitual thinking.

  60. Many of my bad habits are device-related. I rarely watch live TV, but spend way too much time looking things up online. Too many of you posters here provide enticing links, interesting book/tv/movie titles, and helpful suggestions on finding the best of everything there is to find. A month ago I barely knew what Pinterest was — but a crash whole-house paint project that requires rapid and multiple color decisions sent me there, and now I have several hundred pins easily accessible from my phone at any time. Not a good thing. I. Had. No. Idea how many different categories of pinnable stuff was out there. If I didn’t have a figurative gun pointed at my head in the form of my painters departing for outdoor work in April, I would be paralyzed by indecision because of the infinite color choices (not even taking into account that you can lighten any color by any percentage to get that perfect shade). But what someone posted about making a quick decision on a household appliance replacement without putting on her shoes was so very true. There is no need to try to make the perfect decision.
    But in my case, the easy availability of ratings and reviews can take over my life.

  61. LfB – that’s awesome! (or, to try to not sound so old – that’s amaaaaazing!)

    For the tired moms – I know it won’t work for every one but I swear I am a whole different person than I was a year ago now that I’m taking iron and B12 supplements. Granted, my starting point was a serious deficiency, but I now have so much energy left after dinner and clean up I am amazed at myself. It keeps me in a very good mood to not be so tired.

  62. Congrats to your daughter, LfB !

    Have all the Totebag kids who are going to college next year made their choices ? Some folks I know are visiting colleges with their kids who are juniors. These people it seems don’t have a solid list narrowed down, they are just visiting a few colleges to get a feel for a geographic area. Is this common ? I would think it ends up being pretty expensive….

  63. Louise, lots of families travel around looking at colleges junior year. Yes, it’s expensive.

  64. “And she did this all on her own”

    So gratifying! Congrats for your D, lfb!

  65. Louise, some of my friends are doing the college tour this year and they try to take day trips, or combine regions. For example, small colleges in eastern PA.

    Most of them don’t mind the expense if its not too large because it is a great (last?)chance to spend a lot of time with their kids.

  66. We’ve visited a few colleges, but only when we were in the area for other reasons. We still have to visit our two main state universities, which will require dedicated (driving) trips.

  67. We visited colleges last summer, before dd started her junior year. Luckily, she was able to decide then where she wants to go and which school will be her backup.. She knows what grades, SAT scores, etc. she needs to get into her first pick, and as a result she is much more focused and driven in school this year. I highly recommend looking at schools sooner rather than later.

  68. I don’t know what’s common now for college visits. When my brother and I were at that point, we made two trips, one to Boston and one to DC, and visited some schools in each area. They were just driving and maybe 4-5 days each, so not too expensive.

  69. Kid 1: Wanted to look at NO schools. Agreed to discuss applications for 30 seconds only, and only on the day they were due. Did not check over essays, even to spell check. Did not take the ACT or SAT a second time because “ANOTHER early morning? On a WEEKEND? No way.” To my suggestion that he might want to take a glance at some articles/books about how to succeed in college: “Yeah … no.”

    Kid 2: Currently a Junior. Toured 10 schools in the fall. Narrowed it down to one favorite. Applied to said favorite (takes early apps, rolling admission). Was reading an article this AM on How To Stay Healthy During College and telling me all about it. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s started a packing list for her dorm room.

  70. Rhett – he’s great. You may recall he took a medical leave this semester b/c of a wicked case of mono, and went to a tropical island to recover. He’s still on the island, living in an apartment and working as a volunteer history/civics teacher (he’s the long-term sub but the island’s sole school has no money for subs).

  71. Youngest DS is a junior. He’s visited 4 colleges, none top-tier: a local well-respected private, an out of state public (non-flagship), a private religiously-affiliated (where middle DS goes, and we are very happy with), a smaller private about 4.5 hours away. DW took him to the last 3 over 3 days last month, working in a visit to middle kid. No decisions yet, but he likes all of them.

    On my principle of ‘undergrad doesn’t matter for the vast majority’, he’ll have post-secondary options, but he’s self-limited those due to his serious lack of effort academically. Most probably just a typical male and the consequences of his inactions will become better known over the next 12 months.

    He’s not a math/science wiz so has to work at both. What they are doing in Algebra II (no, not calc or even pre-calc…I’ll hang up my parenting credentials now) he seems to get so he’s got a mid-90s grade this marking period, but when it’s stuff he does not get right away he’s unlikely to put in the effort necessary to understand and achieve a better grade. Vignette: chem test announced for tomorrow 2 WEEKS AGO. Specifically stated: ON THE MATERIAL IN THE PACKET. As of 9pm last night, guess how much of the packet had been completed? After telling me he’s done with it. (well, come to think of it, maybe he was done with it except his definition and mine differ). And, of course, none of the supplemental questions in the book (not required by the teacher, but by me as, hopefully, reinforcement of the material in the packet) had been touched. BTW, the same question that stumped him a couple of weeks ago in the book, was stumping him last night. Had he asked anyone, even me (the little help I’d probably be), like his teacher or another chem teacher for help. I think you know that answer, too.

    Maybe if I thought there was a way for him to be successful without going to college I’d be less concerned about this. But I don’t see him tinkering away at the next great idea either.

  72. LfB, there are rec leagues for HS-aged kids in your area? That’s awesome. Here, the rec leagues fade out and once you’re in HS, it’s either the HS teams or club/travel teams.

  73. What kind of guidance is everyone giving their kids regarding cost and ability to pay for college?

  74. LfB – that is wonderful. Making the cross country team entirely on his own effort (he was entering the high school as a junior from a special needs outplacement, and the team was a perennial state champion) was the first step in DS1’s long and winding road to adult success, and he had a steep hill to climb.

    Repairman confirmed the understanding that a new dishwasher is required, even though mine is well maintained.. Last night I got the email confirmation of the visit, and the replacement part was more than $400, but it was too late to cancel the diagnostic visit (prepaid). At least I get a credit with the showroom for the cost. He said all modern appliances should be expected to fail electronically after 5-7 years, in dishwashers he said only Miele is worth repairing. He also said that modern electric or dual fuel ranges and cooktops must always be used with the vent hood running – the heat will fry the electronics prematurely. He owns basic fridge and washer/dryer just like mine.

    My niece has been given permission to go wherever she wants, and she is waiting on Skidmore. However, she is such a dutiful girl that she will take the best package if there is a considerable difference. She only applied to a few, and was able to visit them all because the farthest away was Dickinson (self chosen – DC was just too far away for her).

  75. “What kind of guidance is everyone giving their kids regarding cost and ability to pay for college?”

    We’ll pay the full cost of in-state.

  76. What kind of guidance is everyone giving their kids regarding cost and ability to pay for college?

    Having played this game, and hopefully learned something from the experience, we have told the youngest that there’s actually plenty of money to fund his college…not a newsflash for him… but we’re smart enough to know when there’s actually value received. So we’re cost aware, to use a financial-aid-ish phrase. Oh, and performance (grades, progress toward degree) counts. I will be quicker to cut him off than I was for oldest DS if he gets into academic problems.

  77. Congrats to your daughter, LfB! She must be so proud of herself!

    I visited a TON of colleges both junior and senior year, but it was really just an excuse to skip school legitimately, and sometimes to visit kids who had already graduated. I knew that I had no intention of going to some of these schools (like the big state schools), but I visited anyway for the hell of it. I visited my alma mater at least 5 or 6 times – an initial visit, an overnight visit, a sports recruiting visit, a meeting for the incoming freshman who got my same scholarship, and anything else that I could. All were driving distance – so my parents did not always come with me and there wasn’t much expense beyond gas.

    It seems like a ritual that most of my coworkers with HS kids spend junior year spring break on a college visit trek.

  78. LfB– That’s wonderful for your daughter! Even better that it’s something she sought out and did on her own. You must be very proud.

  79. The original post forced me to identify something that has changed that I hadn’t changed my mindset about. After ~8 years of a slow housing market, the house of an acquaintance sold after 3 years on the market and houses are starting to mostly sell within a ~90 day window. This means we could likely sell our house if we needed to. Realizing this gives me mental flexibility whether we want to sell or not.

  80. Fred, my kids seem to be the same age as your oldest and youngest, and share some similarities. My junior is in Algebra II also, and has no plans for a STEM career. Right now he thinks he wants to be a psychologist. We are doing some college visits next week at in-state schools. DD, who is closest to him, is pretty adamant that I listen to her and have him live at home his first year while he adjusts to college. She thinks all the change coupled with dorm life (and dorm food), and people always around will be unnecessarily stressful. It makes me a little sad. I had such a ridiculously good time in college, academics aside, that I wish my kids could love it like I did. School is just so much more of a slog for them.

    We will pay all costs for in-state. If they want private, it’s negotiable, but we see more value in public undergrad+masters than in private undergrad.

  81. DS is still waiting to hear from schools. He has a clear favorite from the three he has already heard from. The remaining schools are reaches, so the current favorite may well be it. It’s a top 50 private university.
    We’ve told our kids we will pay for the school of their choice. YMMV.
    Also, we started touring schools the summer after freshman year if we happened to be in the area of a school of interest.

  82. @DD — Yes. This is a significant improvement from when I was a kid, when at 14 you either went on the HS team or stopped playing entirely.

    @Colleges — We have told our kids that we can cover undergrad wherever they can get in. However, both kids will likely go to grad school, and we can’t/won’t cover both. DD’s current preferred field will be self-pay for grad school, so if she stays on that path, she will probably need to choose a more cost-effective option for undergrad. DS is more likely to go down an engineering route where DH says if they don’t pay for you to go, you’re not good enough and shouldn’t be going anyway. So depending on what he is thinking in a few more years, he may have more options (and he also has the natural gift for bubble tests, which may also help with the options and/or finances).

  83. @Colleges…we are wrestling with that. Full freight at private schools for three kids looks to be about $750,000, which we just can’t. Eldest DD is both talented and very hardworking and has earned quite a bit of scholarship money, but that is HERS. Middle DD is a standout athlete, very bright and hardworking, but isn’t likely to fall into the flashy activity that garnered DD1 the scholarship money. DS has some challenges. They have very different talents and abilities, but it is possible that DS may not be able to get into the state flagship or get out of state tuition waived and we will need to come up with the money for private. Then we need to make the other two whole, which gets us back to needing to pay full freight for three private schools.

  84. “Then we need to make the other two whole”

    I recently caught up with two old friends who each have two children a few years apart, with the younger ones graduating college this year. Both my friends strongly regret paying for private college. Friend One sent both kids to private college, and believes they both could have gotten a much better value at public schools. Friend Two sent oldest to private, but learned his lesson fast and sent the younger kid to public. None of the private colleges was top ten, and only one was in the top 50.

    I was willing and able to pay for a top ten private college, but very unlikely for any others.

  85. “Then we need to make the other two whole”

    That’s an interesting question. Do you need to make them whole? My parents attitude was that $ spent should be identical on each child. DH’s parents did not have that approach, and it has caused a lot of conflict between the siblings who had a fully parent-paid education vs. those who did not.

  86. We have set aside an equal amount of money for each kid. The funds will pay for a 4 year private college education. If they choose to go to a state school or get merit aid, they can use the leftover funds for grad school, travel, or a down payment on a future house or business.

    I think the equality is important.

  87. Cordelia, I think it’ll be significantly more than $750k to send your three to top private schoools paying full fare. By next school year the typical range looks to be in the high 60s, and by the time your youngest starts it’ll probably be quite a bit higher.

  88. @Cordelia — what do you mean, “make them whole”? I’m not following. If the first one chooses a cheaper school and the last one chooses a more expensive one, but they are both schools that are good fits and meet the kid’s needs, then aren’t they both “whole” to start with? And how would you make it up to the first one if she’s through school already — give her the cash equivalent?

    I totally get the need to be equitable, but I guess I just define that as “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” I mean, I was on the losing end of the deal, as I had to struggle to pay for college, and both my brothers got free more-than-four-year rides from my dad. But it’s easy to look back now and remind myself that he was in a very different place when they went to school, and that I ended up coming out of it all just fine (including two alma maters that I wouldn’t trade for anything). So the money was very different, but I don’t hold it against him. (Now, if I had $200K in loans, I’d be pissed if he chose to pay full freight for them and blow me off, but that wasn’t the deal).

  89. We’ve looked at a couple of schools when it was convenient to do so during a trip, but haven’t made a special college tour trip, and I don’t know that we will.

    One thing you can do from a distance to get some sense of the day-to-day — most schools have a webcam view of a central part of campus on the website now so a kid can bookmark the webcams for schools of interest and check them periodically during the year to get a sense of whether it rains a lot, or whether there’s snow on the ground half the year, or what.

  90. I never did college or grad school tours when I was young. The first time I set foot on the campus of my alma mater is when my parents dropped me off. I didn’t feel the need to visit. Maybe it was a time with different expectations?

  91. Of necessity, we’re of the “from each according to his abilities” school. I think the boys will pressure each other to excel and it will be interesting if they choose to attend the same school(s) or if they deliberately choose different schools. I think by telling them our philosophy up front- “You are better at the SAT than your brother and earned a great scholarship. Your brother has to work a lot harder and didn’t earn a scholarship,” that they should understand our philosophy. I certainly didn’t mind that my dyslexic brother got more help from my parents than I did- I was delighted that he did so well in engineering, given his earlier reading speed/spelling difficulties.

    In addition to trying to get through state school with no/moderate loans, I want to cover medical insurance for Baby WCE through undergrad. (I’m not assuming employer-subsidized insurance will be an option or the best option by then, but it’s another factor given our ages.) Her brothers won’t be getting any “leftover” money until she’s through college (or past college age). MIL probably, but not certainly, won’t need funds, and her financial needs also rank above sibling equality.

  92. @Houston — we did college trips, all part of summer vacation.

    I do encourage the note above to start early if it is feasible — I took DD to my reunion when she was in MS and starting to get distracted and the grades were really fluctuating. For her, at least, it helps to have a vision of what she can do to back up the “but you need to work hard” stuff she hears so often from us.

  93. We started incorporating college tours into our travel the summer after DS’ 8th grade year. We saw four campuses that trip, and the next summer we looked at 3 campuses as part of another trip. Last summer we didn’t leave the state due to DW having a major project at work during the summer.

    We’d left our plans for this summer open, with the thought that we’d plan it around specific colleges DS would want to see. But he told us he’s seen enough to decide where to apply, and would prefer to wait until he’s received acceptances before any more campus tours.

    DD has seen all the same campuses, and will no doubt see a lot of whatever school DS decides to attend, but I’m still thinking that we’ll visit other campuses as part of any trips we make in the next few years, and I’m tentatively planning to keep the summer after her junior year, or perhaps spring break of her junior year, open to visit any campuses in which she’s particularly interested.

  94. I think we would define equality for our kids as each according to their needs and abilities. So, we are not going to say that both will get the same exact amount. This was the case in both our families – each kid got the best education within the parental budget.

  95. My BFF from childhood just told me that her son received an appointment to USNA. I wouldn’t say that she is thrilled, but she is happy for him because he’s been working to achieve this since 8th grade. He is so excited, and I am happy for him. Great, smart dedicated kid that just wants to serve his country.

  96. “there are rec leagues for HS-aged kids in your area?”

    There are leagues here for HS-aged kids outside the interscholastic leagues. Whether or not they are rec leagues is open to question.

    I’ve heard that there are some HS age kids, especially soccer players, who only play in club leagues, but are good enough to get recruited by college teams. IOW, some of those leagues exist in parallel with interscholastic leagues.

    OTOH, I’ve also heard of kids who don’t make their school teams, continue to play on club teams, and make the school teams in subsequent seasons, especially in very competitive sports with high levels of participation, e.g., volleyball, soccer.

    And of course, many of the HS (and intermediate) aged kids play in club leagues outside of interscholastic seasons.

  97. “but haven’t made a special college tour trip, and I don’t know that we will.”

    Obv your geographical circumstances are different than most of ours, but nonetheless I still think that approach has merit. Honestly, it worked pretty well for me and for millions of other people before and after me.

    I think the whole college visit industry just makes a lot of people nervous.

  98. “there are rec leagues for HS-aged kids in your area?”

    Depending on your local Little League (r), there is rec-level baseball and softball through age 18. Oftentimes local leagues choose to stop forming teams at age 12 (the original ages for LL baseball were 9-12, with expansion to older and younger kids coming gradually beginning in the 80s I think) but at least around here most of the suburban leagues have teams at the “Senior” level, which includes eligibility age thru 16.

  99. “Have all the Totebag kids who are going to college next year made their choices ? ”

    Mine isn’t there yet, but I think it’s still a bit early in the year. Most of the acceptance decisions will be going out later this month.

  100. , but it is possible that DS may not be able to get into the state flagship or get out of state tuition waived and we will need to come up with the money for private.

    There are plenty of non-flagship public schools to choose from.

  101. “There are plenty of non-flagship public schools to choose from.”

    Especially in CA.

  102. I’ve heard that there are some HS age kids, especially soccer players, who only play in club leagues, but are good enough to get recruited by college teams. IOW, some of those leagues exist in parallel with interscholastic leagues.

    In many sports, most of the recruiting goes through the club teams rather than the HS teams these days. Volleyball and softball are really big in this regard – in many areas, playing for the HS teams is considered just a side gig by club players so they can get a little extra practice in. A lot of basketball recruiting is through the AAU programs. Etc.

    Depending on your local Little League (r), there is rec-level baseball and softball through age 18.

    Official Little Leagues are pretty much non-existent around here.

  103. I don’t know of any Little League softball here. The club leagues I know of are ASA.

  104. “I do encourage the note above to start early if it is feasible”

    I concur.

    I suggest starting no later than in 8th grade, while planning out the next 4 years of HS classes.

    Of course, we’ve also discussed here before how important it is to get into and stay in the correct tracks that will ensure enrollment in calculus.

  105. Louise, DS has told me that since he started HS, one of the things that happens in the beginning of each school year is the kids will compare notes on the colleges they visited over the summer.

    There are some travel companies that put together college campus packages that a lot of rising juniors and seniors use. The packages popular with the kids here typically visit a bunch of CA colleges, and include a lot of private schools that are popular with grads of the local schools.

  106. ” I wouldn’t say that she is thrilled”

    Because of safety concerns, or something else?

  107. ” Both my friends strongly regret paying for private college. Friend One sent both kids to private college, and believes they both could have gotten a much better value at public schools.”

    What was their entering mindset? More prestigious? “Better fit”?

  108. Milo, she is an uber liberal person that grew up in NYC and now lives in another very large liberal city. She makes me look like a conservative. They are not sure where his interest came from, but her son has never wavered from his desire to serve in the military. He narrowed his decision to the Naval Academy, and he did everything he could do for four years to make sure this would happen. He refused to apply to any other schools and he was going to enlist instead of going to a ROTC program if he didn’t get an appt. She supported with him with everything that she could do to help; congressional office stuff, classes for the physical training etc. She is really proud of him, but she is nervous about the actual experience.

  109. “but she is nervous about the actual experience”


    And–this is a serious question, so don’t laugh–why are her politics relevant?

  110. Milo, they shouldn’t be, unless you are a hard-core pacifist, and hardly anybody is. I do know some Mennonites who did voluntary service during WWII or Vietnam, but they’re unusual. Most liberals aren’t pacifists, they just want someone else’s kids to run the military industrial complex so they can benefit from it but still feel virtuous.

    Just because I’m a progressive doesn’t mean I can’t see the hypocrisy. I never criticize hunters, either, because I eat meat. I like to think my own hypocrisies are more subtle and nuanced.

  111. Rocky – I think that, as with many things, it’s become more of a social-class revulsion vs. a political one. Liberals just couch it in political terms because it seems more polite.

    Along the lines of what you said, here’s an interesting perspective this morning on the neocons horrified by Trump:


    If it were just going to be Rubio vs. Clinton, they’d be in a can’t-lose situation. “Chicken-hawks” is the term my brother uses.

  112. Hm. Having your kid enlist right out of high school is certainly a class thing. Time it was (and what a time it was, it was) that a West Point or Annapolis degree put you solidly in the genteel class. I speak as someone with tons of ancestors who went to those schools. So I guess I still think that being an officer with a nice service academy degree is Totebaggy, but it’s also possible that I’m stuck in 1922. Happens to me sometimes.

  113. Rocky – That’s still true except for in the isolated liberal enclaves. My freshman roommate from Exeter had felt it, and the author of “One Bullet Away” wrote about how, during his undergraduate time at Dartmouth, classmates and faculty alike were kind of horrified that he planned to go to OCS. Those are just two examples off the top of my head.

  114. I mention it because it is part of her background. She was raised by pacifists that came of age in the 60s.

    If you think that I shouldn’t have used the term, or that it was improperly used- sorry. I am not going to get into an argument with you about why I told you that she is a liberal. It’s all new to her. That’s it. That’s why she’s concerned. So, you can try to read anything you want into it, or make an argument out of it. They’re proud of him, and he is very excited to attend and eventually make a career in military service.

  115. No, not at all, truly. I’m not bothered by it, and even if I were, I certainly would not blame you.

  116. sorry. I over reacted. I wasn’t explaining it the right way, and I didn’t want you to make certain assumptions.

  117. RMS, I agree with the prestige of the service academies based on comments from my Dad, who served with some West Point grads and observed huge social class differences between them and the infantry soldiers he supervised during Vietnam.

    Your comment also made me smile because he rocked the IQ test for OCS, not because of any interest in serving his country, but because he was going to get drafted, and if he was going to get killed, he was going to get killed for more money.

  118. “huge social class differences between them and the infantry soldiers he supervised during Vietnam”

    Even before and after the draft, that was still an era when many judges offered young men enlistment as an alternative to prison.

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