Thursday, March 27, 2014

My Views on Minimum Wage

My daughter is a big advocate of raising the minimum wage to $11 from its current rate of $7.40 here in Michigan. I believe she is such a big advocate because she and her boyfriend make minimum wage. She only has one job. He has 3. They do okay. They could do better.

Because she feels so passionately about the subject, I am forced to think about it often and the subject is starting to grow on me. I may have felt more passionate about it when she was little when I did work minimum wage and never had less than 2 jobs as the primary caretaker for two children who might have wanted to hang out with me once in awhile. But then I didn't have time to think about things like that. And now it is to me more a matter of logic than one of emotion. Allow me to demonstrate.

If you make minimum wage, and you work 40 hours a week (in my experience this does not happen often because employers who can't be bothered to pay their employees a living wage also don't want to call them "full time" with any sort of benefits to go along with that status), you will earn about $250 a week, after taxes. Possibly less if you have no dependents, but we're going to work with that number because it's nice and round. If you're working in a month with 4 weeks, that's $1000 per month ($1,184 gross). Another nice round number. Let's take that number and play with it a bit.
(I admit I suck at math, but I'm going to do this anyway)

On a side note, I would like to point out that the poverty threshold in Michigan government for a single person household with no dependents is $11,344 and benefits are available to those earning up to 150% of poverty or $17,016 which pretty much qualifies all minimum wage workers to government benefits. Someone would have to earn $8.87 per hour and work full time to exceed this limit. So logic dictates that the minimum wage should be at least $8.87 per hour.

I truly believe that employers who rely on the government to feed their full-time employees is the greatest drain we have on our society today and it's really a pity that legislation has to be considered to put an end to it. But I digress. As usual.

Let's begin.

Here in Michigan you can get a decent 1 bedroom apartment for about $450, a two bedroom for $700 and lot rent in a trailer park is about $400. The income to housing payment guidelines used by most landlords in reviewing rental applications is 30%. That's $355 for someone making minimum wage. That means that a full-time minimum wage earner cannot even qualify for a one bedroom apartment. And let's say that the landlord lets it slide and rents them a $450 one-bedroom apartment anyway.

After rent, said minimum-wage earner will have $550 left. I'm going to be generous and assume that the landlord pays for heat, water and garbage pickup. Chances are electricity will not be included. Now I pay about $200 per month for electricity, despite my many energy saving schemes, but I have a big house with lots of people in it and lots of electronics that I don't think my single minimum wage earner can afford, so let's figure he pays about $75 per month in electricity. He'll need a phone, whether it's a cellphone or a house phone, for safety reasons at the very least, so let's say he's frugal and that'll be about $50 per month. We're at $425. And I believe I'm being very conservative with my estimates.

Let's say our guy is a pretty good cook and buys real food, spending about $50 per week. I can't believe he has a garden because of the nature of his apartment so he'll have to buy all of his food. I hope he doesn't live in Detroit, because I hear food is really expensive there. So now we're at $225 per month. Of course I am assuming he isn't getting his food from the government or a food pantry.

Not bad. But I'm going to assume he has a car so he can get to his job. That's what? $50 per month in gas, assuming he was lucky enough to get an apartment close to work and about $100 per month for insurance. We'll assume the car was a gift and he doesn't have to pay a monthly payment on it. We're at $75 now.

So, what can you buy for $75?

  • An internet connection OR cable (not both). - But not a TV or computer.
  • An outfit OR a pair of shoes (not both) I hope he doesn't have to pay for his own uniforms. I hope he's really a he and doesn't have to buy bras too.
  • Oh wait, I didn't count things like toilet paper, razers, soap, dish soap, laundry soap, toothpaste...
  • Maybe a chair or a mattress from the Salvation Army
  • Some car maintenance, as long as nothing actually needs fixing.
  • Oh man, I didn't count his health insurance either. Well, maybe he won't get sick. He probably doesn't get paid time off anyway. Oh wait, he probably qualifies for state assistance. No worries then.
  • I hope he's got good teeth and doesn't need glasses
  • About 12 hours of daycare. It's a good thing this guy doesn't have any kids. But no worries, if he did, the government would pay for his daycare at a substandard rate.

Now let's assume the same guy makes the new proposed minimum wage of $11 per hour and has the exact same expenses. (I actually find $11 per hour a little high, but I'm going with it anyway.) I'll even put him in a higher tax bracket and leave him with $1500 per month.
That leaves him with $725. Oh wait, he doesn't qualify for state health insurance anymore so let's get him a nice health plan and knock it down to $525

So, what can you buy for $525?

  • Both internet and cable
  • An outfit, complete with bra and shoes and a haircut and a mani-pedi
  • A trip to the Dentist
  • A new pair of glasses
  • A date
  • A night out with the boys
  • A complete bedroom set from the Salvation Army or a few nice pieces from your neighborhood furniture store
  • A car payment on a new, safe car
  • Or some repairs on your old car
  • A class or two at a local college
  • About two weeks of pre-school, if he had a kid, which he doesn't, of course.

More importantly, what does this give the community?

  • He's no longer getting government funds and he's paying more taxes, potentially lower taxes for the rest of us or maybe those taxes would be spent on other things, like education, potholes, parks and mental health services.
  • More income from more customer activity for his local internet and cable company, clothing store, doctor, dentist, eye doctor, restaurant, bar, theater, furniture store, auto mechanic and college and potentially many more.
  • A more well-educated neighbor and potential employee.
  • A neighbor who is less likely to resort to illegal activity to get by- people who are well educated are less likely to commit violent crimes as are people who are well-fed. 
  • A neighbor who is driving a car that is safer and less likely to malfunction and cause an accident you might be the victim of.
  • A healthier neighbor, less likely to spread disease when you visit his workplace or he visits yours.

But wait! I know there are so many arguments against raising the minimum wage. Arguments that look like these:

1. Minimum wage jobs are mainly for teenagers anyway.
If this were true, MacDonald's wouldn't be open during school hours.

Besides, any employer would rather hire an adult over a teenager. Teenagers are notoriously unreliable and have a reputation for not taking their jobs seriously.

Also, many places have policies against hiring anyone under 18 for liability reasons. If you work with animals, chemicals, alcohol, certain machinery (slicers), you don't get the job if you're under 18 because employers don't want your mommy suing them when you lose a finger. (And of course the law requires that you be over 18 to sell alcohol).

2. Well college kids then.
Really? In the above example, our minimum-wage-earner has no dream of going to college on that income unless he takes out a butt load of loans and spends the rest of his life in debt. No, grant is ever going to cover everything unless you're some sort of sports star.

When I was in college full time and getting financial aid in the form of grants, loans and the workstudy program I still had to work an additional minimum wage job AND I got foodstamps and medicaid. And guess who is paying $200 a month for the rest of her life for the privilege of doing so. (I will NEVER recommend anyone take out student loans. Ever.)

Any employer who expects his employees to rely on the government for their livelihood is screwing the entire country. Not just his employees.

3. These are all "stepping stone" jobs. Nobody expects them to be a career.
Why does this have to be true? It doesn't. These jobs require specialized skills and special personalities to do them well. Some people are really good at retail and food service jobs and find that they really enjoy doing them. These are the people you want to keep. You keep them by paying them a living wage.

Unfortunately, if you're really good at a job and you can't make ends meet doing it, you are forced to seek employment elsewhere. There are TONS of mediocre cubical dwellers who would make excellent grill masters, cashiers, kennel workers, and retail associates if only they could make enough money to eat doing what they love. Instead they're stuck doing something they can only put half effort into while the jobs they'd love to do are filled with people who would do anything to get out.

Wouldn't it be better for everyone if people worked at the drive through because they love working at the drive through and worked in the office because they love working in the office?

Imagine a world where the guy you buy your pizza from LOVES making pizza and spends his free time perfecting his kneading technique. And the lady who sells you shoes LOVES shoes and spends her free time researching the latest fashions and fitting methods. And the person who takes care of your dog at the kennel loves working at the kennel, has been there for years and knows you and your dog by name. And you can always depend on them to be there because they're earning a living wage.

Instead we have a world where these people must sadly turn away from jobs they love to work at jobs they hate just so they can make ends meet and they are replaced by people who only took their beloved job because they "couldn't find anything better".

I hated working in an office at $18 per hour and loved picking up poop for minimum wage. If I could pick up poop for say $12 per hour, I'd do it forever. I really would. But I can't afford to pay daycare so that I can pick up poop for minimum wage, so I don't do it. Wouldn't  you rather I took care of your dog, (which I'm good at) rather than handling your sensitive documents (which I suck at and hate)? Instead you've got someone who doesn't know the first thing about dogs working at the kennel "until something better comes along".

4. If we raise minimum wage, employers will have to fire people
This may be true in the short term, but I am sure it'll all balance out. Remember that guy in our example who couldn't even afford an outfit and a pair of shoes at the current minimum wage who also hit the salon at the proposed new minimum wage?

It's true that some employers won't be able to pay all of their employees if the minimum wage goes up. But very soon some employers will find that demand for their products have increased dramatically due to a larger percentage of people who can afford them in the community and they will have to hire more employees to meet the demand.

5. These minimum wage jobs are unimportant and do not require any special skills
Seriously? Minimum wage workers prepare your food, care for your children and pets and make and sell the products you use every day. Do you really want unskilled workers caring for your infant child while you're at work? I think not. How safe do you feel about the prospect of eating hamburgers prepared by people who haven't learned about food safety?

When you go to work at MacDonald's, you have to learn food safety. You have to learn how to work the cash register and their myriad food-like substance creating machines. These are all skills you are learning. And while you're learning these skills, you are slowing down the productivity of the entire operation. And in a few months when someone offers you $8.50 to go work at Wendy's, you're going to take your skills and go. And when someone offers you $9.00 to work at 5 Guys, you're going to take your skills and go again until finally someone says "Hey, you can work in my office for $15 an hour and actually eat real food occasionally" all those skills just went to hell. All the effort someone put into teaching you those skills were wasted. Even if you HATE working in an office and LOVE working fast food, you will leave and your former employer is going to have to teach someone else that skill set and it's going to have a negative impact on his productivity.

What if instead you learned all those skills and stayed. What if your employer valued your skills and paid you a living wage and when you were offered a job from another store he was willing to pay you more to keep you? Then when your friend came along and said "Hey you can make $15 per hour working in my office" you might say "You know what, I think I can continue making $12 an hour doing something I love and I am good at." And your friend would have a better office worker in the end, because he'd hire someone who didn't hate the job and already had the skillset.

I know, I sound a little Communist here, but I really believe everyone should do what they are good at and what they love. I believe that if everyone could survive doing what they are good at, that everyone would receive better service, better care and better products. This can not happen when the wage disparity is so great.

What confuses me is that people make lots of money sitting in offices typing numbers into spreadsheets while other people are sweating over hot grills, dealing with angry customers and cleaning up other peoples' crap and making barely enough to survive. That's unnatural. Or at least it should be. My husband says the people who work the hardest make the least, and in many cases I think this is true, but it's stupid. The people we as a society depend on deserve more. We need to remember that we depend on them and treat them accordingly.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

On Feeding Toddlers

I am not a child development expert, nor am I a nutritionist. But I have three kids and I have cared for considerably more. I currently have a toddler and I discuss such things as feeding with other parents pretty regularly. I have learned a thing or two in my time and I am going to share it with you.

Feeding toddlers need not be complicated, but I find many people make it complicated. This is a shame. Because eating is a fun activity and we parents of toddlers need as many of those as possible to squeeze out the less fun activities, like rescuing the cat and washing crayon off the wall.

What do you feed a toddler?

The first and most important consideration is what to feed your toddler. Please, please, please feed him real food. If he doesn't have any other options he will eat real food and let us remember that our goal is not so much to raise a good child as to raise a good adult; An adult who can get along at a company dinner or his in-laws house without embarrassing himself and who doesn't suffer from an eating disorder or a food-related disease such as obesity or diabetes (or both). Keep this goal in mind and remember that your kid won't starve to death if he doesn't eat everything at every meal. There are more important factors beyond this meal.

Your Toddler's Breakfast

It is my observation that many people feed their toddlers cold cereal for breakfast on a regular basis. Worse, they feed them sugar-coated-strange-colored-is-this-really-food-? cereal for breakfast. Not only does this do nothing to help their developing brains (and I suspect it's actually detrimental) it virtually guarantees behavior difficulties at some point in your morning. It also sensitizes your child's taste buds to sugar. This makes the "normal" amount of sugar according to his sensibilities gradually higher and higher. He builds up a resistance and whatever sugar cravings he has is going to need more sugar to satisfy. Everyone has sugar cravings, it's just a matter of how much sugar you need to get over it.... Take a moment in your morning rush to think of the health of the adult you are creating when you make that much sugar normal.

So what do you feed your kid? Well, if you must feed him cereal, stick to things that aren't sugar coated and that are somewhat of a natural color, like Cheerios. But your child should start the day with more protein and fat than that, so topping it with flax seed or ground walnuts is a good idea. A serving a fruit will also not go amiss.

That being said, I prefer to cook. Oatmeal is really easy to make (I mean real oatmeal, not the sugar filled instant packets) and so are eggs.

My favorite breakfast for toddlers old fashioned oatmeal cooked with raisins, candied ginger and cinnamon and topped with ground walnuts or pecans and freshly ground flax seeds. You can make this in a crock pot or steamer with a timer if you like, but I just put it all in a sauce pan with water to soak overnight and turn on the burner in the morning when I put the coffee on. When the coffee's done, so's the oatmeal. (In reality, you don't even have to heat up the oatmeal, it will soften up in the fridge overnight and be perfectly edible in the morning, but I like mine warm.)
Use old fashioned oatmeal. Use enough liquid to equal the volume of all your other ingredients (oatmeal & fruit & etc.)
Now the magic is in the details - The raisins don't have to be raisins, any dried fruit will do. I like to use dried apples or dates sometimes or a combination. Fresh fruit is also good, but leaving it soaking overnight is not as good an idea.
I use candied ginger because I like the taste. I don't add any additional sugar. Ginger also stimulates the appetite.
I use cinnamon because it helps regulate blood sugar, which helps prevent hyperactivity and meltdowns. (it also stimulates the appetite)
I use only freshly ground flax seed and nuts and I always add them at the end after cooking because their oils are very valuable to the developing brain and I don't want to let them be destroyed by heat or time. These make the oatmeal too thick, but adding some milk or soy milk at this point soon fixes that problem.

Another favorite is scrambled eggs. I sometimes serve this with some fried potatoes or whole wheat toast and always include some fruit in season. I always scramble the eggs with vegetables, usually spinach. Simply put a little (real) butter in a pan and melt it. Add the spinach and let it cook till it wilts (or thaws if it's frozen), pour the scrambled eggs over top and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Cook slowly, so it is tender and not rubbery.

A Toddler's Lunch

I have also observed that the standard toddler lunch involves chicken nuggets or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and carrot sticks. This is... not a lunch... I'm not sure what that is. Aside from the dried-up lathe-spun carrots, I'm not sure there's any food involved.

Let us remember that our children are supposed to have FIVE fruits and vegetables a day- preferably five different ones. And this is simply not difficult. Your grocery store sells big bags full of pre-cooked frozen vegetables. It takes less time to dump some of them into a saucepan with a little water and simmer than it does to spread peanut butter and jelly on white bread and certainly no longer than heating up those frozen chicken nuggets.

For lunch, we usually have leftovers from dinner the night before plus some heated up frozen vegetables and some fruit if needed to round out the meal. I do not worry too much about protein at this point because my little one usually gets enough protein from his snacks, breakfast and dinner, but it's a balancing act. It's important to always know the plan so you can strike a balance. If extra protein is needed, I will fry up some cubes of tofu for him. He loves tofu.

One of my Sunshine's favorite lunches (he asks for it by name) is fried rice. I use leftover brown rice (I always cook up a bunch extra and store it in the fridge) and frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, green beans, corn). First I heat some safflower or sunflower oil in a pan and grate some ginger and garlic into it and saute it just a bit till it's fragrant. Then I add the frozen veggies and toss them a bit and add some dehydrated onion and maybe a dash or two of soy sauce. When the veggies are thawed and begun softening, I add the rice and cook till hot. If we didn't have eggs for breakfast, I'll crack and egg or two into it and mix it up, cook till the egg is set.

Toddler Snacks

We do two snacks a day. One we call second breakfast at about 10 am and one we call the after nap snack around 4 pm. If we are going to be out at that time we make sure to bring a snack along. I try to pair a piece of fruit with a bit of protein if I can. Here are some wonderful toddler snacks:

  • Carrots (& other veggies) with hummus (I will steam the carrots a bit so they're tender crisp, easier to chew & digest)
  • Apple slices with cheese or peanut butter (or sun butter) (Stick to all natural peanut butter, the hydrogenated kind is no good for anybody)
  • Avocado slices & cherry tomatoes or grapes (cut in half) (Avocados are chock full of good brain building fats)
  • Berries in season or stewed and cooled dried fruit and yogurt (use plain yogurt and add the fruit and sweetener itself so you can control what's going into it. Flavored yogurt often has more sugar than fruit in it and Greek yogurt is often full of thickeners. You can thicken non-Greek yogurt by straining it with a cheesecloth.)
  • Whole wheat crackers with cheese or peanut butter (make sure to spread the peanut butter thin to avoid choking)
And Dinner

At dinner your child should eat what you are eating. (I hope you are feeding yourself well.) You should eat together, at the same table. 

But How to Get Your Kid to Eat?

First, understand that your child does not have to eat everything in front of him all the time. Getting that through your head now will make everyone's lives a lot easier, including his. Forcing your child to eat everything on his plate when he doesn't want to just makes dinner time into a battle and encourages unhealthy attitudes toward food. So don't bother. Give him three meals and two snacks a day and let him eat as much as he wants. But there are some ways to get him to eat more.

Eat with him.
When you put your kid in a chair and put food in front of him and walk away, there is really no surprise that he's going to spend the next half hour playing with his food, trying to feed it to the dog and fussing to get down (or if he can get down, wandering off). Join him. Eat with him, even if it's only a little bit. Give him your attention. Talk about the food, the weather, whatever. It's good for him.

Give Thanks
Children thrive on ritual and making grace a ritual part of a meal can trigger your child's sense of "what comes next" i.e. eating. Here is mine- "The Earth gives us the food we eat, the sun warms it and makes it sweet, we remember all who give of themselves so we may live."

Just Feed Him
None of this "what do you want?", "Can I get you some of this?" nonsense. Do not fret about whether or not he will eat. Make the food. Put it in front of him. He'll either eat it or he won't. If you spend 20 minutes trying to figure out what he's going to eat only to have him maybe eat it, you'll just make yourself crazy. If he doesn't eat it today, he'll eat it tomorrow. He will get hungry. He will not let himself starve.

Feed him on Time
Again, kids like ritual. If you feed him at the same time every day it will get easier. If he always knows that lunch comes after Sesame Street or the walk in the park or coloring time, then he will always be ready for lunch at that time. If there is no routine and lunch is sometimes at noon and sometimes at 2pm, it's no surprise his eating habits aren't that good. If you want your child to be well-behaved, you're going to have to discipline yourself first. 

Eliminate Distractions
I can't believe how many people let their kids eat in front of the TV and then wonder why they won't focus on their meal. Or worse, make them sit at the table with their backs to the TV while other people are watching it. The TV should be well away from the table (like on a different floor of the house) or off during meals. Other distractions should also be eliminated. Make picking up toys part of your pre-meal routine so they're not scattered about providing distractions during meals. Make sure your child's diaper is clean and that he's comfortable and insist that everyone sit at the table during meal times, to avoid the distraction of people walking around. And put the pets in another room.

Let Them Play
I don't know why some folks get so upset about kids playing with food. At this age, a child with a cup is going to pour liquid onto his dinner plate. He's going to squish rice, potatoes and whatever else between his fingers to see how it feels. That is okay. He's engaging with his food, even if he isn't eating it all. He may not eat it today. Just assume he's making friends with his food so that one day he'll feel comfortable enough to eat it. This is how he learns. I promise, your child will not play with his food in this way for the rest of his life and if you don't make all excited about it, he'll get over it sooner.

Notice that there is nothing up there about making your kids sit at the table till their plates or empty or promising them a treat after they eat or making them eat one more bite. These tactics are not helpful in the long run and should be avoided. Give your child 30 minutes to eat, or until everyone else is done eating (whichever takes longer) and then clean up the meal and set him loose. He'll eat when he's hungry. Giving him nutrient poor foods, like processed chicken-like-substances, mystery fruit snacks and white bread simply defeats the purpose so don't give into it.

I know, I know, who am I? What do I know? I am a mother with three kids ages 2 to 21 who always eat their vegetables (they don't like all vegetables, mind you), have passable table manners and do not have overly developed sweet teeth (though they do like a treat once in awhile) and who do not have any eating disorders or weight problems.  And I am a nanny who has no problem getting "finicky" kids to eat as long as their parents aren't around (sometimes it takes a few meals, but I do always win). So there's my advice for what it's worth. If anyone else has any comments or suggestions they are very welcome!

Drawing Update:Heart Day Resolution

This is just an update on my Heart Day Resolution which was to learn to draw.
I really LOVE the book You Can Draw in 30 Days: The Fun, Easy Way to Learn to Draw in One Month or Less which I have finished. I've actually been through it twice. (The first time was two years ago.)

I am currently working on the book Animal Art by Lee J. Ames, which is about 40 years old and has been floating around my household for.. I dunno, possibly 40 years? It doesn't have a lot of instruction, just images to practice. So I've been practicing.

And here is a drawing I did of a client's dog during an overnight shift.

I am getting better.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

My Heart Day Resolution - Belated

I know this was due on February 14, or thereabouts but I have been having trouble getting my writing done lately. Rest assured, I did dedicate my heart day resolution on time and I actually began working on it a little ahead of schedule. I have proof. But hold on.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out my original post on the subject at

Before I begin focusing on this year's resolution, I'm going to review a bit of last year's. Last year I resolved to lose 30 pounds. Did I lose 30 pounds? NO. 

But, I did develop better eating and exercising habits, learned to better manage my stress and reached out to my doctor and learned my thyroid is all out of whack so it's not entirely my fault. So, something was accomplished. In fact, I would say that though the letter of the resolution wasn't exactly met, the spirit of the resolution was met. Although I did not lost 30 pounds, I am firmer, I have more energy and I feel better all around. I'm not going to stress the numbers. I can't afford new clothes anyway. And I think the rest of the weight will come off on its own once this nightmarish winter is over and I can get out in the garden again.

And now, on to this year's goal. 
I am going to learn to draw. 

This is something I've always wanted to do and been frustrated because I "couldn't". On many occasions I have asked, begged, pleaded various friends and family members to draw things for me for various projects I have worked on, offering to pay in many cases, and almost always I am shut down. Or worse, they say they'll do it and never "get around to it". And then I'm all pissed off at my friend or family member, while still trying to be polite because we love each other after all, because they are holding up the show and they don't see what the big deal is. It's time to do it on my own. 

So, we will examine the goal according to the criteria I set forth a year ago.

1. It must be attainable and realistic.
Yes, I think so. My hands shake more than most people, but we'll just call that part of my style.
2. It must be something that results in a tangible, measurable change. That is, I can say here is the proof that I have achieved this goal and point to it.
I will post pictures and we will all say, "Oh hey look how much better she is."
3. It must have a reasonable deadline. In the case of my Heart Day (and other) resolution, the deadline is one year. Yes

It is one thing to set a goal and give myself a deadline but the most important thing is to keep myself on track. These are the steps I will take to do that:
1. I will assign regular check in days to review my progress. I will make this the 14th of each month.- 
I will post pictures that I have drawn and exercises that I have done. I will also let you know what books I am working on and
2. I will create mini-goals to accomplish throughout the year. One per month, to give myself little victories and successes to keep myself positive and so that I am not trying to do everything all at once.
I will think about this, at first it will probably be to complete the exercises in a specific book, then I will give myself larger projects to work on.
3. I will share with you, dear readers, my progress and what I learned in pursuit of my goals. In part to keep myself honest and also to maybe help you out on similar goals. 

Exploring My Goals
I will structure my Resolutions with a series of questions to give me a clear view of what I'm trying to accomplish and what my path will be.

Why do I want to achieve this goal? 
I have always wanted to be able to draw. I could when I was a teenager, when I took a class in High School with an awesome teacher, but I got out of practice.
How will it benefit me?
I will be less reliant on others to finish projects. This will reduce bad feelings between me and others would could help. It will give me an artistic outlet, relieve stress and make my writing more visually appealing, possibly increasing my income.
What are the drawbacks?
It will take time and practice.
How does it fit my values?
Artistic expression is path to Arete for sure.
What are my obstacles?
Laziness, lack of time to practice, frustration when things don't look just right the first time.
How will I measure success?
When I am ready, next spring, to begin working on my series of children's activity books because I am confident enough to actually do the drawings myself. Maybe the books will be next year's heart day resolution!
What are some habits I will need to develop to make this a success?
Taking time to practice, keeping my drawing materials on me at all times so I can sneak in time to practice.
Some mini-goals I can accomplish along the way?
Draw a dog, draw a plant, complete exercises in books, videos, maybe take a class if I can scrounge the money

Each month I will post my pictures and notes about techniques I am learning, books I'm learning from.

Here is the first-

This based on exercises from the book:

You Can Draw in 30 Days: The Fun, Easy Way to Learn to Draw in One Month or Less by Mark Kistler
(Highly Recommended)