The Simplest Healthy Eating Tips EVER

Three easy tips to help with making healthy food choices. Seriously. The easiest ever.

Choose things that you could make in your own kitchen.

Could you make margarine? Probably not, unless you happen to be a chemist. Butter? Easy. How about flour? How would you go about bleaching flour? Exactly! Coffee creamer? Read the ingredients. If you need a degree to decipher them, switch to milk or half and half.

Let's talk about sweeteners. With plenty of time, patience and heat, you can make sugar, though it's best to choose the least-processed kinds. Stevia works, too. I grew some in my garden this year, and it's a simple matter of drying and grinding the leaves. (Of course, WE don't make honey, but every rule has an exception.) But how do you make Saccharin? Anybody?

Anytime you have a choice between two or more options, choose the one closest to your home kitchen.

All things in moderation.

I don't think there is very much that can really hurt you (assuming you are healthy and fairly free of allergies) if you practice moderation. Occasional fast food won't kill you, but a daily Big Mac and fries is a terrible decision. A piece of chocolate or a few potato chips are harmless. An occasional soda is fine. Just don't overindulge in anything. Even things that are "good for you" may not be good in huge quantities, like the roasted beets I made the other day. But that's a talk for another day.

The Nature of Proportions

Eat foods in the proportions you would find them in nature. Think about it. If you were a wild woman (not the Kardashian/Hilton/Lohan kind of wild woman, but more like the Ayla/furry bikini kind of wild woman) what would you eat? Lots of leafy greens, root vegetables and other similar foods. Some grains, but those are very difficult to collect in nature, and don't necessarily grow in large fields the way we farm them. Nuts, fruits and legumes in their season.

Easy access to dairy is something new to humans. Remember that momma cow's first job is to feed her calf. We're only supposed to get the leftovers, if any at all. Sweets are very hard to obtain in nature, so use them sparingly and as a treat. Last: which is easier, to catch a fish or kill a deer? Exactly. Eat more fish than red meat.


How simple is that? Ask yourself two questions, and apply those three principles to the answer: Could I make this at home? How much of this sort of thing have I had lately?


Auntie T's Ten Rules For Living

OK, class! (clap clap clap). Let's pay attention now. Get out your notebooks and get ready to jot this down.

I'm going to give you ten super-duper-secret tips for living. I'm making this crap up as I go along, so be sure to take notes in case any of it turns out to be brilliant.
  1. You need three friends: one who can be trusted with secrets, one who is fun and easy to hang out with and one who has the ovaries to slap you upside the head when you need it. If you can find all that in one awesome friend, your life is golden.
  2. You're never old enough to give up on presenting your best self. Burn those ugly, holey yoga pants and your nasty flip-flops. You are worth the little extra effort it takes to look as adorable as you ARE.
  3. Strive for balance: keep all things in their proper perspective and at the right level of priority.
  4. Straight from Grandma: Hope for the best, and plan for the worst.
  5. A day without laughter is a day wasted.
  6. A day without learning is a day wasted.
  7. Whatever you choose to do, do it wholly and with full presence. Doing things absentmindedly  means missing out on the experience. It probably also means doing it wrong, or at least poorly.
  8. Get shed of what weighs you down. Distance yourself from "friends" who are a bottomless well of needy drama, get rid of clutter, minimize debt, clean out your closet, face your fears, quit smoking and open up your mind.
  9. Learn the difference between what you can (and should) change, and what you only wish you could change. Teach yourself to think differently about the things you can't change. 
  10. Stop reading stupid, made-up lists about how to improve your life. It's your life. Put on your big girl panties, get out there and live it. 
Class dismissed.

Love,

Auntie T.

The Last One Lasts....and Lasts

I think I should get a research grant to study this.

Why, oh WHY, will no one take the last piece of candy? Oh yes, I know you have your Momma's voice on tape in your head, just like I do: "Someone else might want that!"

But really, Mom. What about being wasteful?

Slice up a loaf of cranberry orange nut bread for your office break room. Those slices will disappear faster than a kid at chore time. All but that last slice. It will sit there and dry out, grow mold and finally develop a pulse before anyone will eat the last slice. Same thing for donuts or cookies or Tina's scrumptious lemon bars.

Fill a candy bowl at the reception desk. Customers will stuff their cheeks and their pockets, too, when the bowl is full. Leave one candy in it and no one will touch it. Well, to be more accurate, about half the customers will finger that candy while they replay Momma's voice in their head. Momma always seems to shame them into putting it back.

And why doesn't this theory hold true for the freebie pens? No one ever minds taking the last pen and casually remarking, "You're out of pens here."

'Splain!


Mayans and Maybes

The day is still young, but it doesn't look like the world is going to end today, after all.

Maybe the world as we know it should, though.

Maybe today is the day the world can end acts of violence.

Maybe today is the day the world can end prejudice and hatred.

Maybe today is the day the world can end selfishness and greed.

Maybe today is the day the world can learn to cherish our children, respect our elders and value each other.

Maybe today is the day that spammers, scammers and shitheads in general can stop preying on others and do some real work in the world.

Maybe today is the day that we can cure cancer and the common cold.

Maybe today is the day we can end our extremist points of view, from the over-the-top NRA to the far side who thinks that somehow the guns themselves are evil.

Maybe today we can learn to compromise.

Maybe today is the day that we can find charity in our hearts, compassion for others and learn to stop judging.

Maybe today is the day to make the world as it is now end, and start a better one. Beginning with me. And you.

Mom Years Are Like Dog Years

They say that every calendar year for us is seven years in "dog years". I'm sure you've heard that. Your dog is ten years old? That's seventy years in dog years. OK, we all get that.

The effect of having children should be measured the same way.

For every child you have, you should:
  • Add six years to the age of your bladder.
  • Subtract twenty I.Q. points.
  • Add six ounces of wine to your recommended daily consumption.
  • Add 500 calories (preferably in chocolate) to your daily diet.
  • Lower the altitude of your ta-tas by 12 degrees.
  • Add 10 gray hairs, compounded annually, until they reach adolescence, and then increase the gray hair exponentially until your children have grandchildren of their own.
  • Subtract 5% of your patience quotient.
  • Forget 15% of what you learned in school. (To be demonstrated when you help them with their homework.)
  • Subtract 10% from your financial stability.
  • Increase your sleep requirement by one hour.
  • Add 2 more cups of coffee to your morning, just to get you started.
  • Subtract 5 opportunities for lovemaking with your honey every day. But don't worry, because those opportunities just go into a savings account for when you're empty nesters.
  • Most of all, increase your amazingness by 500%, because we all know that Moms RULE and Dads are pretty cool, too.


Just a Thought

I wasn't going to write about this, but a friend encouraged me to do so.

Maybe it's my Western America mentality. Maybe it's the simple fact that pretty much everyone I know owns a gun and is a normal human being. Maybe it's just that I don't believe in blaming inanimate objects for the behavior of people.

I don't believe that new gun laws are going to stop the crazies any better than drug laws have changed illicit drug use. People have done heinous things to each other since Cain slew his brother Able. Lizzy Borden killed her father and stepmother with an axe. The worst school massacre in America was committed by a guy in the 1920's who blew the school up with explosives. Horrific crimes are not new.

But they are news.

So what has changed? Maybe the thing that has really changed is the nature of news itself. Some evil nutjob who is planning a mass shooting is surely thinking about how "famous" he will become. Twitter will explode with tales of what he did, Facebook will be on fire, and he will be on every internet news page, television news cast and on the front page of every publication in America. Maybe even the world! Reporters will swarm over the town and take pictures of terrified people, grief-stricken people, and bullet-strewn crime scenes. More spurious fame for the shooter.

Fear of the death penalty clearly doesn't enter into their thinking, since they all seem to kill themselves, or at least try to. What if doing such a thing meant that no one would ever speak your name again? What if every image of you was erased from the memory of the world and you would be immediately and willfully ignored and forgotten by everyone? What if no one was going to swarm your neighbors and family members to get their take on why you did it?

Yeah, I know. A tragedy like this most recent one is news, and of course the media must report on it. What if we reported news differently? What if reporters were respectful and didn't snap, AND SELL, pictures of crying children, screaming parents, sobbing people? What if a text-only report came out, reporting only the necessary facts, and it didn't become a free-for-all of sensationalism? What if the victims and their families were given the privacy to deal with all of this without being hounded by reporters, photographers and thrill seekers?

If we subtracted the SPLASH factor from such horrific acts, would that take away their desire to do it?


Why?

I don't suppose I will ever understand why people do the things they do.

My heart goes out to the families of Sandy Hook Elementary school.

I have no words.

There had been a flip, light-hearted post about motherhood in this space previously. It didn't seem appropriate anymore. Maybe some other day.

For now, like you, I'm praying.

And questioning WHY people do these things.

A New Blog!

Today is 12/12/12. That seems like a lucky number, so I decided to launch a new idea.

I'm adding a new blog: Happiness Tip of the Day

 I'll be posting a single tip every day (that's my goal, anyway) for creating and maintaining happiness in your life. Please visit me there and check it out!

Pie Jesu

I couldn't find a youtube video of the Vienna Boys Choir singing "Pie Jesu", but this one is beautiful, too.

Ten Christmas Favorites

There's a lot about the state of Christmas today that I don't love, I'm sorry to say. But there is still much to love. Here are ten things I love, in no particular order:
  1. Beautiful Christmas trees.
  2. Real PEPPERMINT candy canes.
  3. The Vienna Boys Choir singing Adeste Fideles, Ave Maria, Pie Jesu and Veni, Veni Emanuel.
  4. Fudge.
  5. Sitting down to a Christmas feast with the men I love the best in the world.
  6. Snow on Christmas morning. (a rare treat here)
  7. Hot cocoa with a shot of schnapps...I only indulge in that during the holidays. (Zits, you know?)
  8. The original cartoon version of Dr. Seuss' "How the Grinch Stole Christmas", with Boris Karloff narrating. You just can't beat that one.
  9. I love the old holiday movies, too. "It's a Wonderful Life", "Holiday Inn", "White Christmas"... pure gold. Netflix? Are you listening???
  10. The real, genuine, double-rectified Christmas SPIRIT. Hard to find, but a true joy when you do.

Snapshot - Winter in Arizona

Sunset on SinterKlaas day in Central Arizona. Pretty, huh?

Have I "Arrived"?

Why am I suddenly getting spammy comments from "Anonymous"? I used to get one or two a month, tops. Now I seem to have one or two every day.

Does that mean my blog is growing bigger in SpammerTown?

It's a dubious honor.

I don't like spam. I don't like the kind you can buy right there next to the Underwood's Deviled Roast Beef (blech) and Vienna Sausage (double blech). I do not like green eggs and ham, and I do not like your stinking spam!

Just think of the book our dear, late Dr. Seuss could have written about spam! The spammers would all work from saggy-roofed offices with computers that weren't quite straight. They'd have three fingers tipped with long fur coming to a point. Maybe they would be working from a dust mote, floating around in the strangely green air.

Now I think I'll go home and watch "How the Grinch Stole Christmas".  

Dear Santa

Dear Santa Claus,

I've been a good girl most of the time this year...except when being naughty was the right thing to do. (Just ask my honey.)

I don't want a baby brother or a puppy. I don't want a new Barbie or any of the latest, greatest, shiny new things that are screaming "buy me". Instead, I have a short list. All I want for Christmas is:

  1. My healthy, happy family to stay healthy and happy, and to gather near me for the holiday. 
  2. Bring my boys success and love, to go with their happy healthiness.
  3. Bring me my Sweet Hubs, home safe every day. I'll know what to do with him from there.
  4. Please remove the fat and other bad things from Fritos, but don't change the way they taste.
  5. Please lower the price of wine to $.99 a bottle. I promise I will not drink more. Of course, I'm not promising to drink less, either.
That's it. Five little things. The rest we can figure out on our own. Thank you, Santa!

Hop on Over

How fun! One of my blog posts is being featured on Studio 30+ !

Hop on over there and visit me! Click here to check it out.


Super Easy Cranberry Sauce!

Canned cranberries? Never!

Here's my very-tweakable recipe for cranberry sauce. Of course, it isn't really sauce, it's more of a gelatin salad. You won't rat me out, will you?

2 bags of cranberries.
2 large boxes of orange gelatin
4 cans of mandarin oranges
4 cups of water
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla

variations: include one or more of the following: 2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped. 2 stalks of celery, sliced thin. 1 can of crushed pineapple, drained. Replace 1 cup of the water with 1 cup of sweet white wine. Add a shot of your favorite liquor: orange, pomegranate, cherry or cranberry would all be good. Add a cup of mini-marshmallows. Add a cup of pecan pieces.

In a large sauce pan over medium high heat, bring the cranberries, the water and the sugar to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the cranberries pop. Cook five minutes longer. Stir the gelatin into the cranberry mixture, sprinkling the gelatin slowly in while you stir to avoid lumps. Which is silly, I know, since the stuff is full of chunks of fruit. Somehow, a lump of gelatin in there just feels weird. You know what? I don't care if you want to throw the whole box of gelatin in and stir like mad, go ahead. Take your chances.

Stir in the vanilla. Let cool about half an hour.

Meanwhile, drain the oranges very well and put them into your mold or whatever pretty bowl you'll serve the sauce in. Now is the time to add any other tidbits you want to include. Pour the cranberry-gelatin mixture over the top, give this mess a good stir to distribute the fruit fairly evenly. Cover with plastic wrap, making sure the wrap IS touching the surface of the sauce (to avoid getting a gelatin skin on top. Blech.) and chill.

That's it. Easy and ever so variable.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Customer Service Made Easy

Unless you're a hermit living in the remotest cave in the Rockies, you need customer service skills. You use them everywhere, from dealing with your children's teachers to actually waiting on customers. Many of us use those customer service skills every day as a part of our job, but pretty much everyone on the planet interacts with other human beings regularly. The things you do to treat your customers well and encourage their continued business are the same things that will make the rest of your life a little more smooth.

With that in mind, here are a few simple things to brush up on today.
  1. When your customer is talking, stop the background noise in your head and listen to them. Don't think of what you want to say next, don't think about what all you should be doing instead. Listen to your customer. If they are complaining, their first goal is to get someone to HEAR their complaint. That someone starts with you. Even if they are complaining about something that is in no way your fault, and which you have no power to remedy, their first need is to be heard. 
  2. Speak proper English. Unless you know your customer extremely well, don't use slang. Never use even the mildest profanities. Speak in complete sentences. The abbreviated sentence fragments we use when speaking with friends can come off sounding terse and disinterested to customers. Have you ever asked someone in the grocery store where to find an item? There is a big difference between, "Aisle 5." and "Oh, that's right down there in Aisle 5, about halfway down on the right side." The information relayed is almost identical, but the delivery is worlds apart.
  3. Listen for cues to how someone wishes to be addressed, and act accordingly. If your customer introduces himself as Dr. Robert Wonderful, don't shorten that to "Doc" or "Bob". Dr. Wonderful will do. And if they give you the courtesy of offering you a casual name to call them, "Oh, just call me Bob," then it works this way: thank him and address his as Bob. But if you introduce him to someone else, it's back to "Dr. Wonderful." He gets to give others permission to address him in a familiar fashion; that's not your place.
  4. Be sincere about whatever you're doing. If it's a light, friendly exchange, be sincerely friendly. If there is a problem to be solved, be sincerely helpful. And if you screwed up, be sincerely apologetic.
  5. Accept blame. This is a big one. Sit down and pay attention. Are you listening? Even accept blame if the true blame doesn't rest with you. OK, their expensive and gorgeous sweater, which said "Handwash only in cold and dry flat", shrank down 8 sizes in their dryer. This is clearly not your fault. It doesn't matter. Unless you are a police detective, pointing out the guilty party is not your job. You don't exactly have to admit fault, unless it truly is your fault, but you must be willing to let them unload on you and NOT tell them to read the dang label next time. "I am so sorry this happened! This must be so disappointing, because this color would look just great on you. Let me see what I can find out about this." Words that should never cross your lips when speaking to a customer: "It's not my fault." Even if it isn't your fault, you aren't allowed to say that.
  6. Imagine yourself in your customer's shoes. Empathy is key to delivering superior customer service. It doesn't matter what industry you're in. If your customer is grouchy, think about how you'd act in their situation. Whether it's their sick child in the doctor's office where you work, or the victim of a car accident being reported your agency, or just a customer who had to wait in line a long time to buy their pack of toilet paper, think about how you would feel. Here's a little trick: imagine how the situation must feel to the customer and then imagine that it's worse. The customer who had to wait 15 minutes in line to buy a pack of toilet paper? Imagine she has 6 kids at home and they all have the trots, hence the urgent need for lots of t.p. You can pretty much guarantee that for whatever problem a customer has that you know about, there are more that you don't know about. Show a little compassion.
  7. Put a lid on it. After you part with your customer, whether it's hanging up the phone, their departure from your office or them walking away from your checkout stand, Do. Not. React. If you hang up the phone with a big sigh, you run a serious risk of being heard. Roll your eyes when they walk away and you may not be able to unroll fast enough if they turn around to tell you one more thing. I promise, you do not want to get caught doing something like that. Put on your big girl panties and keep your reaction to yourself.
  8. Kill them with kindness. Think of it as a weird kind of fencing match with jabs and parries. The more obnoxious the customer behaves, the more you need to be professional and patient. First, you will more likely win them over by kindness than you could if you shout back. Second, it will gain you sympathy from other customers who are watching. Third, if you can maintain your composure, even if you can't make them happy, there is a good chance they will go away, feel like an ass and come back to repent. It doesn't always work, but it has the best chance of success of anything I've ever tried.
  9. Remember what you expect as a customer, and deliver at least that.  A cheerful Hello, a genuine Thank You... ordinary courtesy. 
  10. Be grateful for your customers. Without them, you don't have a job.

Squeeee!!!! Another Happy-Dance Moment!

Yes, believe it or not, there is more good news! Paige Nolley has posted a review of the second book in my series, A Light in the Mountains.

I tried to find the words to describe my excitement this morning. The best example I can think of is, it's like a new hair style. Your friends, who love you, will always tell you how great it is. Do we ever know if they really REALLY like it? But if you get a new 'do and a lovely stranger walks up to you and asks you for the name of your stylist? That is validation!

To have a book reviewed so favorably by someone I don't know, who purchased the book and liked it well enough to want to tell other people about it.... Sweet Fancy MOSES! It's a thrill, I must say. Kind words from friends are appreciated and welcomed, but the good reviews you'll read on Amazon and Barnes & Noble were written by strangers. And that is validation of a sort unequaled in the other arenas of my life. Paige Nolley took the time to write a full review on her personal blog and I am humbled by her kind words. (**sniff**!!!). It was Paige's rating of the book on Goodreads that let me find her blog. One day I left a comment on one of her posts and after a handful of amazing emails, I feel like she is a friend.

I am grateful for and honored by Paige's consideration. Please go check out her post. Leave a comment. And read the rest of her writing. You'll become a fan!

Paige Nolley reviews A Light in the Mountains.

Book Review! Woo Hoo HOO!

I am beyond excited to tell you that Paige Nolley (a blogger who is also a writer, editor and intrepid spirit) has posted a review of my first novel. Her kind words made my heart beat a little faster. I think I whooped a few times in a fair approximation of a Rebel Yell, which is odd since I can only find Yankees in my family tree. I might have even leaked a little, it was that thrilling. :-)

Please stop over and visit her today, and leave a comment telling what an awesome blossom she is. Paige is also planning to interview me, so I'll keep you posted. 

With my deepest, heartfelt thanks, please click away now and go see 

Paige's review of A Gathering of Light.




No Ostriches, Please

The recent and very unexpected loss of a friend has reminded me of something extremely important. Knowledge. Preparedness. No, not preparing for the apocalypse, preparing for death. I know it isn't pleasant to talk about, but it is VITAL that you talk about it.

My parents' generation, and many people in my own generation, divide the household responsibilities in such a way that excludes one spouse (usually the wife) from knowing about the business end of their life. Husbands may have had the best intentions of "protecting" their wife, or maybe he simply regards the family finances, etc., as his job and not her worry. This is a terrible idea. A strong and chivalrous husband would do better to protect his wife by keeping her informed, in case anything should happen to him. The business-minded wife who has always handled the family finances must make sure to keep her husband aware. You never know when a bus with your name on it is going to come barreling at you. It can happen to anyone, at any age, at any point in life.
  • Know where your insurance policies, investment portfolios, birth certificates, pension plans, union membership information, bank accounts, deeds, social security numbers and titles are kept. All of them. Both spouses must know who your financial planner, accountant, insurance agent and personal banker are.
  • You may need to create a family finances chart. What payments are due on what day, how they are usually paid and from which account, as well as money coming in from where and going into what account. 
  • If your taxes are complicated due to investments or self-employment, be sure to keep a complete file on them and that your spouse knows where to find that file.
  • Keep a list (in a secure place!!!) of the log-ins and passwords you have for online banking, email and anything else that will need attention. Keep it up to date. 
  • It sounds simple, but make sure each of you knows some basic stuff. Our friend's widow doesn't know where the gas tank is on her car. I've been filling my own tank for a long time, but my mother never did. Does your Mom know who the family mechanic is? Does Dad know where Mom keeps the check book?
  • If you have children, make sure that both parents know the important things about them. Are they allergic to any medications? Who is the family physician? I know one gentleman who lost his wife suddenly and didn't know exactly where their daughter's preschool was. 
Losing a spouse is so stressful and disorienting. No amount of preparation can make the sadness and pain go away, but good communication and knowledge can limit the reeling confusion that may ensue. How difficult to have not only the crushing loss, but also terrible fear because you have no idea how to handle the daily tasks. 

Please. Have this talk with your parents today. Have this talk with each other today! Think of it like cross-training at your job. It would never do to have only one person in the office who could do certain things. No matter that it's their job and they are responsible for it on a daily basis. It is still crucial that someone else can fill in if there were an emergency. 






Election Day

Did you vote today?

Don't forget: if you don't vote, you are relinquishing your right to complain about anything the government does. That's the rule. Vote now or forever hold your peace. 

Hello? Can you hear me now?

Alright, everybody. Let's reach a consensus on this and make a ruling on cell phones:

If a call is dropped, who should call back? Should it be the person who placed the call first, or the person who received the call?

I vote for the one who received the call, on the theory that the caller should be smart enough to be calling from an area with good service, but you never know where the call-ee is. They should call back when they get good service. I think it's just annoying when someone keeps calling you and you're traveling in a spotty area.

What do you think?

Express Ticket to.... Where?

The headline reads, "Man Crushed by Giant Crucifix".

What does this mean? Was that a message from God?

And is getting killed by a falling crucifix an express ticket to heaven? Does that make you an instant martyr?

Or is it a clear indication that you are going to a place where you'll be very, very warm?

Don't Box Me In


“Give me land, lots of land, ‘neath the starry skies above. Don’t box me in.”

OK, maybe the song doesn't go quite like that. Roy is probably going to haunt me now for messing with his song.

Someone told me today that I am not what they expected. No, I suppose I’m not. Is anyone ever what we really expect? It made me wonder what expectations they could have crafted from one business-related conversation on the phone. What box did they build in their mind, into which I would fit so neatly?

I think the only box that I’ll ever fit into very neatly is the kind that’s made of pine and waiting for all of us.

The boxes that suit us at any given time are like so many gift boxes. Maybe that someday pine box will be a gift of a different sort, but for today, those compartments that hold us are the presents under the tree of our life. (Wow. Wasn't that profound? Ha!)

All those characteristics, qualities and quirks are what make us unique. Each one a gift, and most of them suitable for giving.

I fit in a plain box. I’m a plain girl. I like simple, I like peaceful, I like predictable. I haven’t done anything high-adrenaline in my life, unless you count the time I did the Heimlich maneuver on my baby. I know about the simple things in life, like how to make bread or how to pluck a chicken.


I also fit in a quirky, unexpected box.  I’m a high-heels, polished nails, Chateaubriand kind of girl who also embraces the pastrami on rye side of herself. I know more silly jokes and cowboy songs than a woman my age has a right to know, but I also know how to configure a new workstation for my complicated office and the taxonomy of the platypus. (And the name of the guy who invented the system of taxonomy we use.) Why the hell anyone needs to know that, beats me. I’m the strange woman who doesn't mind having a huge spider in the house, on the theory that he’s eating all the little spiders. I don’t mind snakes or lizards. But I hate, despise and detest......squirrels. (“Hate is such a strong word.”) (Yes. That’s why I used it.) I can be serious, I can be silly and I. Can. Be. STUBBORN. I can be as yielding as an overripe avocado and I can stand my ground like a recalcitrant mule. The part that makes me quirky is that you never know when to expect which quirk.


The gift box that would represent love in my life will need to be a jumbo-sized one. From my loving parents, to my awesome Grandmas, uncles and aunties, my sister and my brothers, I grew up surrounded by a close and comfortable family. They gave me the guideposts to build a life that features plentiful love. My darling Sweet Hubs and our two grown sons are the biggest portion of that love today, but I also have some cherished friends and even a couple of damn fine dogs.

The heart-shaped box is also going to hold my love for sunsets, pickles, pretzels, bluegrass music, prosciutto, sweet wine, autumn leaves and fried green tomatoes. I love reading and writing and laughing. I also love to sing, but you won’t love it when I do it. In Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, Augustus McCrae says that the only healthy way to live is to learn to like all the everyday things: a sip of good whiskey of an evening, a soft bed, a glass of buttermilk, or a feisty gentleman like himself. Gus McCrae was one smart man. When you really think about it, that is wisdom on which to build a life.

Right next to the heart-shaped gift box, you have to have this one:
A sweet blue one, to represent my two sweet boys. Being a mother is, in many ways, the most defining experience of my life. I feel like I taught my sons many things, but I learned ever so much more from them and because of them. Having children was a chance to see the world anew, through their eyes. It was a way to discover all the wonders again. It was a way to try to stamp out the things I wished had been different in me, which of course did not work. As much as my children have changed in the years of their growing, I have changed more. When our oldest son went off to war, I learned about a whole new kind of letting go. I learned about a new kind of faith, too. When our youngest son won the gold medal at the state competition, I learned about a type of pride I had never experienced. My children taught me about patience, humor, balance, patience, joy, patience. Wait. Did I say “patience”? They also taught me about peanut-butter and pickle sandwiches, but I would really rather have not known about that.



There would have to be a gift box like one of these for me, too. I come from a European style of eating and drinking. All things in moderation, savor your food, make your meal an event. Even when I eat alone, I fix a plate, eat slowly, pour myself a glass of wine and enjoy my food. Eating is something we have to do every day. Why war with it? Slow down and learn how to do it right and enjoy it in a healthy way.




I would also need to have a box like this:
Because I’m opinionated and a little mouthy and I spend a lot of time on my soap box. I’m like a trained seal. Drag out a soap box and I’ll jump on it and start barking.

It’s only one of the many flaws I keep working on.

What would the gift boxes to hold the fabulous uniqueness of you look like?

(All images from Google Commons or images)


Scare Tactics

I logged on to my email account and a banner ad, a very official-looking one, announced that I had been unfriended by three people. If I clicked on the ad, I could find out why.

I had a fleeting moment of hurt feelings. And then I remembered that I'm not on FB, so who could be unfriending me? (forehead slap) Obviously, I did not click on the banner, so I don't know what they are really selling. Maybe a book on how to make friends and turn yourself inside out to please other people?

The genius who created this ad has tapped into some deep social structure in our human brains. We all want to be liked, even if it's just by strangers on Facebook. What a clever marketing device. Or else, what a chicken sh!t thing to do just to get clicks.

I suppose it's all about intent.

Getting Naked

No, no! Don't be scared! Don't run away! There won't be any naked pictures of me. It's alright, you can start breathing again.

I am more honored than I can express to have been invited to write a guest post for Kelly Sajonia's fantastic blog, Naked Girl in a Dress. Before you read another thing today, please go to her "About Me" tab, and drop down to how the blog got its name. I've been lurking around her blog for about a year or so.

The inspiration behind the name of Kelly's blog captured me right away, and informed me, too. She reminded me that embracing myself, embracing the moment and not letting my plentiful inhibitions run my life were important keys to living in balance.

Please trip on over there today. Follow Kelly. Tweet her and friend her and find your own inspiration there.

Trick or Treat! Halloween Freebie


BOO!

Until the end of October, get a free copy of A Gathering of Light for your Kindle, Nook, iPad, tablet, pc, whatever. Go to Smashwords, use coupon code KR88H at checkout. And feel free to share the code with your friends, but it expires on Halloween night!

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/29448

coupon KR88H





*************************************************************************

Jumping to Conclusions

Close to my office, on my way home, is a little neighborhood of old, low-rent houses. They're tiny and old and just barely patched together enough to be better than a shed. A parade of tenants pass through the houses. Most of them have mean dogs and a lot of tattoos and old beater cars (which they park in such a way as to roll out of the car and straight into the house with the least effort, even if they're parking on what's left of the flower bed). Beer cans, Wal-Mart bags, chocolate milk jugs and cigarette wrappers start to litter the yard.

And then someone new will move in. A pot of flowers and a cute chair go out on the porch. Pumpkins decorate the house. The yard gets raked, they pick up their trash, the windows get washed and something about the whole neighborhood changes for the little while that the new tenant is there. It feels like a fresh breeze blew in and made the neighborhood sweet.

It's a little ragtag rental that whispers of a person with hope. Ambition. An appreciation for simple joys. And a desire to build the life they want.

It makes me think of my Grandparents. Grandma used to say, "Soap is cheap and water is free." Money and standards are not the same thing. Grandma and Grandpa had their share of very tough financial times. The hardships they endured were enough to make most of us throw up our hands and quit trying. They started over twice, in a way. The first after Holland was liberated from the Nazis and Rotterdam had to put herself back together. The second in moving to America, along with their two grown daughters and a surprise baby daughter. They had to find work, learn the language and build a new life here. Grandma had quite a few new starts of her own, after Grandpa died, and she never had much money.

But she always had standards. She always had hope. She would have been the one making a cheap rental into the best home she could manage.

8 Days Until the Madness Begins

Yes, fellow writers. It's only 8 more days until NaNoWriMo starts again. That's National Novel Writing Month in ordinary English. If you have ever wanted to try writing a novel, I strongly encourage you to participate in NaNo. It's free, it's encouraging and it's a competition with yourself... who just happens to be your toughest adversary.

Last year was the first time I played along at NaNo, and at the end of the month, I had most of my first draft of A Light in the Mountains completed. It only took a basquillion revisions and rethinkings, and now that book is available almost everywhere ebooks are sold.

This year, I'll be working on the third and final book in the series (as yet untitled). Well. Um. I've actually been working on that book since the last one was done, but I've scrapped so many beginnings that the "delete" key has the writing scraped away.

My recent epiphany gave me the start I was looking for. It finally feels like I have a story! Just for fun, here is a tidbit. I'd love to hear your thoughts, dear readers! The first few paragraphs of the next book in the Light Gatherers series:


 “Cooper, stop the buggy.” Ray Harper said.
Cooper reined in the buggy mare and waited, silent.
“What is that?” Ray asked.
Miss Alice, his wife, shrugged.
“What, sir?” Cooper asked
“Over there. What’s that glow? Is it a fire? I hear a noise, too.” Mister Ray said.
Cooper looked, and listened. He did hear a faint sound. And there had been a strange glow, but it was rapidly going away. “I best go see.” Cooper jumped down from the buggy, picked up the lantern and went to investigate.
He picked his way through the undergrowth, trying to follow a sound which was fading. Fifty yards from the buggy he came to a clearing and stopped. He looked, took a few steps, listened, and looked some more.
At last a glowing spot of blue on the green grass at the far end of the clearing caught his eye. He approached cautiously, his heart pounding and his eyes owly round.
A young woman seemed to be resting on her side, facing away. The back of her skirt was darkened with water. Or was it water? Cooper heard a small sound: a mewling whimper like a sick kitten might make. He moved a little faster.
Then a sharp wail made Cooper jump back a pace. It was a newborn baby cry! He trotted to the woman, only to find her limp and incoherent. She seemed to be lying in a cloud of gold dust, with shimmering light swirling around her and clinging close to her. Beyond the cloud of shimmering light was a darkness so profound, it was as if every drop of light in the air was gone.
Cooper watched in awe as the shimmering cloud collected around the squalling baby girl, making her shine. The light shifted away from the mother, wrapped around the baby girl, and with a slow, long sigh, the mother died.
“Sweet Jesus. What was that?” Cooper said under his breath. The baby cried again and snapped him out of his wonder. He wrapped his coat around the wet baby and sprinted for the buggy.
“Mister Ray! Miss Alice! I need me a knife, and a string and a blanket, quick! It’s a baby out there!” Cooper shouted as soon as the buggy was in sight. Cooper pronounced the words, “Mister Ray”, so smoothly together it sounded like a drawling cross between “mystery” and “misery”.
Mister Ray handed over his pocket knife, with Miss Alice saying, “Oh, my! A baby!” over and over while she pulled a hair ribbon from the parcels she was carrying home from town. Cooper snatched up the lap blanket and darted off to the clearing.
When the new baby was safely in Miss Alice’s arms, Cooper went back to bring the young woman’s body, to be buried in the slave quarter graveyard. Cooper wondered what the young mother’s name might have been.
“What do you think about that, Alice? I thought I’d done well that day when I found a hammer laying in the road. That baby is probably worth fifty dollars, if she lives.” Ray was grinning.
“She’s a precious little thing, alright. She seems strong enough. We can give her to Tallulah to raise along with her baby. She’ll have plenty of milk, I’m sure.” Alice replied.
“Miss Alice, give her to my Dooley, won’t you?” Cooper said. “She’s still in bed from losing this last one. She might could make milk yet, and it would help her poor broken heart.”
Mister Ray was annoyed at Cooper for speaking out of turn. He didn’t like his slaves to speak unless spoken to. He was dismissive of the idea, anyway. “Dooley clearly isn’t any good at keeping babies alive, Coop.”
Alice smacked Ray on the chest. “That’s a dreadful thing to say! It’s not her fault that her babies have all been stillborn. You say something like that again, Ray Simpson Harper, and I’ll never speak to you again.” Miss Alice didn’t bark at Mister Ray often, which made it more effective when she did.
“Cooper, that’s a good idea. Dooley might still be able to feed this baby if she starts trying right away. And Tallulah can help some until she can. Just don’t let her go hungry for trying. Alright?” Miss Alice said.
“No, ma’am. We make sure she get enough to eat. And Dooley be thanking you more than you ever been thanked, you can be sure of that.” Cooper felt like his throat was closing up, he was so grateful for that little baby. Dooley had been so sad that she could barely lift her head from the pillow. He was sure the little orphan girl would be just what Dooley needed.


*****************

Always....comments are welcome!

October Morning

It rained through the night: a gentle, soaking rain that filled my bedroom with the fresh smell of nitrogen-rich water.and the perfect white noise to sleep by.

The sun is rising now and the breaking clouds are a patchwork of blue-gray, golden yellow and soft pink, with snippets of denim blue sky showing in between. The dusty yard looks green and vibrant and clean again.

As I sit here sipping sweet, creamy coffee and watching the day develop while the mug warms my hands, I feel blessed. Blessed that my goofy puppy is running around the yard like a nut. She has a case of the zooms and it cracks me up. That dog can run! Blessed that the Sweet Hubs fixed our sleep number bed. It was leaking past the check valve, if you must know. I can't tell you how much better it is to sleep on a bed than in a flippin' fox hole. I usually keep my side at 50. Before he fixed it, the bed was at 2 by about midnight. Got to love having a handy hubby. :-)

I'm blessed because I love the cool morning and bright start of a new day, rich with promise. I'm blessed because I got the dishes washed last night. Well, most of them. I also got a huge pile of pine needles stripped and ready for basket making. There's a lot to be said for feeling productive.

I'm blessed because my freezer and my pantry are full. I've put up about two dozen jars of pickles, countless jars of salsa, tomato sauce and tomato paste. I've dried tomatoes and garden herbs. I've pickled jalapeno peppers, dried some, frozen some and eaten an obscene number of them, too. I also roasted two giant grocery bags full of green chilies. You may recall that this is one of my favorite things in life.

The breeze picks up, the clouds skitter away, and the sound of my son's alarm clock reminds me that it's time to quit daydreaming and get in the shower. Have a lovely day, all. It's off to a fine start.



Always...feel free to comment!

If At First You Don't Succeed....

I thought I knew where I wanted the third story in the series to go. I had it mapped out in my mind and I thought that I knew the story I wanted to write.

Still, it wasn't coalescing into anything at all. I never felt like I had anything. Writing it wasn't exciting, and if writing a story isn't exciting then reading it won't be, either. I scrapped the story and started again several times.

It came to me in a flash. I finally knew what the third book in this series needed to be, so I threw out everything I had and started completely over. New characters, new setting, a whole. New. Idea.

When I sat down to begin THIS story, I could feel it. I have a story to tell.

And I'm excited about it.

Breakfast Lessons


We had breakfast in the city this morning, at a national chain restaurant that's known for breakfast.

Our waitress was an older lady, a little on the gruff side, and she carried herself with a certain aggression. I'm sure you've met someone like her, with body language that shouts, "I'm the only one around here who works very hard. I hate my job, I hate my life and the sooner I'm done for the day, the better!"

She called everyone "hon" or "sweetie". I think her "hon" and "sweetie" were really code words for "A-hole" and "Bitch".

But there's another kind of waitress in a place like that. We saw her, too. She was probably someone's grandma. She moved a little slower, but she didn't swing the coffee pot around the room like a weapon, the way her coworker did. She smiled, instead of baring her teeth. Nothing insincere or passive-aggressive about her.

It's a fine example of two opposing outlooks on life. You can look at each person who crosses your path as yet another person who expects something from you (which you don't want to give) and is taking time away from what you really want to be doing.

Or you can smile and take the time to look them in the eye and live in the moment.

Antler Basket

Done! This one is for my Sweet Hubs. That is a tiny Coues' Whitetail shed antler. How cute is that?

For those of my readers who have been following a while, or have been to my home, you'll know that eventually I would have to try to make a basket with an antler in it. Mom thought, when I was expecting, that my babies might be born with antlers. I sure am glad she was wrong about that. OUCH!

Antlers are cool. Deer and elk shed them every year and grow a new set. Every. Year. People like my honey go out and find the shed antlers. We use them. Sometimes he sells them. Always, he admires them. You'll find them in our house (at varying times, maybe) as decorations, handles, napkin rings, wine racks, towel bars, light fixtures, a Christmas tree... and now this:




Minimally Me

I hate clutter.

It collects slowly, growing into little piles of crap here and there, like some kind of creepy mold. Papers, junk mail that needs to be shredded, some bric-a-brac that some well-meaning person gave me. I try to have a place for everything and everything in its place. But honestly. WHERE is the right place of a 1910 toy wagon?

It builds up on me, too. I walk around in my day, knowing that there is a pile of crap at home that needs to be faced. So I get frustrated. I put on my big-girl panties and then I get RUTHLESS. The next thing I know, I have sorted out a bunch of things to get rid of.

Then it happens. Something. Some little something will trigger my sentimental streak and the whole process comes to a screeching halt. My clutter-busting train is derailed while I slowly consider all the memories associated with that....whatever it is.

Sunday, it was a little silver-plated jewelry box my Grandma gave me years ago. I don't need it. I don't really have a place for it. But how do I get rid of it?

Autumn Calling

The slant of the sunlight promises cooler days ahead.

Sleep under a warm blanket with cool night air rolling in open windows.

Gardens fade as they get ready to sleep through the winter, while fall flowers pop out orange and yellow blossoms.

Summer fruits and vegetables give way to autumn food. My palate is done with light dinners and chilled salads, ready for heartier fare.

The bugles of bull elk fill the early morning air.

It's so hard to get out of bed in the morning, with the sun still low and the air so cool and crisp. But I do, because Autumn is calling.







Early This Morning

The view from my front door this morning: the contrail from a missile launched in New Mexico. If only my phone's camera could capture how pretty it was.




Pine Needle Baskets Part II



All done!






Pine Needle Baskets

I live in pine tree country: my home town sits in the largest stand of Ponderosa pines in the world. I'm also a fidgety person. My hands need to be busy pretty much all the time. I tried teaching myself to crochet; I bought a booklet, yarn and hooks and decided to try making this very cute round afghan. The counting must have been too much for me because I ended up with the biggest yarmulke you've ever seen. It's soft and fuzzy and just the right size for Jack (the one In The Box). Since I'm sure it would be offensive to someone for me to be making yarmulkes for non-humans.... I'm laying off the crochet.

So I decided to try making pine needle baskets. No counting. They smell good. I can sew. And I have pine needles. Oh, boy, do I have pine needles.

The first few were OK. Only mildly laughable. One problem with fallen pine needles in Arizona is just how dry they really get. I had to soak them in water so long before they were pliable, they swelled up like a toad. Which results in a loose basket. No woman wants her basket to be loose.

Then I found synthetic sinew at a local craft store and I picked up a bag full of pine needles from our Montana place. Those needles were pliable without soaking, even the brown ones!

Huge improvement! Here is the first basket made from the Montana pine needles:


Here is one I'm working on right now:





I was thinking that a wine bottle holder made this way would be very cool. I could soak it in water and refrigerate the basket and it would keep the wine nice and cool. Outside of the occasional jab with a pine needle (or my own needle), I've been having a lot fun learning this. Each one gets better. :-) 

What is your hobby?


The County Fair

It was on my bucket list. I'd been to the state fair, but never to the county fair. So on Saturday afternoon, Sweet Hubs and I went to stroll around the fair and check out the exhibits and the 4-H Auction.

It was fascinating! The list of entry classes seemed endless. The people who organized the event must have worked their fingers down to the white meat. Wow. Row after row of fruits, vegetables (looking a little wilty that late into the fair), crafts, photographs, dioramas...it was breathtaking. The Bonsai trees were amazing. I did wonder, though. Some of the trees were over 60 years old. Has one person been clipping that tiny tree for 60 years? Was it handed down? Did they buy it somewhere, already started? How does that work?

My special favorite was the 4-H Auction. The students were required to stay by their animal throughout the days of the fair. They spoke with us about the animal, its type and weight and so on. We were fascinated at the comfort these impressive young people had in talking to a couple of adults. I was also impressed at the fondness the young people demonstrated for their project animal. Later, they walked the animal around the auction ring and the bidding began.

Auctioneers amaze and amuse me. This guy was a handsome cowboy, dressed in a crisp, white, button-down, with his Wranglers, well-worn boots and Stetson completing the look. He had a terrific public speaking voice and did the auctioneer's sing-song so very well. A good auctioneer is key to a fun auction.

One of the animals being auctioned was a cross-bred steer. He was the red color of a Hereford and it so happened that a lovely redheaded lady was one of the bidders. The auctioneer did a great job of complimenting the hell out of that pretty lady by drawing comparisons between her flaming hair and the handsome red hide of the steer; he made it seem like that steer was grown especially for her. Well done.

Best of all, the little livestock auction was like going back 30 years to when this was a tiny ranching town. Everybody knew nearly everybody. People were bidding on the animals raised by young people they knew. One young lady raised a meat goat (as opposed to a goat bred for producing milk or wool). Between giving the goat a name and countless hours of time and attention, she became quite attached to the animal. The idea of her jogging buddy becoming someone's Carne Asada made her cry. Word got out... and a lovely lady from a prominent ranching family bought the goat for her petting zoo.

There were tears on the cheeks of almost every young girl as she led her 4-H project around the auction ring. The boys weren't quite as affected, boys being boys. It was wonderful to see these hardworking, dedicated young people and the town that supports them so well.

Just for fun, here are two songs featuring an auctioneer:





Opinion, Please!



Do any of my readers use one of these? What do you think of it?




Getting Older

Yeah. I'm getting older. And it's starting to show.

Sweet Hubs and I are trying a new thing. Starting today, we are going to give up red meat and dairy for 30 days.

This seems like a drastic thing to do when you have a freezer full of elk meat (which is decidedly red meat!) and you come from a tradition of cooking that includes cheese in nearly everything. The fact is, we're getting older. We are both lactose intolerant and one of has some other digestive problems.

It's an experiment. Will it make any difference in how we feel? Will it make the incessant squeaks and grumblings of my tummy stop? I guess we'll see!

Goodbye pepperoni pizza and so long cheesesteak sandwiches!

An Award!


Yes! Doing the happy dance and making little squeaking noises while I do! Contemplating Happiness has been given an award! Cynthia at Commonplace Crazy called ME a "blog you should read". Hot Buttered Sweetbreads! She also called me quirky, in a nice way, of course. I love being called quirky. It's a lot better than the way my coworkers have called me "the spelling police". 


The most fun of all? I don't even have to embarrass myself by revealing any of my dark, shameful or quirky secrets. I don't have to pass it on to 15 other bloggers on pain of having my nipples turn green and fall off. I get to just sit back and bask in the warm rays of a compliment. Ahhh.

I love Cynthia's blog. Her husband, The Hillbilly, is a regular contributor and she is a teacher...an English teacher, no less! My favorite kind! Most of the really encouraging things I've heard in my life have come from English teachers. 

I'm telling you, folks: this is a couple I can easily imagine sitting around the campfire with, sipping red wine out of plastic cups and telling hilarious stories. Please step on over to Commonplace Crazy and see who else Cynthia likes to read. 

Look, Ma! No Hands!

(har har har....I crack me up!)

You may have noticed. My blog has a new look!

Please be sure to visit my blog pages. I took a whole mess of stuff out of the side bar, and made a few pages, instead.

Most especially, visit my "My Books" page, and watch for it to fill up. Ever so gradually.

Thanks for looking.


10 Things You Can Do Today To Sweeten Your Marriage


Pick one, pick five or try all ten. I don't care. 
  1. Put down your phone, your laptop, your tablet and the remote... and talk to each other.
  2. Wear something your honey thinks is sexy. 
  3. Whoever is home first, greet the other one at the door when they get home. Yes, get up off your hind end, walk to the door as they enter and kiss them like you mean it.
  4. Spend the time it takes you to drive home thinking about all the things you love about your spouse. If the thoughts that start, "if only...." stray into your brain, push them away and focus on the good things.
  5. Send your honey a naughty text message in the middle of the day. Pictures are good. Just ask ScarJo.
  6. Remember your manners. "Thank you, dear," is a great place to start. 
  7. Do something you've never done before. Something unexpected. Something sexy! Something fun! 
  8. Press "pause" on the mental high-speed to-do list you're playing in your mind and really LISTEN when they talk. Look at him, focus your mind on what he's saying and listen.
  9. Do something indulgent together. Whether it's sharing a box of good chocolate and a bottle of wine, or taking a bath together, take a little break from your hectic life and take it together.
  10. Hold your tongue for a while. If you're tempted to criticize, whine, bitch, moan, complain... just hold it for a while. Remember how it works when you stub your toe and you have to hop around, gritting your teeth, until the pain passes? Try doing that for a bit with your complaints. Especially if your complaint is ABOUT the other person. Try walking it off and see if doesn't just go away on its own.

Snapshot

Three times in the history of "Contemplating Happiness", someone googled

Dirty Smelly Girls Socks

and landed here.

Just thought I'd share.

Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

The Fine Art of Complaining

Trending around the blogosphere today, I see a lot of comments about some diner who wrote to a NYT advice columnist about how he handles his complaints in a restaurant.

I've been in customer service since forever and I've been getting customer service even longer. :-) Here are ten things you can do to improve your customer service experience and complain more successfully when things go wrong.
  1. Be polite. If you've had a bad day, venting on your waiter is not going to improve it and could easily snowball into giving you the day from hell. You can tell your waiter or your manicurist that you've had the devil's own day; if you do that in a friendly and slightly weary way, you may even find that they have a heart and will extend you a little extra kindness. Start out on the offensive, though, and you will most certainly OFFEND. 
  2. If something isn't right, getting mad is not the first step. Follow the correct steps toward a resolution. First: determine what is the smallest step that would solve the problem. A fresh glass, throw the steak back on the fire, a seat in a different area, whatever. Then you need to politely inform the proper person. Make sure you are complaining to a person who has some power to fix the problem. Telling the front desk clerk that you object to the rates you are paying for electricity doesn't really get you anywhere. After you have politely informed the proper person, give them a chance to make it right before you start making demands. It has been my experience (read my closing paragraph) that simply pointing out the problem nicely and letting them come up with a solution will get you more than you would have asked for as a solution.
  3. Make sure your complaint is timely. It doesn't do any good to tell the hostess, after you paid, that the soup was cold but you ate all of it anyway. How is she supposed to fix it then?
  4. Make sure that your complaint is something that can be fixed. Some things are the way they are. Put on your big girl panties and learn what is worth worrying about. Complaining about the long lines at the checkout works when only one or two cashiers are open. If all of the cashiers are open and the store just has a rush, get over it.
  5. Be reasonable in your initial expectations. There are places where you can reasonably ask for special accommodations and places where you can't. The most you can usually expect from a fast food place is to have your burger plain. You have all heard this guy: he goes to the local taco stand and wants them to create a new menu item just for him. "I'll have the crunchy chicken taco combo, but I want the chicken cooked with the breading you put on the fish, and instead of taco sauce could I have ketchup and no lettuce but I'd like some drained coleslaw on the taco instead." Usually, that guy is in front of you when you're about to faint from low blood sugar and he also wants to know if the Pepsi was bottled in Oklahoma or Nevada because he doesn't like the Nevada bottler, who fired him in 1990 over something really ridiculous and totally unjust and...... Seriously, folks. If your palate or your diet is that restricted, don't go to a fast food place. 
  6. You are not the only person on the planet. Even if you don't see any other diners, the cook may be putting together a go order for 10, or your server maybe be preparing for a banquet in another room. If you call a business on a Monday morning, you should expect that you are one of a great many callers and might have to wait your turn.
  7. Be clear. Help the receptionist get you to the right person. Help your customer service representative prioritize. If your house burned down last night, please make sure the receptionist knows this when you call your insurance agent. That truly is more important than reprinting someone else's auto ID card. 
  8. Don't be afraid to escalate! If the salesperson is too busy in a personal conversation or too busy texting to attend to the customers, don't be afraid to go to the customer service desk and ask if there is a salesperson who is actually interested in the job around. When you do speak up, be clear and calm. Cussing is never permitted in this situation. If you do not get satisfaction from the first higher-up, keep climbing.
  9. Give praise where it's deserved. Managers need to know who is keeping the customers happy as much as they need to know who can't seem to put down their smartphone. Letting them know when you have received superior customer service can only improve the quality of their staff in the long run. It also helps you get better service in the future because people remember who said nice things about them. They also remember who complained about them.
  10. I saved the most important for last. Remember that your own personal taste and the quality of customer service received may not be the same thing. If you don't care for the taste of the food in the restaurant, honestly? That's just tough. You have a right to complain if the food is cold, late, burned, raw or not what you ordered. If you order the lasagna and it's not like momma used to make, that's just too bad. If the waitress is efficient and polite and clean, but you object to her having a spiky Mohawk hairstyle, that is just too bad. You don't get to complain about the color of carpet (Yes, a customer did that) or the soft music in the background. 

Many years ago, Sweet Hubs and I went to a favorite Italian restaurant in Scottsdale. This was back when I could eat salad. :D Hubs ordered the house salad with ranch and I had a small Caesar salad as our first courses. There I was, happily munching away on my yummy salad when a tiny, green, dressing-covered lettuce bug struggled out from under a leaf of romaine.

I quietly called the waitress over and laughingly told her that we usually kill our critters before we eat them. I had already eaten enough salad (and bugs) and was saving room for my meal, so I didn't ask for anything. I just mentioned it so they could run the lettuce through the rinse again in case there were any more clingers.

The waitress was mortified and very appreciative that we weren't upset at all. The manager came out and apologized, too. They offered us a free dessert when the meal was over, and then the manager refused to let us pay for anything at all.

I don't know how that would have turned out if I had been the sort to get mean and nasty with the waitress. She probably would have offered me a cup of the minestrone instead and maybe comped either my meal or a dessert. I truly do believe that being understanding and HUMAN about the whole silly thing encouraged them to want to be generous with us.

But then, I'm not afraid of bugs. If that'd been a squirrel in my salad? Yikes!

****


People-watching

People-watching. Not to be confused with watching people. Watching people is simply something you might do when you're sitting at the airport and have run out of reading material. People-watching, on the other hand, is a sport. A hobby. Even a way of life. I am a people-watcher. Just as you might be a golfer, a vegan or a scuba diver, I am a people-watcher.

Everybody has a story. I wonder all the time, what was the story that led this person to this moment? Happy places, sad places, dysfunctional places, dangerous places...people share their story with us in glimpses of their own realities. And I wonder about it all the time.

Sweet Hubs and I were stopped at the intersection, and Hubs motioned a pedestrian to go ahead and cross. The man was half way across the street when he did this kung-fu karate chop/kick move, swirled around a couple of times and started talking to himself. He continued on his way and left me wondering.

There was a lady in the grocery store. She was wearing a pair of jeans, which had been cut into 4" squares. Then the squares were pinned together with extra-large safety pins, leaving the 2" or so of skin showing between the squares. All the way around. My word. And I thought wicker chairs leave marks on bare skin? Wow.

I see a young couple standing outside a store. I can't hear what they are saying, but their body language is screaming. She is upset and he's frustrated that she is upset. What are they fighting about? It sure looks like they've been over this ground before, judging by his posture. There's a story there. I wonder what it is.

A family sat a nearby table in a quiet little restaurant. The teenage children picked on each other in a half-loving kind of way. Dad was being very important trying to schedule his life, his flight and he next several meetings. Mom, well-groomed and very trim, was hidden behind her smart phone and completely checked out of the group. I have some ideas about what the story was there.

A sweet couple in their late seventies sat at my desk this morning. The graceful, natural way they have of interrupting each other to finish the other's sentence, the tender way he helped her stand... there's a story there, too. A beautiful story of a life shared. There are moments when the best people-watching of all is up close.

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My Place

One of our main duties on this revolving rock is to find our place on it.

Where do I fit? What is my role? What is my place in this world? What is yours?

I am the baby of my family, so my place is coddled, tolerated, dismissed, cherished and disdained, all at once. My parents were ...shall we say... mature? when I was born. They were tired. My siblings are several years older than I, so they had their own stuff going on. With busy brothers and sister and tired parents, I learned that I. Am. Not. The Center of the Universe.

I am the child of a multi-cultural family. My place is on a rolling sea of changes, traditions, foods, words and starting over.

I am the child of parents who survived The Depression and WWII. My place is a position of gratitude for all the comforts in my life. I have always had enough to eat, a safe home and life without violence.

I am the wife of a strong and loving man, living in a pretty traditional marriage. My place is to love, honor and obey, as well as to be supportive, strong, patient and passionate. Lucky me, Sweet Hubs creates a space where I can do those things.

I am a mother of two sons. My place is to know where things are, even when it isn't mine and I didn't put it anywhere. I am the human GPS locator. My place is to teach and to learn. My place is to hold on and to let go...and know when to do that.

I am one of the unique children of His creation. My place is to appreciate that role. To be the best I can be, to learn all I can, to give more than I take and never stop growing.

I am a professional woman. My place is to know my business. My place is to anticipate change, understand the past and extrapolate new solutions to new problems, without forgetting what worked in the past.

I am a writer. That's actually a little hard for me to say. I don't feel like an official "writer" yet, but I do feel like more than a wannabe. My place is to tell you a story. My place is to touch your heart, make you laugh or make you cry. My place is to take you on a trip and when the ride is over, have you say, "That was great! I wonder where we'll go next!" My place is to illuminate, inspire, intrigue or confound you. My place can often be to take you home again, through my words.

My place is to create characters you will love, or hate. My place is to create characters who you will feel you know--characters who, if you could meet them in real life, you would recognize. They should be characters with genuine humanity: flashes of brilliance and peppered with flaws. They should be characters that are smart and stupid, kind and mean, all rolled into one just like the rest of us. And since I blog, sometimes, that character..... is me!


I Love My Body

No, I'm not Heidi Klum. I still love my body. It's a little gooshy in places, heavier than it once was and it's on the short side. None of that matters. I love my body.

I love my feet. They seldom bitch about my preference for stilettos. They danced at my wedding and many other weddings, too. They paced the floor in patient labor and later walked the floor with my colicky baby. They love the feel of cool grass under them and make perfect figure-8s in the warm water of the lake. They sway absently to Michael Buble singing "Sway". They lift me on tiptoes to kiss my tall husband. I love my feet.

I love my legs that lift me, unaided, out of bed every morning. They carry me through my busy day and never give me a moment's trouble. They bend down to pet the dog and climb on a chair to reach the top shelf. They cross comfortably while I sit at my desk and tuck up under me when I'm relaxed. They bend right in the middle to kneel when I pray. I love my legs.

I love my middle. It's happy when I put the right kind of food in it, and scolds me when I break the rules.It was a safe place to grow my babies, stretching to enormous proportions...then somehow shrinking (somewhere near) back to where it was. It dips in enough to give me curves. I have an innie. I love my middle.

I love my rack. Yeah. I do. It fed my dear babies and has entertained the Sweet Hubs so many times I can't count them all. Not too little and not too big, it fits me. I love my rack.

I love my arms. They do a million things every day. They have held babies, lifted toddlers, water jugs, bags of dog food, furniture, trash cans and countless other things. They wrap perfectly around to hug someone and make people laugh when I show them my "bicep". I love my arms.

I love my hands. They are capable. Because of them, I can caress, create, clap.... and count. (har har har). They emphasize what I'm saying. They know how to do things automatically so my brain can focus on other things, like typing this post. They give me a place to go wild with cheap, blingy jewelry. My hands have touched my newborn baby's downy hair and the paper-skinned hand of my beloved Grandma. They held my father's hand as he lay dying. They trembled when Sweet Hubs slipped a golden ring on my finger and vowed to be mine, always and in all ways. They have planted and harvested, created and destroyed. They have expressed my thoughts and remained silent. They have been burned and cut, jammed and bent and sprained, and still they serve me every day.

I love my body.