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Hot Stuff

TEXAS WEATHERFor the past two years my favorite teenager has been part of the marching band at her high school. Last year near the end of the season I picked her up from a Saturday practice for the lunch break. She had just an hour before she had to be back on the field for the afternoon session. The gallon water thermos she, and most of the band members, carried filled with ice and water from home had been consumed during the morning practice. I realized that if my student was out of ice the rest of the marching band probably was too. It was easy enough to pick up 40 lbs of ice at the grocery store close to the school on our way back. It only took a few minutes to refill water jugs with ice and the chorus of “Thank you”s was enough to make all their parents proud.

Marching Band Camp is notorious for being the hottest days of the summer and this year has been no exception. My mini van recorded the temp on Wednesday as 98 in the shade! These young men and women are in the full sun on an astro turf surface from 9am-noon. When they leave the field for the lunch break I have been waiting: me and 2 rolling ice chests with 80 lbs of ice.

Today as a group of young men were walking away after filling up with ice, I overheard one ask the other “why didn’t we do this before?” The simple answer is because I didn’t think of it before. I knew they were working hard and that it was hot. I knew I was filling my daughter’s water jug with ice in the morning. But it took me a full season and almost half the second one to realize they all needed a chance to refill.

I wonder how many other little things, that could make a huge difference, are not done just because they haven’t been thought of yet.

I wonder what little things we are already doing that just need to be expanded in volume or scope.

I wonder how much the next generation could be encouraged when they are working hard in the heat of the day, pushing themselves to be better and stronger and part of something bigger than themselves.

I wonder what would happen if more people showed up with a bag of ice…or a cup of cold water…or an encouraging word. 

Who needs you to show up with a bag of ice?

Green Eggs and Ham

green eggsIf you are at all familiar with children’s literature, there is a good chance you know Sam I Am. Persistent and polite at the same time, he thought outside the box not once but dozens of times in an effort to share what he already knew was good. You also know his very stubborn friend refused each and every offer only to finally give in and discover for himself he too liked green eggs and ham.

I ask a lot of questions. And I have a lot of suggestions. I am good at thinking outside the box. I can give you a hundred things we could do with that box if you insist it be part of the solution but I’m just as happy to send the box out to the curb for recycling. What I am not good at is satisfying people who simply refuse to try or ask or look or think. Those people cannot be helped. Well, maybe they can but it probably won’t be by me.

If you are hungry, taste the green eggs and ham.
If you need help, ask.
If you don’t understand, say so.
If I can help, let me know.

But if you ask for help, accept it.
If you don’t understand, be willing to make the effort to learn.
If I can help, tell me what you want and I’ll see if I can help you out of your box.

But if you stand there with your nose in the air, there is nothing I can do. I’m having breakfast with Sam.

Monday Madness

I don’t like to be pushed. Unless you are a child in a swing, I can’t imagine anyone really likes someone bigger and stronger to put their effort into a good shove. I especially don’t like to be pushed for expressing my opinion or staying in my own lane.

opinion

One of the ever expanding opportunities to express opinion is writing reviews. The earliest reviews I am familiar with are the ones from old movies of actors waiting around in smoke filled restaurants waiting for the early morning papers to be delivered; the over dramatic actor who doesn’t want to know, but allows it to be read to him as he strikes a pose, bracing to hear the scathing words of the New York Times theater critic or the young understudy who’s whole future hangs in the balance while the Star crumples to the floor. The success or failure of the show depends on the one or two critics writing a favorable review. 

Today reviews are attached to everything. Movies and theater are a natural. Books and music come with both fan and professional evaluations. Amazon lets customers review every product they sell. Toilet paper? Yes. Bird seed? Yes. High price electronics? Yes. Now everyone with access to the internet is a reviewer. Content has been replace with Feedback as king. Free books are available if you will just read it and post a review. Fandango emails right after your movie is over to see how you liked the show!

With all these free flowing opinions two problems have emerged. The first is not all experiences are positive therefore not all reviews will be glowing endorsements. The second is that people are relying more on the experience and opinions of others instead of forming their own.

It is the first that has me writing this afternoon. Over the past month I have had extended contact with two major communication empires and one little family restaurant. All three have lost sight of customer service let alone customer satisfaction. When discussions have turned to other’s experience with the first two there is great sympathy and heads nodding in understanding at the frustration and seemingly endless process. The little restaurant, in entering the world of social media, did not have a clear understanding of how quickly they can escalate a non-issue into a very negative one.

Which leads into the second problem. Because a neutral review upset the owner of the little restaurant, a small place in an unremarkable strip mall is being discussed by people from a dozen states. My audience may not be vast but it is loyal and knowledgeable. Locals who may have never heard of it now know that the owner’s response was to tell me I was violating his intellectual property by posting a bland review on his page, that I was creating a negative vibe on the page and that I was bringing the whole thing down.

This was not a positive way to influence my opinion. It had exactly the opposite effect. A mild pass that I had forgotten about entirely was now front and center. My opinion was not only being challenged but my right to express it was being denied. I did not go out of my way to post a negative review. I had simply used the review tool on the page to leave my experience. The review stands. It has been edited to include the request of the owner.

I have declined to write reviews for books that have been provided to me free for marketing purposes. I couldn’t in good faith endorse or recommend anyone else spend time reading the material submitted. I do write rave reviews for books and anything else I enjoy and put my endorsement behind.

My opinion is just that. Mine and opinion. If someone wants my opinion to change badly enough, they will be much more successful if they understand what formed the opinion in the first place and change that first. The opinion will follow. 

The great news is you are just as free to form and have your own.

Closing Doors

jesus-at-doorMy dog Mickey was whimpering behind the closed bedroom door. He has free range of our home and often goes into our bedroom and closes the door. There is a full length mirror on the back and he likes to look at himself. It’s harmless enough. He doesn’t tear up anything or sleep on the bed. He just lays down to wait. If it takes us too long or he hears something interesting in the rest of the house, he will let us know he’s stuck. You see, Mickey doesn’t know how to open the door once he’s closed it. He never closes it completely. There is always a small space left open.

Mickey’s litter mate Minnie knows how to open the door. If she hears him, she will go give the door a push and let him out. But Minnie can only open the door from the hallway. If she is on the same side of the door as Mickey they both have a problem. Occasionally, she will stick her nose in the gap and nudge until she can get her head through. But Mickey gets in her way making it hard for either of them to get out.

The thing about doors is they are a temporary obstacle. Even the locked ones have the possibility of swinging wide open if someone has the key. They can be opened from either side. They can even be knocked down in case of emergency. Some are made of glass, giving sight but still separating the two sides and easily broken. Some are made of much sturdier material, offering obscurity and a false sense of security.

This painting was a fixture in my home as a child. It was on the front of a big heavy Bible that I remember seeing from time to time. It is often pointed out that there is no doorknob in the painting, implying it can only be opened from the inside. But even with a door knob Mickey cannot open the door and when she does open it, Minnie never uses the doorknob. I always thought if he just put his shoulder into it that door would pop open.

I think that’s part of the misconception we have about God. If He’d just put His shoulder into it He could break through our doors and rescue us from whatever door we have closed. It’s not that God is thought of as vengeful or cruel but just absent. Where is He when children suffer? Where is He when planes crash? Where is He when….? Where is He when we close the door ourselves to look in the mirror and find ourselves stuck?

Sometimes we are very much like Mickey. Other times we have the opportunity to be Minnie. Just a little push when we hear someone is stuck may be all it takes to let the door swing open and set them free to roam until the next time.

The irony of this post is that I was interrupted half way through writing it by the arrival of the cable man. I showed him the place in the backyard where the cable needs to be rerun. I showed him where the main box is. When I saw the truck pull up I had put Mickey and Minnie in my room and closed the door firmly. I wanted them secure while he was here. They made plenty of noise to let me know they were not happy about it.

After showing the cable man where the junction box is outside I said I was going back to my office while he made some phone calls. I reached for the front door knob and, you guessed it, I had locked myself out of the house. Normally, I carry my house keys with me at all times for just this reason, but this morning I hadn’t put them in my pocket. Banging on the front door and ringing the bell got the attention of the two trapped in my bedroom but failed to rouse the teenager sleeping down the hall. Fortunately her window was open and she less than cheerfully stumbled down the hall to open the front door. Coffee refilled and keys securely in my pocket I returned to my desk and the subject of doors.

This whole post began yesterday when someone firmly slammed a relationship door in my face. It was followed by another person taking up guard duty in front of said door and taking some very cheap shots at me for trying to ring the bell. All the commotion brought out some villagers who opened their doors to me and all in all I count the day a gain not a loss.

My question to end this would be what doors are you facing? Are they open or closed? Who opened or closed them? Are you waiting for someone to open it for you? Have you forgotten your keys? Have you lost your keys?

Or are you the ingenious little dog who will stick your nose in the small opening and set yourself free?

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.…”

 

 

Out, damned spot!

out damn spotOut, damned spot! out, I say! One; two: why, then, ’tis time to do ’t. Hell is murky! Fie, my lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account? Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?

Since Lady M there have been issues with spot removal. Today I stumbled upon one that so clearly illustrated what I consider to be a major social ill in America. Personal responsibility.

I have a regular neighborhood dry cleaner. I have been a steady customer there for almost a dozen years. I like the 1950′s wife feeling I get when I pick up my husband’s work shirts all freshly laundered and lightly starched. I take my winter comforter in to be cleaned each spring and my summer comforter in to be cleaned each fall. They are also my first stop after buying new jeans. They can do a hem that is undetectable from the original.

Today I was dropping off shirts and slacks and taking in a special project. As the shirts and slacks were counted and  the ticket printed out an older woman came in with her already cleaned items. Since I expected my special project to take a few minutes to explain and price, I let the nice woman behind the counter help the older woman while I waited. With a thick Russian accent the older woman demanded the dry cleaners re-clean her two skirts. She had picked them up, paid for the cleaning and didn’t look at them until she got home where she saw a stain on each skirt in roughly the same place. The dry cleaner explained in an equally heavy Asian accent that the stains had been spot treated but because they had been on the fabric too long they were deeply set before being brought in.

The customer became more agitated, accusing the dry cleaner of not telling her the stains would not come out when she brought them in the first time. The dry cleaner explained again that she had done all she could to remove the stains but offered to try again. The customer kept trying to blame the dry cleaner. Then she made the mistake of looking to me for support. She said “what am I supposed to do? Throw them away?” I said, “That’s up to you. You spilled something on both skirts. You waited until it was convenient to bring them in and now you expect the cleaner to fix what you ruined. It’s not her fault you stained them. She did everything she knows to remove stains. She’s even willing to try again to satisfy you. If you aren’t happy don’t wear them.”

At that point, I had the full attention of both women. I don’t think either had expected me to say anything. But if you know me at all, you know I will not stand by and watch someone berated for doing their best by someone who is taking no responsibility for their own actions.

The customer spoke first “She never told me it wouldn’t come out!”

“You stained them. She’s trying to clean the mess you made.”

“Well, if you think you can get it out….”

“I try. I try. Monday, ok?”

“It will have to be.” The customer took her receipt and left the two skirts.

The dry cleaner waited until the door closed and said, “Thank you so much. It’s hard to get some people to understand. Some stains don’t come out.”

We went on to discuss my special project. She was very knowledgeable and offered me a 20% discount on the job. She will call me if she has any problems with it. It’s a crazy cleaning request.

How often do we focus on the stain, refusing to take responsibility and expecting someone else to fix it?

How often do we say “no one told me”?

How often do we set impossible high standards for others with no room for grace?

How often do we push because we are the customer and “the customer is always right”?

Disposable Days

disposableFor some today will be totally forgettable. Just another day filled with meaningless activities or mindless entertainment.

For some today is the most important day of their life, a turning point, a course correction, a pinnacle.

For some today is the end.

Some will live today savoring every moment, capturing every word or glance or feeling to relive in memory a thousand times over.

Some will say words they wish they never had and other have unspoken words that will remain that way.

For the young there is the illusion that there are plenty of days ahead.

For the old there is the reality that there are more days behind.

While everyday does not have to be packed with people and activity and meaning it is far too precious to be just tossed away because it carries the label….Monday.

One Day

lsu-lsu-football-26603825-550-256Half of the college football teams who played today won.

And half lost.

But most college football players spent today wishing they were on the field instead of home watching on tv.

The chance to play comes to each of us every day.

Some days we will win.

Some days we will lose.

But everyday we have a chance to play.

Each and every one of those young athletes will tell you playing comes with hard work and dedication and, yes, some pain.

But they have the heart for the game and they would rather lose on the field than watch from the sidelines any day.

Do you have the heart?

Are you ready to do the hard work?

Are you dedicated?

Are you ready to take the field, win or lose, and play your best?

 

How To Loose 100 Lbs in 24 Hours

Got your attention? Good.

100lbs_balloonsI challenge you to get out your bathroom scales.

Put it in the middle of your living room.

Put a cardboard box on it.

Now fill the box with stuff you don’t need anymore.

How much does it weigh?

Now put a large garbage bag on the scale.

Dump in all of the junk that no one wants.

How much does it weigh?

Not up to 100 lbs yet?

Keep going.

One box and one bag at a time.

Now take those boxes to Goodwill and take the garbage bags to the curb.

You can loose 100 lbs in 24 hours.

Go on. You know you want to.

Cookie Cutters…

images (5)are great if you are baking cookies. But not if you are being creative. By it’s very nature creativity is not uniform. It is individual. Even if it starts with a common theme or media or even a pattern. Creativity takes on the perspective, the strengths and the flaws of the creator. It is the uniqueness, the rarity, the personal that makes it beautiful and valuable.

Right now on the internet there are millions of bloggers who write on every topic imaginable. They add their experience, their perspective, their opinions and they take the collective risk to hit the publish button and set their words free. Some have thousands of followers and others write day after day without a single comment or maybe even a single reader.

But each is finding their own way, each is writing their own words. You can get a template for your blog. You can add the recommended plugins and widgets. You can follow the “3 points and a picture” format. But what is totally you is the words you chose and the words you chose to omit.

There are a couple of dozen bloggers I read regularly but none of their blogs is as important to me as mine is. I can read their words but only I can write mine.

Who wants a cookie?

Liver and Onions

Years ago as a single mother I would save up enough to take my son out for dinner. He would get to choose whatever he wanted from the menu while I was doing the same. When the orders were placed he told the server what he had decided on. It was his choice and he expressed it clearly. However, when the meals arrived he would look at his plate with the food he had chosen and look at my plate and the food I had chosen. Suddenly, he didn’t want what he had asked for. He wanted what I had ordered. Since I wasn’t about to waste food or money I would trade with him. Until one night I ordered what really sounded good to me. Liver and onions. It came with mashed potatoes and peas. He no longer wanted to trade.

liver-and-onions-with-spuds-and-gravyThe thing is I didn’t order liver and onions because he would eat it if he didn’t like his own order. I ordered liver and onions because I like liver and onions. It really was what I wanted. No object lesson. I didn’t suffer through my dinner. I enjoyed it. He sat eating his dinner amazed that I actually liked my dinner. The waitress had asked us both same question, “What would you like?” and we both had answered. We both got what we asked for. I was very satisfied with my decision and my dinner. He had to accept that what he asked for and got was good.

How often do you want to trade with someone because you are not satisfied with what you asked for?

How often are you bewildered by someone being happy with a decision that is not your taste?

How do you like your liver and onions?

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