Just Say No

While it is not a bad idea for people to just say no to things like drugs, alcohol, and tobacco; that is not what I will be discussing with you today.  I want to talk about the lame excuses that people offer up to us instead of simply saying the magical two letter word.

Example: Liz calls up her friend Kathy and asks if she wants to go see a particular movie the next day. Kathy doesn’t want to see the movie with Liz even though she and Liz are friends.  Perhaps, Kathy just wants to spend the evening at home, or she doesn’t think she will enjoy that particular film. It could be that she doesn’t like watching movies with Liz because Liz chats throughout the movie, something that both Kathy and other movie goers doesn’t like. There are a zillion reasons why Kathy may not want to go to the movie on that particular day or with Liz, yet if Kathy is like most people she won’t simply say no.  Unless she already has a commitment for the following evening the odds are that she will make an excuse.

Why do so many of us struggle so much with that simple little word?  I only know one person that has refined this skill into an art form.  A friend, that I won’t call by name, (you know who you are) will simply, yet politely, decline an invitation by honestly saying, “I don’t want to do that.”  I don’t get my feelings hurt, in part because I am an adult, also because I know I can be just as frank with her when I turn down an invitation. It is so much simpler this way.

Another reason most of us struggle with saying no is that we don’t want to hurt a person’s feelings.  If Kathy tells Liz she doesn’t like how she chats nonstop during movies it is possible that Kathy will get angry.  It could damage or even end the friendship. Perhaps, Liz has never had anyone tell her this before and if made aware of the issue she might change her ways. Tough Call.

Another reason could be that while Kathy doesn’t want to go to the movies the next day she hesitates to say no because she fears that Liz will not ask again in the future. Fear of rejection is the number one reason that lots of people struggle to say no.

In recent years I have noticed a trend where instead of saying no, people just avoid giving any response at all.  I am dubbing a new name for this, let’s call it selective ghosting.  Almost everyone has experienced this a time or two, or 200.  You send out an email asking people on your team to let you know if they can attend and assist with an upcoming event that your mutual organization is sponsoring.  Some will say yes, a few may tell you why they must decline and the rest will make less noise than crickets. They know that it would be easier for you to proceed if they would just act as an adult and say no, but they won’t do it.  Do they fear you will hound them or try to change their minds? I can only speak for myself; I don’t have the time, energy or inclination to hound someone about volunteering. I take their no as a no. But I need them to cough it up.

The same kind of thing happens with text messages and voice mail. I know there are exceptions, everyone forgets once in awhile.  But I suspect about 90% of the time it is selective ghosting and it is, at best, highly frustrating.

There are also people that prefer to make you regret contacting them at all.  I know a few of these and I admit their tactics work. It goes something like this:  After you send out the email or text the person asks you to call. You do as asked but you get voicemail or worse you hear this, “The party you have dialed has a voice-mail-box that has not been set up. Goodbye.”  If you are one of those folks just realize that you are not fooling anyone. You;re screening your calls. There is nothing inherently bad about screening calls unless you use it because you are not adult enough to say no.  Later, you reach out again to the person or they call you back and they start in telling you about their third cousin’s new baby and how they have been busy with helping decorate the nursery and that they have been working long hours and their cat just got neutered and shouldn’t be left alone.  They are waiting for the cable company to call, while they bake cupcakes for P.T.A and their fibromyalgia is acting up. They pepper the conversation with little comments about how they are interested in whatever it is you are suggesting as to string you along. Eventually, you get so tired of listening to them going on about Aunt Ethel’s gallbladder surgery that you just say no for them. They make you so sorry that you asked them and waste so much of your time that you promise yourself to never ask them again. 

A couple of years ago I was doing some freelance work for a magazine.  The editor called me and was interested in an article about The March of Dimes.  He was hoping I knew a local person that was involved with this charity so that the interview would have a personal flare.  I informed him that I did know such a person and that I could take the assignment.

The lady I had in mind had been a pretty good friend in years past when we were both involved in a social group.  She was always very active in raising money for March of Dimes and I had always contributed as generously as I could when I received her annual appeal in the mail.  The social group we had both been involved in had dismantled a few years prior and while our paths seldom crossed, I still considered her to be at least a good acquaintance.  

I called her office and left a message with her secretary asking that she return my call.  Two days later when I had not heard from her I sent a message via Facebook messenger. No Luck.

I few more days went by and my deadline was inching closer.  I again called her office and again had to leave a message to which she didn’t reply.

The next day I saw her husband while working out at the gym. I told him about the magazine article and asked if he would relay the message to her.  I also added that if she was just to busy to grant me a twenty minute interview then I understood but my deadline was approaching and I really hoped to hear from her, even if it was just for her to say no.  Nothing. Not so much as a cricket chirp. I had to call my editor and apologize that I couldn’t write the story because my “friend” was ghosting me. I didn’t count on the pay from my freelance work to make ends meet but it was a missed opportunity and payment.

About a year later I started seeing campaign signs for this lady.  She was running for office. As the election day drew closer I would sometimes see her, her husband or even her teenage kids out knocking on doors asking for votes.  What was I going to say if one of them approached me?

I decided an appropriate response would go something like. “Yes, I have seen Betty’s (not her real name) campaign signs. By the way, you (she) never got back with me about that article I was trying to write about how she always worked so hard supporting March of Dimes.  I would have thought she would welcome positive press.” I would wait for whatever excuse she or one of her family members would conjure up while sitting on the hot seat. If they continued to pursue having me verbally commit my vote to her I would tell them that her not returning my call to even say no made me concerned that she would not be a voice for the people she would represent in office.  I would not vote for her.

When the election rolled around I didn’t forget.

That scenario was only slightly nerve-racking when it played out in my imagination.  It was different when two days later someone rang my doorbell. It wasn’t her or her husband, but some relative that I didn’t know.  He quickly handed me a campaign card and said she would appreciate my vote. He didn’t ask if I would vote for her and I simply took the card.  

Later that same week I showed up at a small community event. I spotted Betty’s husband who was milling around asking people to vote for his wife.  I tried to casually stay out of his radar, but after awhile I turned around and there he was. He was more direct and after a few pleasantries he abruptly asked if he and Betty could count on my support.

I didn’t say yes, but I totally wimped out.  I tried asking about their triplets, if he was still going to the same gym, blah, blah.  I talked around the question and lost my nerve.  

I admit it. I am a chicken and at times have difficulty saying no. I didn’t promise my vote but I also didn’t actually say, “No, I will not vote for her.” I didn’t vote for her, end of story.

How do you handle being selectively ghosted?  Can you say no regardless of the circumstances? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Happy Labor Day, especially to all of you that will clock in at your work place without a day off. I appreciate you and hope that you at least earn time and a half for your loyalty.

Photo Credit to the following; Max Kleinen, Andy Tootell, Element 5, Gemma Evens and Patrick Tomasso and Heiko Haller


Let Us Pray…in school?

Pardon me a moment while I put on some protective gear. It may be needed once this post becomes public. Okay, now that I am suited up in Kevlar, tucked away in my safe room, and brandishing my weapons, let’s talk about prayer in school. (Next week I will move on from school related posts.)

I am a Catholic Christian, and as I have said before, make no apologies for that.  The reason that I add the, “no apology part,” is that I live in a place where being Christian is the norm but many don’t accept Catholics as being Christian.

Before I get around to my personal opinion on the matter let’s quickly review why prayer in public school is such a hot topic to both those that are opposed and those that are in favor.

Those in Favor Claim: *

 School prayer would allow students an opportunity to observe their religious beliefs during the school day.

Schools must do more than train children’s minds academically. They must also nurture their souls and reinforce the values taught at home and in the community.

A simple and voluntary school prayer does not amount to the government establishing a religion, any more than do other practices common in the U.S. such as the employment of Congressional chaplains or government recognition of holidays with religious significance and National Days of Prayer.

To ban school prayer diminishes the religious freedom of students who would like to pray.

Those Opposed Claim* 

School prayer violates the separation of church and state clause of the Constitution

School prayer is inherently coercive and cannot be implemented in a way that is truly voluntary.

Prayer in school is already legal. Students are already allowed to pray on a voluntary, non-disruptive way. 

The public school system is created for all students and supported by all taxpayers. It should therefore remain neutral on religious issues over which students and taxpayers will differ.

My Two Cents Worth

I honestly don’t understand why this topic is so prone to causing argument and division.  First of all, prayer has not been banned in public schools. I know of several schools in my area where voluntary, student initiated and student lead prayer circles are held on a regular basis.  Staff are present at these times because any student activity at school must be monitored for safety.  At one particular school, I know that staff often volunteer to be present during prayer circle time because they know that just being there demonstrates their support. Also note that monitoring students during prayer circle time is done on a voluntary basis; no teacher is assigned to this as a required duty.

Let’s talk about the part of the Constitution that mandates a “separation of church and state.”  Have you read that document recently? The Constitution does not address this topic. That comment  about separation of church and state was made by Thomas Jefferson is a letter to the Danbury, Connecticut Baptists.

What the U.S. Constitution does say is, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Sound familiar?  Our country was founded in large part because people wanted freedom to practice their faith even if it wasn’t totally in line with the reining government. They didn’t want the politics or politicians controlling their spiritual lives; I don’t either (Can I get an amen?).  The other part is that the government can’t prohibit the free exercise of religion. I never want that to change either (Can I get another amen?).

I know there are some people reading this that will claim that back when the school day was opened with a teacher led prayer we didn’t have all the problems we have today.  Mass shootings have become common, drug use is destroying lives more than any other time in history and people in general (not just kids) are more disengaged from one another.  Is the absence of teacher lead prayer related to the increase in our society’s problems or is it that fewer families. I say no, the two are not connected.

According to self reporting through the Gallup pole questions, 40% of Americans report regular church attendance. The actual percentage is below 20%.* It is no longer reasonable to expect public schools to reinforce the values that children are taught at home because in truth there is a significant number of parents that are better at lip service than they are about teaching morality and character to their little ones.

We are a diverse nation and not every home embraces the same moral compass.  Those that smirk and say, “Well, they should.” would quickly change their minds if it turned out that what was taught wasn’t in line with their own idea of what is scrupulous. 

Several years back I was talking with a group of educators and the topic of school prayer came up.  I tried to hold my tongue (I was only one of two Catholic Christians in a staff of almost 100) as they all seemed to agree that teacher lead prayer would make a positive difference in the students and thus the community and the country.

While I tried to refrain from sharing my opinion my mind wandered to the the time my son was young and he came to me very distraught.  I learned his friend Michael had informed him (according to Michael’s mother) that he would be going to Hell after he died as would his entire family.  Michael had been taught that Catholics worship idols and are not real Christians.  

I had to say something yet I didn’t want to offend these ladies; several I considered to be friends. I wanted to make them think.  I started by asking a clarifying question. “Are you saying that you think it would be good for us to start our day with teacher lead prayer?”  

The neighbor that had told her child, who in turn told my son that his family would spend eternity in Hell certainly wasn’t a person that I wanted to lead a prayer that my child would have to hear. This neighbor earned her paycheck teaching in the district schools.

My next question cut to the chase. “How would you feel about me leading the students in reciting the “Hail Mary” prayer?”  Their eyes grew wide and jaws fell slightly slack, followed by two seconds of pregnant silence. Finally, one person mumbled, “That would be different, you can’t do that.”  The bell rang and the school day started.  

I know of at least three of these banners displayed at private residences in my city and a couple more at local businesses. I love the message!

They never discussed the topic again in my presence, although I would venture to say they did revisit it in my absence.  I hope they thought more about my question. My intention wasn’t to divide, but to give reason to reflect on how respect should be granted to all, not just to those that pray the same way that we do.

I value prayer, it is an important part of my life.  I can pray anytime and anywhere that I want to communicate with my God. Sometimes that is when I am at church, other times I may be at home, driving my vehicle, at a restaurant or even in a school.  What’s amazing is that this privilege doesn’t discriminate; it is available to any American that chooses to enjoy it. The Constitution has it covered, let’s not mess with it.

Please share your thoughts (prayers are welcome too) in the comments or feel free to email me at 3rsof50plus@gmail.com. May the peace of the Lord be with you.


*Information regarding the pros and cons of school prayer was gleaned from allabouthistory.org

**churchleaders.com

Thanks to the following for providing photographs; Ben White, NEonbrand, David Beale, and yours truly

The Unwritten Rules for Back to School

The rules have changed and there is a good chance you don’t know what they are.  I’m not talking about rules such as no running in the hallway, raise your hand, and wait to be called on before speaking, or even the no bullying policy.  I am talking about the unwritten rules that no one talks about.  

Rule 1.  Not all kids get treated the same by teachers and administrators.  If you are thinking that well behaved kids get treated better; you aren’t totally wrong, but if you think it stops there then you are missing the big picture. Gone are the days when school employees went out of their way to avoid doing anything that might prompt others to say their child was receiving special attention or privileges. The higher a student’s  parent is in the chain of command the more perks the child is likely to receive. Like every rule, this one has exceptions, but they are more rare than most realize or care to admit. The other kids notice it but most don’t say anything; they realize that there would be no point. What message does this send?

Special treatment is also extended to the kids that have parents that can keep the school looking good in the public eye.  Like it or not school’s are businesses and need to maintain their public image. If a child’s parent(s) works for the local newspaper or other major media source then the school will try harder to keep them happy. After all, administrators never know when they will need to play their, “don’t make this public card.”  School’s can’t avoid having their test scores published; but they can, sometimes, keep the fact that an elementary child brought a loaded gun to school at the rumor level rather than public knowledge. Yes, I’m serious.

Local policy makers, elected officials and friends of school administration are among other groups that can reasonably expect special favors. You are accustomed to this sort of thing in the business world where the most qualified person isn’t always the one hired or promoted.  It is the same type of behavior, but its kids that are getting short-changed. It is part of the learning process, reading, arithmetic and life isn’t fair.

If you doubt that this is accurate, I challenge you to think of the best teacher in your child’s school. You know the one, loves kids, loves learning, and has a real talent for teaching; the one that all the kids and their parents hope to get when the child reaches the particular level or subject taught by this professional. Take a look at who the students are in that class and the influence of their parents. Coincidence had nothing to do with the names on the roster.

Rule 2  If your child has an invisible disability they are at higher risk to be bullied by their fellow students (and staff). Frequently TV, movies and books try to show the bullied kid as being handicapped in a way that is obvious, such as the child that uses a wheelchair or having a profound learning disability.  The reality is that these kids usually fly under the bullying radar and classmates typically just leave them alone. Being left out is far from ideal, but it beats being taunted or tortured. Kids with severe illnesses, the one going through chemo and has lost all their hair, or the one one a special diet due to a chronic condition, are likewise not prime targets for bullying. In fact, their classmates may be protective of them and treat them with extra care and compassion.

  The kids at greatest risk of being bullied are the ones that look like all the rest, but are still different.  The kid with ADHD or tourettes, the one on the high end of the autism spectrum or the kid that is just socially awkward, these are the ones at greatest risk. Sometimes, they are different is a way that defies explanation to both kids and adults. Both kids and adults often fail to demonstrate empathy when they don’t understand the reasons a person acts the way they do. In some cases teachers know about the underlying reasons for a kid’s quirkiness but they can’t reveal this sensitive information to the class. Even if they could offer an explanation to the quirky kid’s peers it wouldn’t guarantee empathy on the part of the classmates. If you parent such a child know it isn’t going to be easy for them or for you.

   Consider having a teacher or counselor speak to the students or share a book that explores your child’s particular condition.  Giving classmates the facts can build empathy. If you decide to go this route I recommend an in-depth discussion with the teacher or counselor ahead of time.  The person that leads this discussion must be prepared to answer difficult questions in a non-judgmental manner. It is also important to include your child in preliminary planning and if the child doesn’t want anyone to talk with the class then their privacy should be honored.  Again, this is something that you may consider, but I am in no way saying it is appropriate in all circumstances.

Teachers are human and they will relate better to certain children than they do to others.  Most try to be fair. There will be kids that will, intentionally or not, push certain teacher’s frustration buttons.  Some of those staff members will be less patient than others. When the kid that gets picked on is also the kid that annoys the teacher on a regular basis then it fans the flames of bullying.  Yes, the teacher is the adult and should be expected to keep his/her emotions in check, but can anyone, in any job, leave their emotions at home? On going, serious effort is essential and some schools have a climate that makes it okay when effort is lacking on the part of the adults. 

Rule 3  Many of us grew up in a time when if you got in trouble at school then you got in more trouble at home. It is still ideal when school and home communicate and work as as team. Time is a big part of the communication break down. Use caution in letting the school handle more substantial issues in regards to your child’s discipline and education.  If you aren’t willing to step up to the plate for your child then you might as well send the school an affidavit stating they can treat your child in any manner they choose. The staff knows who they must coddle, and who they can disregard. That said, remember that no child is perfect, not even yours. Don’t choose to fight every battle as you will get frustrated and your child will be labeled, “that kid with the crazy parent,” but know when to step in.

Prevention will go a long way is such matters, and your best defense is to be a familiar face to school employees. If your career or community status doesn’t make you well known within your community, then be sure to show your face at school both during school hours and at school sponsored events. Chat with staff and schmooze away. Personally, I despise schmoozing and I didn’t go that route, but fair or unfair, love it or hate it, it makes a difference.

When your child has a complaint your first job as parent or guardian is to listen to them.  Pay attention and ask questions for clarification as needed. There may not be a way for them to prove their claim, but you should still ask things such as, who witnessed the event, where did it happen, and what action the teacher or administrator has already taken.

If the school reaches out to you about an infraction committed by your child it is a mistake to automatically believe everything you are told.  The same questions of who witnessed the action and how things are being handled are still appropriate. After getting information from the school, talk with your child about what happened. I recall a time I chewed out my son after receiving an email from his  middle school team leader that said he had been in a fight and that another student’s shirt had been ripped from their body. The real story was that my son and his friend were play fighting, not a single punch thrown by either of them. When I finally got to the bottom of it, I learned that my son’s version was the truth. The other student put my kid in a headlock and in doing so his shirt was raised high enough to expose his abdomen.  The boys picked a poor location to play in this manner but it was the teacher, followed by the team leader that exaggerated what happened and made it sound violent. There had been no fight, no one had their shirt torn, much less torn from their body. Teachers gripe about drama in the middle school but in this case they created it.

Remember, write down what happened according to your child and others. Name names, date it and let it be known you have it. Don’t threaten anyone, that won’t help, simply referring to your notes as you talk to the admin will get the point across in an efficient manner. Hang onto your notes and anything in writing from the school. If the school employees continue to treat your child unfairly; you may need that documentation.

Rule 3  Talk to the Boss. When there is a significant problem you need to jump line and head straight to the administration. They would prefer you talk first to the teacher but that isn’t in your child’s best interest. The principal should be your first contact, unless it is a very severe event, in which case you may want to start with the superintendent. Engage in a non-threatening conversation and expect the same in return.  When they say they can’t name other kids names or tell you about another kids consequences, they really can’t. It’s frustrating, but true. They also have to honor the same in regards to your child; be sure they do.

Before anything happens to prompt you to have to request an audience with the principal, and hopefully you will never need to do that, listen to your child. When/if your child or grandchild talks to you about things that aren’t fair at school your first job is to listen without judging or asking too many questions.  Remember that kids sometimes embellish the story. Usually they do this because they fear that just the truth won’t be strong enough on it’s own to grab your attention. After they share their concern talk about their feelings. What do they think should happen? How do they feel about it? Who saw it, other kids, other staff? Many times the child just wants to be heard.

I wanted to close this entry by saying that most students enjoy school but I didn’t find enough evidence to support such a claim.  According to Web MD, “75% off students express negative emotions about school.” Forbes magazine reports, “Upwards of 40% of all high school students are chronically disengaged.”  Student’s report through questions on the NAEP, National Assessment of Educational Progress, that only 49% of fourth graders enjoy school and by eighth grade it falls to 26% .

Ready or not it’s time for school. Give your babies a hug and tell them you love them. Really listen when they talk to you, and in the words of song-writer Cat Stevens remember, “Oh baby, baby, it’s a wild world.”

Thanks to the following that allowed the use of their photographs: Josh Applegate, Nicole Honeywill, Chinh Le Duc, and Element 5.

Nothing is Confidential

I recently received the letter that you that see in the picture below. There is a good chance you have had similar ones show up in your mailbox. This one was addressed to me, not current resident, and it had my address. Please note, I have never purchased a KIA or done business with any of the “Don Franklin Family of Dealerships.” I wondered how they got my name and address even though I didn’t imagine it would be anything like rocket science.

Knowing that my personal information is available to purchase does make me wonder why I bothered to ink it out..

I opened it up, and as expected, they were hoping to lure me into purchasing a new vehicle from their dealership. I typically drive a vehicle about 10 years; since the one in my garage is a 2017, I was poised to drop the letter into the recycle bin when I noticed the amounts they quoted regarding my monthly payment and my remaining loan balance were both within a few dollars of being spot on. HUH?

I consider such information private and felt very annoyed that they had somehow managed to acquire personal information, that in the not too distant past, wouldn’t have been accessible without my permission.

I further noticed that the attached post-it-note was handwritten, not just made to look that way, and signed by someone named Marc. I concluded that if it is okay for Marc to know so much about me that I would give him a call; after all he gave me the number so it was practically an invitation.

This could be Marc. Marc is a hard worker. That is why his team members field his calls on his behalf. Be like Marc!

I grabbed my phone and tapped in 877-346-9308 (feel free to call Marc yourself) or you can also dial 606-679-1177. A chipper sounding woman answered the phone informing me that they were having a great day at Don Franklin Kia. I asked to speak with Marc, and after asking the chipper lady a few questions, also managed to learn that he holds a position in management. Ms. Chipper made me tell her what my call was regarding. Only then did she say that Marc was out for the rest of the day in a meeting (my guess is the meeting was on the 19th hole). She graciously offered to let me speak with a member of his team. I refrained from sarcastic remarks about which team that might be, major league, minor league or pee-wee; instead I told her I really preferred to speak directly to Marc and that I didn’t mind calling the next day.

I jotted down a few notes for my future chat with Marc. I would be sure to use my “professional voice” and have my ducks in a row. It’s always good to point out a persons strengths so I decided I would tell Marc that I was impressed with the accuracy of the numbers. I imagined saying, “You folks at Kia really do your homework.”

Next, I thought I would start down the path that would eventually lead me to the answers I sought. I planned to comment that I was disappointed that they were only prepared to offer an interest rate of 0.9% since they surely already knew my credit score and that my current interest rate is 0.0%.

I thought I would ask Marc to tell me more about their offer and why it would be a sound decision for me. I was curious what he would find to say about it being a wise financial decision. Ha!

I expected, by that point, Marc would be pretty sure that I didn’t really want to buy one of the vehicles at Don Franklin Kia (by the way, you can also call them at 877-346-9308) and that I best move in for the “kill.” In the interest of trying to decide what is best for me I would say I wanted to compare my loan, payment and interest rate with Marc.

“So Marc, How much do you owe on your vehicle and what is the interest rate?” I would expect Marc to balk or to work around my question; at which point I would ask why He thinks is is okay for Don Franklin Kia to buy my credit information without my permission and then make it available to him and his team. In the interest of fairness shouldn’t I know about his personal finances too? Since Marc is part of a team I would hope he values a level playing field.

I called the next day; when the same cheery lady answered the phone I asked to speak to Marc. I suppose she remembered my “professional voice” and asked if it was in regards to the letter I received and if I had called the day before. She asked me to hold and I wasn’t surprised when Marc didn’t come on the line; the call was picked up by a lady named Johnnie. I told Johnnie that they must have put my call through to the wrong person because I had asked to speak with Marc. She said his team usually takes calls on his behalf (perhaps he was still on the golf course).

I talked to Johnnie, she is on Marc’s team.

I started the intended conversation with Johnnie, however, she sounded young and I thought she was probably some poor kid working on straight commission hoping to buy something besides Ramen on her next grocery trip. I took it easy on her. I never asked her about her car loan or it’s interest rate.

Before we got off the phone I told her that my intention was to let them know that I did not appreciate their way of doing business, or any other company that would stoop to purchasing people’s “private” financial information. I acknowledged that they couldn’t buy it if company’s like Experion, Equifax and Trans Union were not selling it.

She politely told me that there was a number on the back of my letter that I could call to opt out of future letters of this kind. I knew that, but what else could Johnnie say? Of course, when I dialed that number there was no option to talk to a real person, it took over ten minutes to work through the automated system and then I was asked for my social security number. WHAT?? I decided to put in a bogus number that would spell out my thoughts about them and their system. I looked at the letters rather than the numbers I tapped out 382-59-6800. The zeros were added only to complete the fake social. I hoped someone would figure it out.

I can’t stop Experion, Equifax and Trans Union from selling my information even though I wish I could. The only thing I can do is call the people that buy it, waste some of their time and inform them that the actions of their company (Don Franklin Family of Dealerships) has guaranteed that I will never do business with them. If they get enough consumers calling them with the same complaint perhaps they will stop paying for our credit information and the Equifax, Experion, Trans Union and the others will have to find some way other than prostituting others information to make money.

Those numbers again are, 877-346-9308 or 606-679-1177, ask for Marc

I wonder if Marc is somewhere in this picture?

I appreciate the following for their use of their photos: Court Prather, Neon Brand, David Clode, Yours Truly and Google Images where the picture of Don Franklin Kia has no notation of it’s images being protected under copyright.

He’s Talking and Can’t Shut-up!

Just to set the record straight, I am not referring to people that love to have conversations.  I adore an intellectually or fun conversation. I am talking about people that really seem to lack the ability or perhaps self-control to stop themselves from talking.  I have known at least four of these folks very well and three are relatives. The key difference with the non-related gabbster is that, unlike family, I eventually chose to break ties with her.  I have also had a few dates with men that make others suffer from their talking affliction.

 I will start with a chatty guy whom I had the misfortune of spending an evening.  The scene played out something along these lines. I have never been out with a man named Zeke, so I will call this fictional, representative example dude,  Zeke. Zeke represents my loquacious dates from Hell.

 Zeke and I agree to meet for dinner since going to a movie or other type of show would not allow for conversation and a chance to get to know one another better.  The date starts normal enough with us greeting each other and he offers one of the standard compliments that men like to give to women. “You look great, or pretty or hot or some other meaningless adjective, but he is being polite and I appreciate that.  As the host walks us to our table Zeke engages him or her in a brief friendly chat asking them something along the lines of if they were having a good day or if they have worked long at this location. Thoughts  pop into my head that he is a friendly person that likes to be considerate to folks that work in the service industry. Zeke earns a brownie point. Initially, I don’t notice too much about how he doesn’t really wait for the host’s response but proceeds to tell them some kind of short tale about himself that lasts until after we are seated and doesn’t stop until the host finally spews out the name of our server and how they will be with us in just a moment as they make a quick escape.  I write the Chatty-Cathy verbalization off to first date nervousness and even appreciate the time to calm my own first date jitters.

 Zeke turns his attention to me and asks a question about something like my line of work, hobbies, interests, kids….typical get to know you inquiries that also imply genuine interest.  Zeke has just earned his final brownie point. My first cue should have been that I didn’t get to finish my first sentence because Zeke’s eye’s lit up as if new synapses in his brain have just found the cure for cancer.

  Before retiring I made my living as a professional counselor so I became quite adept in the art of active listening.  I didn’t even have to remind myself to focus and make mental notes about the things he enjoys, his accomplishments, his kids, his ex, his car, his job, his hobbies and all of his other stuff.  I briefly had thoughts of things that I could add to the conversation but would soon push those thoughts aside and return my focus to Zeke’s babble. Again, I blame part of this on my profession and training to focus on the other person.  Just because this was a date rather than a therapy session switching gears doesn’t come naturally. I think it is a lot like the way judges and cops don’t like to sit with their backs to the door and chefs can’t help but identify the seasoning and herbs swirled into dishes prepared by others.  Sometimes even random people at places like ball parks tell me all kinds of things that I didn’t need or want to know. My ex-husband used say I had a little neon sign over my head that I couldn’t see but the unstable of the world could clearly read as saying, “Free therapy.”

Most of us know the torture of feeling we are being held captive by an incessant talker

 By the time the check arrives Zeke wants to make plans for a second date while all I want to do is resist the overwhelming urge to poke myself repeatedly in the temple with a fork and escape to my own, very quiet home.  The best thing about Zeke is that, unlike family, I can avoid him. I have met more Zeke’s than I care to recall.

Back to relatives.   I don’t remember my sister being overly loquacious as a child.  But when she popped back into the family after disappearing for years (we later learned she was vacationing at “Club Fed”) she had developed a quite impressive talent for talking without the need of pause to inhale, chew, swallow or even drink.  Thank the Lord she lived 60 miles away and my parents knew to not share my address. Seriously, it was that bad.

 At first I would answer all her phone calls.  I still had landline back then and limited cell phone minutes so the call typically ended when my cordless handset was totally drained of battery and I felt equally lifeless.  All I had to say was hello and every twenty minutes or so bleat out an uh-huh or a hmm. I suppose she liked having me listen and the calls became more frequent.

Due to the inate human desire to survive I learned a few tactics to shorten the calls,  My favorite was to open my own front door and ring the doorbell. I could then blurt out, “There is someone at the door, I’ll talk to you later”.  She wouldn’t stop talking to say goodbye but it helped ease my guilt when I would click the off button and return the handset to it’s cradle.

 That,  along with a few other tricks, helped until she caught on and started returning the call just moments later.  Once in desperation I answered telling her that my husband and I were trying to have sex for the first time in a very long time and asked that she not call back for several hours.  She didn’t miss a beat and informed me that in twenty minutes not only would we be finished but I would be showered and making dinner while he either napped or sat like a toad in front of a football game.  I sadly realized that if we had actually been about to do the deed her time frame would have been spot on. That was when I quit answering her calls and praised the Lord for whoever invented caller I.D.

 About 2 months later I felt guilty for not talking to her.  I reasoned that she was lonely and I needed to be more compassionate and I answered the phone.  Had she asked why I had not been taking her calls I was prepared to sarcastically remind her that my husband and I were having sex.  She didn’t ask and immediately started to pour her verbal vomit into the airwaves. In desperation I put the phone down on the coffee table and went on with my house cleaning.  

 I truly felt bad when thirty minutes later I walked back into the living room and remembered the phone.  I picked it up to click it off and heard a voice. It wasn’t the Lord admonishing me for my rudeness it was my sister’s voice coming through the phone.  She had not even noticed that I wasn’t listening!

 I experienced an epiphany moment!  I said a quick mmm and put the phone back on the coffee table.  I got dressed to go to the gym, put the dishes in the dishwasher and after wiping down the countertops I again picked up the phone.  She was still going strong. I interrupted her announcing, “I need to go to the gym”. When she continued on as if I had said nothing I simply put the phone back on the table, picked up my gym bag and my car keys and went on with my life.  At some point while struggling on the stair climber I wondered how long she would talk before she would realize the battery on my phone had failed, or maybe she wouldn’t notice and would continue to relish the confabulation.

 I wonder if this could be hereditary.  An aunt from my father’s side of the family has tried to reconnect.  She sent a Facebook message letting me know she wanted me to tell her about how my niece had found her biological father.  This was more recent and I made the call from my cell phone while also walking my dog.

 She let me say two, possibly three sentences and then she opened the flood gates that must  have been holding back years, perhaps decades of words. After thirty minutes of not getting to say a word I tried to steer the conversation back to the story she had said she wanted to hear.  She didn’t even acknowledge the interuption and continued. I must say her lung capacity is amazing for an over 70 woman that smoked Camels for most of her life.

 I relaxed my bicep and let the hand clutching the phone glide down past my hip where it picked up the natural sway of walking.  I could still make out the words she was saying and a couple of times I even raised the phone back up to my ear because I thought she was going to let me speak but that didn’t happen.  Eighty-four minutes later when my pooch and I had made it back to our home I brought the phone up to my face and told her that I had go and clicked it off.

Before I retired I would occasionally find myself trapped in my office by a nonstop talker. Fortunately for me, the receptionist was amazing and usually saved me. She would call into my office or tap lightly on the door to tell me I had a call I needed to take or that my next appointment had arrived. Of course there wasn’t a call or person waiting she was just rescuing me.

 I decided this must be a type of mental illness but according to the DSM V it is just a symptom most likely frequently associated with anxiety or ADD.  I have a theory that it can be a symptom or indicator of narcissistic personality disorder.

How would you or do you handle family or others that just won’t stop talking?  Maybe the talker should start a blog. Hmmm, uh-huh, ok.

I will hush now before you label me as I have labeled others! Have a blessed day that includes some peaceful silence.

Thanks to Jason Rosewell, Corey Hearne, Cristen Hume, Kristina flour and Wynand Van Poo from Unsplash.com for allowing the use of their photographs.

It’s Just a Bad Day

There is an extraordinary children’s book titled, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  If you that have children anywhere from 5 to 35 you are likely familiar with this classic story. Alexander has all kinds of things go wrong such as having to wear his railroad train pajamas. Readers quickly realize that Alexander’s stressors are not so horrible when considered individually, it is in their culmination that they mount up and make him want to move to Australia.

The photo albums of my relatives and my childhood are priceless to me.

  Today was one of those days. I confirmed that a close relative committed a lie of omission regarding the family photo albums. It really bummed me out because I can’t for the life of me figure out any reasoning behind this hurtful act. That was the catalyst.

  I had several errands and appointments to take care of which started with the doctor. He gave me a good report, well kind of, but suggested a five day script and said if it didn’t help that I should see and orthopedic. Yeah, kind of passive aggressive good news.

  As I went to my next stop my mind wandered to several people that I love that are dealing with some really serious stuff. Granted, their stuff is the kind of stuff that I can’t do anything about or help them find solutions, but that is frustrating. I have always been a helper/fixer and it is tough when I know that people I love are struggling and there is nothing I can do beyond listening.

  The next stop was at Lowe’s. In November I had purchased a battery powered blower and weed clipper. They were used only a few times since winter was coming on but I liked both of them and it was super convenient that they both used identical batteries allowing me to have one battery charging while I used the other.  Now it is early June and one of the batteries will no longer take a charge. GRRR! The customer service rep told me that they couldn’t replace the battery but if I brought in either the blower or trimmer I could get a whole new unit. Cool beans, even it is meant going back with the blower.

  A few hours later I went back and a different rep informed me that they could not exchange the blower as I had been told because the model had been discontinued. I wasn’t happy but I was kind and polite as I explained that I had now made two trips into the store with no results. In the end I walked out with a battery for the blower which was what I had hoped for when I first went in. That is the highlight of the day thus far.

  I am in need of some traps for wood bees as they are buzzing around my deck.  It seems that no one has informed the wood bees that they are not supposed to enjoy boring holes into pressure treated lumber. I had arranged through Facebook Marketplace to meet up with a local guy that makes and sells the traps.  I had about 40 minutes to spare and decided I would go by my gym and use the time for my weekly dose of carcinogens by spending 15 minutes in the tanning bed. No problems there other than I would have to come back for my workout after the purchase of the bee traps.

The sound of metal crunching into metal was sickening.

  As I waited in the turn lane to leave the highway and enter the Walmart parking lot I was suddenly jolted forward and heard the sickening sound of vehicle crunching. The lady behind me had just hit me.  I put my SUV into park and got out. She inspected her bumper and informed me it wasn’t hurt (I resisted saying, yeah so…) I was pleasantly surprised to see that my SUV had only a small dent and a scratch in the bumper. She did not apologize or ask if I was ok.  I suggested that we go ahead and pull into the parking lot and that I would call for a police report. She was quite indignant and spoke as if I were evil. “You are going to report that little scratch?” I informed her it was a dent and that I wanted a police report. I also walked behind her truck and snapped a photo of her license plate figuring with her attitude that she might very well drive off.

  Once in the parking lot she proceeded to tell me about the times that her vehicle had been hit and yet she had not made the person pay or get an accident report. When that didn’t work she told me that she had lived a hard life. I tried to be compassionate but I didn’t waiver from wanting the police report and I didn’t tell her but I was realizing my back was hurting a little.

  As the police officer was giving us both back our licenses and proof of insurance another car pulled in and she announced it was her son. A large angry man got out and proceeded to look at my dent. He started to rant but I decided that Mr. Policeman could deal with him and I left.  I was able to finish the bee trap mission since while I waited for the police I called the bee trap craftsman who agreed to drive over and sell me a trap.

  I am home and I have no intention of going back out today.  I think my back will be fine in the morning and my dog was as happy as ever to see me return.  It is not just 5 o’clock somewhere, it is 5:25 p.m. right here and I am having a glass of wine as I remind myself that it isn’t a bad life, it’s just a bad day and those happen (even in Australia). Perhaps I should rethink Australia as a travel destination.  It is a crazy long flight but it is a long way from here and today that sounds good. It was just a bad day, it isn’t a bad life.

Wishing all of you a Good Day and a Good Life!

Thanks to the following for use of their photos; Keith Zhu, Serge Esteve, Laura Fuhurman, Daniel Watson and Benny Jackson

Forget The Do Not Call List

Alas, there is little we can do about the unwanted calls we get that want to convince us that we have won a cruise, must pay our taxes (even though they have already been paid), need a hearing aid or suffer from back pain.

Don’t be rude, sometimes the poor soul on the other end of the line is actually trying to earn a paycheck.

The reason such calls really infuriate me is that we all have times that we can’t risk not answering the phone. Perhaps you have a loved one that is hospitalized or in a care facility, you don’t want to risk not taking that call. Likewise we don’t want to miss a call telling us that person of significance has been in an accident or is in urgent need of our assistance. When my mother was in a nursing home and with Hospice the wonderful workers would at times call me from their personal phones in order to get information to me in the most timely manner possible.  

I realize that the person at the other end of the line may be trying to earn an honest living.  There is a small chance that s/he is not a con artist and for that reason I am not rude. Not being rude doesn’t mean however that I can’t do everything in my kind and polite ways to land myself on their do not call list.

I first did this about 30 years ago when we all had a landline and caller ID was a thing of the future.  The phone rang, during dinner as per usual.

Hello

Hello this is Sebastian and I am calling to tell you that you are already approved for a Mastercard.

Wow, that is good news!

Great, so you are interested.  I just need to get a little more information.

Sebastian, that is the best news I have had in weeks.

Let’s get started, I have your name as…

Sebastian, I am sorry to interrupt, it’s just that I am so happy.  You see, my husband and I have fallen upon some hard times. It seems he lost his job at the Piggly Wiggly and I am off on maternity leave with our fifth little bundle of joy.  They repossessed out only car two days ago and we are in a real pickle. How quickly can you send this Mastercard?

Hello?…..Sebastian?…..Are you there?…..He hung up.

Fast forward to present day when these calls come at all hours.  If you don’t answer they just call back in a few hours or if you block the number they simply use a different one.  It can be quite frustrating. My solution (since at the present time I am not anticipating any urgent calls) is to have fun with it.

Today I got a call from Marco who informed me we were talking on a recorded line.  I inhaled sharply and in a panicked voice informed Marco that I had not given him permission to record me and that he needed to destroy the recording immediately and send me any and all copies of the transcript. Marco hung up without a word.

Yesterday it was Grace that called telling me that according to their records either I or someone else in my house had recently inquired about hearing aids.  I put on my sweetest voice and told Grace that she was correct. Why just the other day Bella completely ignored me even though I was shouting her name and I felt certain that she needed to have her hearing checked by a professional.  I told her that Bella was so intent on chasing the neighbors cat our of our yard that her hearing had evidently temporarily shut down. Grace hung up. Bella is, of course, my Labradoodle.

Perhap the next time I get the call about hearing aids I can respond by saying things like, “Huh?” or “Can you speak up?”

Last week Juan called and asked to speak with Suzane (pronounced Soo-Zane with a long a).  I politely asked if he meant Suzanne. He again mispronounced my name and said it again with a long a. I patiently instructed him, “Juan, it is pronounced Suzanne.”  Juan was starting to sound a bit snippy and tried again this time calling me Susan.

“Juan,” I consoled, “Let’s take just a minute or two and I am sure you will get it correct, it is pronounced….Juan?….Hello?….

I have a few more in my arsenal that have yet to be used but should be good for a laugh or three.  Maybe the next time I get the call telling me that I have won a cruise I will whisper in my most sultry voice and ask the caller to tell me what they are wearing.

When they call and demand immediate money in order for me to avoid being imprisoned I think I will take on my best childlike voice and ask, “Is that you Daddy?, I knew someday you would find me!”

Another good one would be, “I am really busy at the moment but if you give me your personal number I can text you some pictures, I bet you would like that now wouldn’t you?”

You get the idea!  If we can’t stop them from calling us we can at least make it entertaining!  

What is your favorite way to handle unwanted calls?  Let’s get creative and share the joy!

That’s Ridiculous!

  Caution! After reading this post you may experience a heightened awareness to the many ridiculous things that we all encounter on a day to day basis.  Some make us laugh, others may cause us to shake our head thinking, “Huh?” or, “seriously?” Sometimes I encounter over the top ridiculousness that makes me question the intelligence of the human race.

    Vegan leather. That is what the tag read on a handbag that I noticed while out shopping a few weeks ago. Do they think we are stupid? The tag should just read Fake Leather or Vinyl.

    A few days later I was shopping in the gardening department when I spotted Organic Choice potting mix. Hmmmm? Isn’t all dirt organic unless we add non-organic stuff to it? Furthermore, is calling it Organnic Choice the same thing as it actually being organic?

    How about a book (available on Amazon) titled The Ultimate Guide to Fasting.  I admit that I like food so fasting isn’t something I do on a regular basis, but do we need a book to tell us how to not eat?  From what I can see in the book’s description it isn’t a guide for people fasting for spiritual reasons. If that were the case readers might need to know the parameters for their particular faith.  Does anyone actually need 66 pages bound together to say what can be said in two words. Don’t Eat!

    I asked some friends to tell me about things they find ridiculous.  One friend told me about crazy things she has seen on actual product warning labels. For example, a warning on a baby stroller that instructs the user to remove the baby before folding up the stroller.  A microwave oven that reminds us not to use it for drying a pet. A shade for a car’s windshield that instructs the driver to not operate the vehicle with the sunshade in place. The most ridiculous part is that such warnings were likely generated after crazy consumers actually did these things.  They walk among us.

    I bet you have heard advertisements for chicken in which the company boasts that their poultry is free from added hormones.  You can find it on packing throughout the poultry department in grocery stores. Do you know why this is ridiculous? It has been illegal in the United States to give chickens or other poultry hormones or steroids since the 1950’s.  If you are worried about hormones in your food then you need to shift your focus from chicken and pay attention to what is in beef.

    Try hard, do your best, give it your all.  How many times have we heard coaches or teachers say that to a group of kids or athletes. Many also add statements that they want  them to give 110%? Businesses sometimes ask their sales team to give 110% or maybe even 150%.  Ridiculous! All you can do no matter how hard you try is 100%. Yet we wonder why so many kids don’t understand math.

    Several years before I retired I found myself in a meeting with three other school administrators.  The task the principal had called us in to complete as a group was to construct a letter to the parents of our students to explain the meaning of their most recent standardized test scores. That made sense, it was a new test and the scores needed to be interpreted differently than those in past years; it was logical to send a written explanation.

    We all agreed the letter needed to be contained to one page and that it should be easy to understand, free from educational mumbo-jumbo-lingo-alphabet soup as possible.  One of us had previously constructed a draft letter to get us going. Changes in words and punctuation started flowing as rapidly as kindergartners heading to the playground.  I mistakenly thought that we would finish quickly and be able to get on with what I thought were more important tasks such as teaching and interacting with students.

    After an hour passed I excused myself to the restroom. Granted, I didn’t actually need to use the facilities but I was starting to be frustrated at the immense waste of time.  I spent a minute or two in the bathroom stretching and trying to get back into the proper frame of mind.

    I returned to the meeting of the minds hoping that in my absence they had wrapped things up. They were still plugging away on the second paragraph. THE SECOND PARAGRAPH!  I honestly tried to focus on the letter but my mind insisted on drifting off to the expense of the letter. I started guesstimating how much our collective pay was for each hour.  My best estimate was the letter was costing the school system $180.00 per hour. That is over the top, crazy ridiculous. It took over three hours to get the letter to where the powers that be thought it was perfect. One letter, $540.00. I bet the parents that glanced at before tossing it in the recycle bin would have been less than thrilled to know about its cost.

    More recently while working as a freelance writer for a small magazine I was asked to report about an upcoming event that was to be sponsored by the local hospital.  I was given the name and number of the person to contact to set up an interview. The lady on the other end of the phone, let’s call her Margaret, got all excited and started rattling off the names of various hospital and community people that she would need to assemble together for this interview.  I politley informed her that the magazine had recently changed their format and that they had given me strict guidelines stating the story could not exceed 700 words and that they really wanted me to keep it lower than that if at all possible.

    Margaret insisted on knowing my submission deadline and when I told her it was three weeks away she informed me that she wanted to hold off for awhile so that she could give me the most up to date details. I again told Margaret of the 700 words limit, asked her to decide the information that she deemed the most critical to share in the article. Margaret gushed on about how my little article would be so crucial to their event. She said she would contact me the following week with a day and time for us to meet with “her people.”

    When ten days had passed and I still had not heard from Margaret I called her again.  She again went into lengthy details of how this person and that person could only meet at particular times.  I was polite but all I wanted was for her to give me a time and day. When the conversation ended she again failed to do that.  

    With one week left before my deadline She finally called and asked that I meet them late Friday afternoon.  My deadline was 8:00 a.m. Monday. I told her that I really needed to meet earlier in the week because I had weekend plans, didn’t want to work on the weekend and wanted enough time to proof read the copy before I sent it in. That sent Margaret into more jabber about all her people’s busy lives.  I made a mental note that I would not accept future article assignments that would cause me to have to work with Margaret. I actually would have backed out except I knew it was too late for the story to be reassigned and I didn’t want to let down the magazine editor who was very kind and professional person.  We compromised with me meeting them at 10:00 a.m. on Friday.

    It wasn’t surprising to me that half of Margaret’s team didn’t bother to attend the meeting even though she had preached to me about their importance.  My first question to the group was, What were the most important points that they would like to have emphasized in the magazine.  Silence. I looked around the table and four sets of eyes looked back at me with blank stares while two other sets of eyes remained glued to cell phones. Over the next hour I managed to squeeze enough information from two of the people to eek out an acceptable blurb of just under 700 words.  As a freelance writer my pay was low but I wondered how much the hour long meeting with various hospital staff had cost. You can bet it was ridiculous.

    Sunday night and Monday morning I received numerous text messages from Margaret wanting to give me more information.  I ignored her but part of me wanted to reply telling her that she was being ridiculous (and rude) and that her lack of planning was not my emergency.

    Let’s talk about airlines for awhile.  Unless you don’t fly I bet you have stories to tell.  My most recent flight was booked on short notice. I needed to fly to Texas on Christmas Day to see a dear relative for the last time.  I had a previous experience with American Airlines that prompted me to declare that I would never again board one of their air crafts. I had to change my mind because the only way to get from my home to Waco Texas on Christmas was to fly American.

    To keep this post to a reasonable length I won’t tell you about everything that went wrong but I want to tell you about the most ridiculous part.  My first leg took me from Lexington KY to Charlotte NC. When the next plane took off from Charlotte I had an uneasy feeling and I am not typically a nervous flyer.  After about 15 minutes in the air the pilot came over the speaker to inform us something was not right with the plane and that we were returning to Charlotte where they would either fix the issue or put us on a different plane.  Take a look at these pictures of the replacement plane they used. There are things held together with tape! This is the plane that was used because the other one was in worse condition! Say it with me, Ridiculous!! I paid almost $700 to fly on a plane held together with duct and scotch tape!

Now it is your turn to share about ridiculous products and situations that you have encountered. (Please note that I will not approve comments about political or complex social issues)

Thanks for reading and I hope that all of your ridiculous encounters are of the humorous variety.

Photo credits to Hunter-Newton-1 and Aron-Visuals 322 on Unsplash, and yours truly