Sunday, August 18, 2019

It Is All About Space

When we decided to become a two doodle family, we thought that we had it all worked out. For a while, our plan came together. The study, where I work could hold both of their crates and the smaller bed plus give me my desk space and a love seat. With a little creative storage ideas, it was a solution. Our two dogs loved to cuddle together.

Then, although Davis was his full adult size, Maggie continued to grow. As she grew, their activities started to prove that they needed more space. 

So, we opened up the doors that led into the kitchen. We still kept the gate on the other side of the kitchen to the breakfast room, as well as the large four way wooden gate that stretched across the foyer. Keeping the laundry room and powder room doors closed also limited them to two rooms now. They played and chased each other around the kitchen island. Maggie discovered her reflection in the bottom oven and loved barking at herself. Davis just sort of shook his head as if to say, "Silly puppy."

They seemed to share everything. Sometimes I gave in and instead of holding each of their food bowls in different hands, I just let them eat out of one. Never has there ever been any growling or snarling over food. However, if we give them each a frozen bone marrow, Maggie is happy for about 1 minute, then she attempts to get his and take it over to where her bone is. Sweet, gentle Davis, being the big brother that he is allows it for a while. Then he taunts her with a toy and goes in for his own bone. They work it out in ways that only a brother and sister can.

Davis used to have the whole top of the love seat to himself until she decided she like that spot too.

Both of the dogs think they are still 8 pound puppies. Davis at 60 pounds and Maggie Mae at 34 pounds have no clue about personal space. Poor Steve and one of our granddaughters have both of them trying to fit in. The dogs didn't seem to mind very much, although I must say that they all looked a bit squashed.

One day as I was writing and trying to work a feeling of claustrophobia came over me. It felt like none of us had our personal space. So, we opened up more space to both of our dogs. The gate to the breakfast room came down, and the foyer gate folded up and was put away. The only space that they could not go was the Reading Room and to the stairs. The upstairs is really not a problem except that I am the one who worries they will get in their chasing zoomie stage and someone will get hurt if they fly up and down the stairs. We keep all doors closed from our days of only having Davis. He could go up and get into no trouble plus he very carefully went up and came down at a slow pace due to the hardwood floors and slipping, which he did only once. Smart dog - he remembered.  

As far as the Reading Room, Davis has a bad habit of wanting to get one certain pillow and usually just carries it around but every once in a while will try to shake the living daylights out of it. So we only let them in this room when we are in there reading and then they can play.

We do not have a fenced yard that allows for running around and getting their energy out. As the pictures above show, they adore the freedom to romp and roam and even when they do play with many other dogs while at WGAC Doggie Daycare, they manage to get their one on one time with each other to play together.

Now with the configuration that we have set up for our two furbabies, they seem so much happier and at peace. You can almost set your watch by the times they choose to play tag and chase each other around the kitchen island, through the breakfast room and around that table and then move on into the dining room and around that table before Maggie comes flying into the study and leaps up on the love seat only to then leap on top of Davis. 

Total entertainment to watch the two of them play out this cat and mouse tag game. At times it is almost like watching children play hide and seek. One is in the study being as quiet and still as they can while their eyes are looking right and left to see which doorway the other one is going to come through. Davis knows how to tiptoe quietly. Maggie Mae has learned and she reminds me of a cat creeping in ever so slowly to surprise him and leap on top of him. 

Davis and Maggie Mae seem so happy with their new freedom and so far have not abused this privilege once I removed a tall vase with long wooden twigs in it. Maggie Mae thought it was something to chew on like twigs outside. Creative placement for that temptation solved that problem. 

Both Steve and I must say at least several times throughout the day of how we could not imagine our lives without these two crazy and loving 'doods.' When we go somewhere that requires a quick run in to pick up something, or drive through bank teller or pick up quick items, they love to get seatbelted in the car and come along. One of us stays in the car with them with the air on in our summer heat here. They have learned all the clues from one of us saying are you ready to go, or if they see me get my shoes on and grab my handbag. The two of them run to the kitchen to stare at their leashes to go to the car. They love it when they get a treat at the bank or pharmacy drive-thru. But their favorite?

You guessed it! A puppuccino at Starbucks!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Walking on the Balance Beam

At some point in my life, I knew that I needed to disengage my job from my purpose in life. These are two different entities. I was becoming my job! The biggest clue, or at least my wake up call, was when I realized that my vocabulary was becoming that of a 6 year old. It horrified me! Something had to change.

Please don't misunderstand me. I loved my job of teaching and then moving on to administration, but this was NOT what made me who I was. Sometimes, they overlapped but it still did not make me who I was.

It all begins when you hear yourself saying, "I'm a journalist, or I'm a teacher, or I'm a doctor." More than likely this grew from the times when we were in primary school and we were asked what you wanted to be when we grew up. We have been doing this ever since those days many years ago. So, this must be what defines us? No, it should not ever be this way. For one Mom here, I am so thankful because my eldest daughter wrote on her first grade page that she wanted to be 'a mean school bus driver.' Apparently, she thought this woman was amazing to be able to not only drive this big, yellow school bus but also able to handle all of the shenanigans going on at the same time. Of course, she and a few others were never in trouble and the driver treated them with the utmost kindness, even handing out treats to them as they got off the bus. I have nothing against bus drivers. They must be saints. However, I am quite delighted that my daughter decided to go on to earn her graduate degree and is working as a behavior analyst. However, I am even more proud of her for not letting that define her purpose in life. She is so very good at having her life and work loads balanced. 

Even if you are the best at whatever you do at work, we still need our own identity outside of work that defines us. There has to be a balance of our work and our life. Our work should never become our life. We need friends and relationships at work, however relationships are more than work. Having a circle of friends outside of work is so very important because these friends will be able to support us when things get tough at work and they can do it from the outside looking in. This can put a whole new perspective on how we handle the problem. Both sets of friends are so very important.

Happiness is the least important factor in being successful at work and a completely fulfilled human being. Look all around you and take a moment to dig deeper and see for yourself. Everyone is not always happy there at work. We must value ourselves to achieve happiness. This does not always come with a pay raise, a better title or job recognition. I most definitely can speak to that as I am sure most of you all can do this too.

Once I found myself thinking in this mindset, I started to realize things that I did to find "me" again. My job was interesting but it was not all of me. It was not what my heart and soul needed to fulfill the real me. I actually started answering the question when asked of me, "So, what do you do?" with a comeback of, "For fun or for money? Or just plain come out and say that I play the guitar, love to find a cozy spot to curl up and read or work on training our dog. Another example of answering this question is to define responsibilities that I have such as I manage to keep what could be considered total chaos in getting four 30 minute rounds of 250 little human beings into one large room in lines to get a tray of food, eat, talk with friends without throwing food. Then, to have them pick up their trash, line up and head on back to their classrooms in some kind of order. Or even calmly listen to a parent explain to me why their child should not have received the grade that the teacher gave him. (could it be little Johnny did not turn in a single assignment)? Diplomacy is what it takes to turn the tides around.

Then I realized that I needed to take the time to cultivate my true passions and friends outside of work. This is something that totally is the #1 motivation for me to find my true purpose and what helped me to retire happily. I knew that I wanted to write a novel. (Almost everyone has one in them). For me, it was finding the time to actually write. So, taking notes on what I wanted to write is what I managed to do while going on to earn a living. I know that I was lucky enough to find a job that interested me and dealt easily with my ADD. It worked while teaching whatever grade because in order to keep things moving and interesting, a teacher needs to switch gears often. I was never a "sit and get" type teacher who did all the talking. Kids learn by being engaged.

Then fast forward to administration. Whoa...definitely helps to have a touch of ADD for that job. Most days before 9:00 A.M., I had put out a minimum of 25 fires on average. Things ranging from parents showing up on the grounds angry about their child being bullied because one first grade girl did not want to play with her the day before, to a teacher telling me that no copy machine is working in the building (of course, no one reported any of this the day before), to the district calling to give me a message that someone was coming out to talk to me about scheduling and best practices being used in our school, to a group of parents who wanted to meet at that moment to discuss recess times.) Meanwhile, the cafeteria manager is calling to ask what to do when the fuse has blown and several teachers complaining that their rooms had not been cleaned the night before. The list goes on and on, as I am sure that you can tell.

Most of all, I knew when it was time for me to retire. It was when district administration was coming down so hard on our special school to copy what other schools were doing. One size does not fit all and this was not to their likings or beliefs. This meant an exit for me. 

When your way of making a living is causing too much stress, then it is time to move on to your life. This is where I come to the purpose of this blog. Before you retire, I highly suggest that you have a plan with your passions to pursue. If you retire with a mindset that you are now without a purpose, then you are not going to last very long. I hear this a lot, actually. It makes me so sad.

Really, I do not mean a second job or career, although it might be that. My purpose belongs to me and this is forever. One large part of my ability to retire a bit earlier than I had planned is that I worked with a financial planner with my husband. It was exactly what the two of us needed and so we began this process with our bank team of planners as soon as we married. Neither one of us came into our marriage with a great deal of wealth. It was through the planning with our team and living within our means that we were able to accumulate what we did in order to make this happen in less than a decade.

"Our self-identity should be defined as who we are as individuals. What we do for work is only a piece of our lives." This is a quote from Rachel Tulipano.  We all need to  focus on the things that matter most to us and always be grateful for what we have. The grass is not always greener on the other side. Enrich your lives and think twice about what you would say if asked to tell someone about yourself. Career accomplishments are something, that is true, but they certainly are not everything. What is your purpose?

Sunday, August 4, 2019

How Early is Too Early?

Who exactly is it that decides on August 1st, that Halloween decorations should come out of the closet and be displayed so that consumers can buy them up now while the "gettin' is good?" Halloween is three months away. I am all for planning early on holiday themes but please give me a break. People are still taking vacations to the beach or swimming in their pools. While outside of stores ceramic jack o'lanterns are giving us spooky grins and inside there are aisles dedicated to Halloween candies and costumes. 

First of all, I am slightly biased. Out of all of the holidays, Halloween is my least favorite one of all. 

This picture along with other dress up costumes just give me the creeps. I found nothing exciting about going into a haunted house as a child. Thinking back, the only good thing about Halloween was going from house to house saying, "Trick or Treat" and being given candy. Of course, once home with the candy it was then turned over to my Mom who rationed it over time. 

I did the same thing with my own children and they are now doing it with their children. Better than being up all night with a sick child who ate way too much candy and now has a stomach ache or is on such a sugar high they will never calm down to sleep. I will say that while I had some control over the costumes, they were never scary or gory creatures. 

Plus, in today's times, very few parents take their children out trick or treating due to the apparent dangers. It is a whole new era, unfortunately not all of it is good. There are parties held at schools or churches where parents can take their kids all dressed up to go around for their candy. The name trunk or treat is used because cars park along in rows with their trunks open for the children to walk by to receive their treats. Some large businesses even have a day set aside for parents to bring in children to show off their Halloween fashions and to receive candy.

Really, in order to prepare for Halloween, I am sure that October 1st is quite soon enough to start looking for a costume or even piecing one together. If you live in the South and buy your pumpkin too early, it will rot sitting out waiting for Halloween night. Retailers are ready for the stampede on decorations and candy. If people buy the big bags of candy now, then they will have to turn around and buy more closer to the real date because they would have nibbled it all piece by piece. (Just speaking from experience!)

Back to School promotions really do have to begin in July because so many schools around here begin in early August. Supply lists are on web pages and if parents don't get on it fast, they are searching for the right tablet, glue, notebook, and uniforms. Who can be bothered with Halloween when school time is gearing up? 

Sort of on the same subject, just how early is it for Thanksgiving and Christmas merchandise to start coming out in the stores? Thanksgiving, not so much. The pumpkins just sort of go from Halloween right into November for Thanksgiving. 

Except for a Tom Turkey decoration here and there, it is not as big of a deal as Halloween and Christmas. That is unless you are a Martha Stewart wanna-be.

When she had a TV show, I actually watched it and she opened up a walk in closet that had china and table decorations for every holiday of the year all neatly arranged on shelves and labeled.

The next big question of the day is how early is too early for Christmas decorations to be displayed in the stores. Well, for your information, if you open your eyes in some of the large warehouse type stores and large department stores, there are actually some Christmas lights already up and blinking. It seems to just get earlier and earlier. Some people seem to actually like this. They say that it gives them extra time to get a lot of their Christmas shopping done early. They can stock up on wrapping paper, ribbons, lights, ornaments and even artificial trees. 

Some people have even told me that Christmas is their favorite holiday of the year and they really want to go all out for decorating. I am not so sure that decorating in October is the way to convey how special this holiday really is. At least wait until Halloween has come and gone. 

Even I would agree that holding off until after Thanksgiving before Christmas decorations come out is a bit late. For those who love the Black Friday which comes the day after Thanksgiving, these people are seriously into their Christmas shopping. As for me, I avoid going out of our home on not only Black Friday, but the whole weekend. 

We have had all of our children here for Thanksgiving and lucky for us, they all helped to bring down our Christmas decorations and even set some of the lights and decorations out. This is a tremendous help because one of us gets dizzy going up the flimsy attic drop down stairs and the other one has trouble with the heavy, bulky boxes that need to be brought down those same stairs. 

There have been articles about people who dedicate a whole room in their house to store their Christmas decorations. Some don't even take the tree down and box it up again. It remains decorated with lights ready to plug in. That is a bit much for my taste but to each their own. I never want to be accused of being judgmental. We just do not have a space like that to dedicate to Christmas. Secondly, I don't like too many decorations all around. It just seems messy to me. Tastefully done in a minimalistic sort of fashion works best for me. What others do in their homes works for them, I am sure. My last point is that I like to change the theme of the tree around from year to year. Even a good basic traditional tree may be all silver ornaments and decorations, or gold or a combination. Or, I may even decide to go with a retro Christmas tree of white.

Everyone has their opinion and are entitled to how they feel. I love the holidays and even have already started shopping. I make a list of what has already been purchased for friends and family. That way, and this was a lesson learned the hard way, I don't forget and overspend or buy the same thing twice. Also, a great lesson that I learned is to wrap as the gifts come in. It saves spending hours wrapping everything at once. We no longer have little eyes peeping in closets to see gifts so we can wrap and put out of sight until the tree goes up. 

One more Christmas note to make is to be careful that you do not go overboard on outside Christmas lights. Remember, the movie where Chevy Chase blew the whole neighborhood's fuse out and no one had electricity due to the number of lights he used for decorations? I believe that Tim the Toolman did the same thing on his TV sitcom, "Home Improvement." We actually have a home in our neighborhood who uses the blow up decorations in their yard with spotlights shining on them. When I say "them," I am talking at least 30 huge blow up Christmas decorations.

Happy Halloween, Happy Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Scams, Telemarketers, Robo-Calls

First of all, I must admit that this blog is a venting outlet for myself. There are days that I am at my wit's end with the house phone and my cell phone ringing throughout the day, not to mention my husband's also. It is so very frustrating to someone who is trying to concentrate on writing or whether I may be busy taking dogs out for their business, driving in the car for errands, cooking, napping or a kajillion other things going on, as they do in all of our lives.

There are apps, apparently, that one can purchase to stop them. The catch is that the app blocks all calls not associated to my call list of family, friends and businesses that I have on my list. Many times, a contractor or business driver uses their own phone to call me to tell me they are on their way to provide the service. I don't have that number in my call list so they would not get through to me. Not acceptable.

Even though we are on the Registry for Do Not Call with the FTC, it does no good. Let's start with the scams. The famous ones like the IRS calling to tell me that I am going to have my checks garnished if I do not pay back taxes. Really? Good luck on that one. I am retired. Or then there is the Microsoft scam whereby I am told that my computer has a terrible virus and I need to follow their instructions to get rid of it. And, I am just telling it like it is. The person on the other end of the phone tells me in a very heavy Indian accent that his name is Bob and if I will sign on, he will take over my computer to rid it of the problem. I bet he will!

Next are telemarketers. It is a real honest to goodness person on the other end of the line.

The only problem here is that I did not reach out for the call. They are trying to sell me something that I do not want or need. They are invading my privacy, as well as taking up my valuable time. Sometimes, they are not trying to sell me anything. They are some survey company wanting me to answer their questions. Let me stop right here and now to say that this is the very reason that I do not trust surveys. Companies are calling any John or Jane Doe and who is to say that they are answering truthfully or how they really feel? I do not plan on giving some stranger information on how I feel about the media, about politics, or about anything at all! It is none of their business. At least they are a live human being and you can tell them in so many words of your choice to get lost. Many of these poor, pathetic workers are reading from a script and they don't know when to stop. At that point, it is a matter of hanging up on them. At least on my cell phone, I can block their calls without an app once they have called. Of course, more just keep coming in. There is word on the street that they have the technical skills to steal phone numbers, legitimate phone numbers, to place their calls so blocking their calls just means they move on to another number to call from.

Then there are the robo-calls. They are not real people but recordings. Technology has made great advances in that they can detect tones, inflections and certain often used phrases to sound as if they are human. Try telling one to use the words, "I am not a robot." They can't. 

If you want to just stay on the line and go in circles, then that is what will happen. One of their favorite tactics is to say if you are not interested then just press 9 and we will not bother you again. (HA HA HA) If you wish to speak to a live representative just press 1 and you will be connected. I tried that, too. Once the poor guy got on, I admit that gave him a piece of my mind and I had no qualms about not being polite.

I have followed all kinds of directions. It does not seem to matter. They keep calling. Every once in a while I have answered the phone, "Sheriff's Office, How may I help you?" There always has been an immediate hang up. That is my standard go to whenever I do answer the phone. My husband, when he is in the mood, loves to mess with the caller's mind has tried other methods. One of the Microsoft scam calls, he played along. He spewed out all kind of things that was NOT happening on his screen. He gave out all kinds of false information. This went on for about ten minutes. Then he informed the scammer that he did not even have his computer turned on. Instead of hanging up the scammer actually had the audacity to tell him that he just wasted his work time. Wait! For real? That was too funny!

He has an on-going call with some dude from the local Fireman's Association. This is a for real deal because I knew of this group from a friend of mine. I answered the phone and did get some tickets for a concert for an employee who had gone above and beyond her duties at work. They were inexpensive tickets and for a rock group that she liked who were playing at the county fair. The donation went to the Firemen. All good. 

This poor guy called the next year and asked to speak to me when my husband answered the phone. My dear, sweet husband said that I was not at home. When asked when I would be home, Steve went into this long drawn out story about how should he know. He had no idea because I had run off with my boyfriend. This caller did not know what to say, yet stayed on the line to console my husband and tell him that he knew just what he was talking about. It had happened to him once. He hoped that all would work out and to this day, he still calls yearly to check if I ever returned and if Steve was okay?!

My favorite line of all is from Jerry Seinfeld. In one of his episodes of his TV show, he received a telemarketer call. He told them that he was busy but if they would give him their home number that he would call them later. Of course, that was declined and Jerry's response was something to the effect of of well then, now you know how I feel. Do not call me again at home.

The FTC has some advice for how to deal with these calls. One is to answer the call. If you don't answer or let it go to voice mail, then your number goes back on the list to call later as a no answer. Their job is to keep you on the line as long as possible. With a 96% failure rate (source FTC), they do not have an easy job. That being said, this was the job they chose, not me. The best thing is to calmly tell them that you are on the do not call registry and repeat at least three times, even if you must interrupt them, to say do not call me again.

While doing some research, I read one article where it has happened when the person disturbed by the call became angry and yelled at the telemarketer. That did not work well for him, though. The telemarketer obviously had had enough of that and actually called him back to give him a piece of his mind. That would help for reporting purposes to know the company name so that it could be reported. Good luck. If you do have the company name, there is a place to report it to the FTC through their website. I know, because I have reported one. Now that I know about it, I will be reporting more. It takes time and I don't know the outcome, however, it makes me feel better for some strange reason. 

Meanwhile, until the phone companies do something to stop this or the FTC stiffens up the fines, we the general public will continue to have these pesky calls. I like to have my plan in place and my to go to action is to answer the phone with, "Sheriff's Department. How may I direct your call?" It is an immediate hang up. If it is someone who really needs me, we all will get a good laugh out of it. He who laughs, last!

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Graceful Aging

As I sat around a table of good friends, all of whom I worked with before retirement, I started thinking as I looked and listened to them over our luncheon. Each one of them had their own unique beauty. The lightbulb went on bright for me at that very moment. Gracefully aging has always been on my mind in some way, shape or form, just not to the extent that happened to me on this particular day.

You see, I have never thought that I would age gracefully. Why? First of all, I take after my grandmother and she never, ever would tell her real age. Aging gracefully, at least to me, does not mean that I must go around and shout it from the mountain tops of how old I am. No way! Just being me is enough. So my first goal was to stop thinking about a number. Embracing my age and owning who I am and who I have become and where I am headed is much more important. If someone has the audacity to ask me what my age is point blank, I can't be held accountable of the number that may pop out of my mouth. (The only exception is at the doctor's office.) I think about the gracefulness of my grandmother often. She was all about herself, her confidence, and her own southern charm. 

I suppose that you could call this idea 'Pro-Age.' Cindy Joseph, an author, model and business woman uses this phrase quite frequently. One of her best quotes is, "I am always and forever in the prime of my life." What a positive attitude! Everyone is unique. Everybody has something beautiful. Beauty is having the confidence, knowing who you are and where you are going, along with accepting yourself. 

With that being said, when did it become okay to fear getting older. It is my belief that it is a tactic to make us scared of our own fierceness. Society seems to program us into thinking that we are not beautiful anymore as we age. Of all the self-fulfilling prophecies in our culture today is the assumption that aging means declining and poor health and this is the deadliest. Instead, we must take ownership. It is a waste of time and energy worrying about our skin or weight. We must develop what we do in plans, being long and short term goals.

When I am happy, feeling jazzy and energized - I know that it shows on my face. Others tell me. Now I have my confidence built within myself to recognize this. Science has proven there is a link between feeling good inside and having beautiful skin on the outside. It radiates from the inside out. I believe that with all of my insight, confidence and strength that comes with my age that it makes it easier to start living on my terms. This is why all of a sudden it dawned on me that surrounding myself with beautiful women of all shapes, sizes, ages and colors at the luncheon that I attended showed me what true inner beauty and confidence are. I suppose that I am just a slow learner of piecing it all together to form the complete puzzle. 

I have learned that setting aside small blocks of time in my day to have no agenda is a great way to slow down and nourish my soul. Mindfulness and gratitudes! It works! It means embracing all of the experiences that I have encountered  -  both the good and the bad  -  this is how I have learned to move forward.

Audrey Hepburn has a beautiful quote, "And the beauty of a woman, with passing years, only grows." 
To add on to that train of thought is something that I read about when Patti LaBelle was speaking about as the years go by she celebrates each birthday fiercely because it is the worrying - not the years themselves that will make you feel less of a woman. Every year of your life is something to be proud of.

Feeling wise and worldly does not mean that I know everything. I believe it is what keeps me ready to explore more. If I could go back and give the younger me advice, it would be to tell myself to take a chill pill. Everything doesn't happen yesterday. Enjoy and live each moment and take it for what it is. My younger self was not as confident as she should have been.

Youth are not the only ones who can create adventures. I read about those in their later years of life who are more daring than many younger people. Instead of trying to fit into an image, be more of an adventurist. Finding my own truth and reinventing myself is how I choose to live. I just read about a man who was born and grew up in Memphis. He  became an icon in the public relations world with a firm he started up and moved to New York City where the action was. He worked on many high profile cases. Even though he has been away from Memphis for 75 years, he has never lost his Southern drawl. He made the decision for himself that he needed to get back to his Southern roots and this would allow him to scale back his work schedule to only three days a week. What an adventure! Up and leave his apartment on Broadway, his Manhattan office and return to his roots. Oh, did I forget to mention that he is 98 years young? 

Just as Jackie Joyner-Kersee believes, " Age is no barrier. It's a limitation you put on your mind." Mr. Burson (the 98 year old adventurer) obviously knows this very well. Aging gracefully is for both genders. With that being noted, I would like to end this blog with a David Bowie quote, "I think aging is an extraordinary process whereby you become the person you always should have been."

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Customer Service

This is a quote from Leon Gorman, who was the president and Chairman of the Board for L.L.Bean. His grandfather founded the company in 1912. He took it upon himself to learn every aspect of the business. The one very important thing that Mr. Gorman knew was that customer service had to come first, along with quality products.

Whether the consumer is shopping in a store or online or by phone, the consumer must feel that they are important. This comes about through quality training of any employee that comes in contact with customers. Every way that employees interact with the customers can make or break a deal. 

Briefly, let me say that there are stores that I just do not go inside due to the fact that there is no one there to assist me. There are times when I may need help finding something. If I receive an attitude, as if to say that they do not have time for me, then I know my business is not needed there. It is a simple thing to just leave. 

The days of "the customer is always right" is most definitely not the case many times in retail stores or on the phone. If the employees are trained well in handling an irrate customer then all will work out. If my job is in customer service then I must expect some rude customers. It is my job to try to appease them. Employees must know the store policies and ways to convey this to customers in a quiet and professional manner. 

With all of the social media today, one person's report of being undervalued or not treated fairly can go viral. Smart business owners know that it is much easier to keep customers happy instead of having to go out to bring in more. More customers are eventually not going to be coming if they hear too many negative reviews.

The face to face, in the store, is just one kind of customer service to work on. This past week I found myself having to deal with a few problems that needed the attention of a live human being on the phone. I called the customer service number that I found for them and had to go through 10 - 15 minutes of pushing buttons that a recorded message was giving me. Questions about the reason that I was calling and giving me examples and which button to press. Except none of the examples were the reason that I was calling. I felt helpless each an every time. 

What did I do? I just picked something close to what I needed. This led me to another prompt of questions from an automated recorded message. It seemed as if I were in a spiral of automated recorded messages. Now, mind you, in between these spirals of going through pressing buttons, I always would get the message of, "All of our representatives are busy. Please stay on the line and your call will be answered in the order that it was received." Next, comes some of the most annoying music that is known to mankind.

After the spiraling through the never ending recordings, a real live human being comes on the line. Most of the time, they are courteous and helpful. Unless, you need to be transferred to some other department. Then, all I can say is that I am now hoping that my call is not disconnected and that I have to start the process all over again. This actually did happen to me twice this week.

If I am dealing with a company that I can stop giving my business to and switch to someone else...then I take that option. There are times when it is not a choice. I would say more often then not, this is where the attitudes come in and the longer customers are left in limbo on the phone line.

Providing exceptional service should not be rocket science. It must start from the top down, which means attitudes and employee training. Employees who are specifically trained in the art of quality customer service will keep your company alive and well. Employees will remain loyal because as the leader, you have empowered them on how to deal with difficult customers.

Surveying customers is a fabulous way to get the information that you need to help you adjust any under performance that should be worked on in your company. Rewarding those staffers who go above and beyond in their efforts will always pay dividends.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Is There a RIght or Wrong Way?

 If you had asked this question of me a few months ago, I would have said that there is no absolute right or wrong way to practice gratitudes. Ahh, I was so wrong. It wasn't until I was talking with someone about this very subject: practicing gratitudes. 

It is already a proven fact in thousands of scientific studies that developing a grateful mindset is one of the best ways to live a happier and healthier and longer life. It helps each of us be more creative and productive. 

While talking with others about this topic, I started noticing that what they said they wrote or thought about what they were grateful for was so very general. Examples such as, "I am grateful for my family, I am grateful for having a job, I am grateful for my children." All are great things to be grateful for but we need to hone in on more specifics. 

To begin and end our days with specific things that made us grateful or even expressing your authentic gratitude towards another person is what gets your mindset in place for positivity. We need to focus on the small gratitudes. Some things that I can share that I am grateful for on a smaller level are:

  • I am grateful for our newest puppy who greets me with happiness, even it if is 5:30 in the morning.
  • I am grateful for our older puppy who needs protecting from his younger sister at times. (He is such a gentleman.)
  • I am grateful that my husband makes a cup of coffee and brings it to me while I am fixing my hair and makeup in the morning.
  • I am grateful that we have a daughter who calls daily just to say hi and how are you doing. And a son who calls when he is in town and not flying to meet up for lunch or just to check in on us.
  • I am grateful for a son and daughter-in-law who sends us pics and videos of our twin granddaughters who are 6 hours away.

It becomes too overpowering just to say that I am grateful for all of our children. What specifically that day did they do to make you feel that way?

We really don't realize just how powerful our minds are. What we think can turn our world around in a positive way. It helps us to see the good in the world when we focus on the beautiful things around us such as the green, green grass, the gorgeous blooming flowers, the blue sky, the rain that makes the flowers grow.

On the other hand, think about it. If all you focus on is the ugly and bad that is what you will see. It is a negative cycle that becomes very difficult to get yourself out of. Concentrating on what we have, instead of what we don't have helps the two of us feel good of the directions that we are headed.

Actions from the words in our minds become our characters, our very own individuality.