You never know who’s watching and learning from you


I was just at a CVS drug store with my 71-year-old dad, who asked me to come and help him do some shopping. He had a kind of long list and was going to use a credit card for the first time.

Now to those of us who have been using cards forever, that sounds like no big deal. But my dad has always been a cash-only kind of guy. He recently got the card, and he decided to try it out on this list of vitamins and medicine, which can get pricey really quick.

I hunted down the majority of the things he needed while he picked out one or two items. When we got to the register, I showed him how to slide the card through the machine. No luck there; it’s one of those newer chip cards. I could tell from the sigh he let out that he would’ve given up right then, when the message said, “Insert card below.”

But I then showed him how to put it into the reader and wait for it to approve the purchase. I then handed him the electronic “pen” and showed him where and how to sign. He paused after writing his first name and I knew what he was thinking.

“The signature won’t look just like yours,” I said gently, before he then continued to sign.

He put the pen back in the holder and I smiled and said, “See, that’s all there is to it.”

We headed for his car and I put his bags in the trunk. Before we left the lot, he asked me if I gotten an item we had put to the side because he wanted to pay cash for something. I headed back into the store to retrieve and pay for it.

An older woman was coming out of the store and said to me, “That was wonderful. I just told my grandkids to watch you, because I thought your patience was a beautiful thing to see.”

“I just love my dad,” I said, and thanked her for the compliment.

I grinned from ear to ear. I was just helping my dad do something he didn’t understand. But I made this woman’s day and taught her grandchildren a lesson in patience, she said.

That goes to show you never know who’s watching you and what they are learning from you. What are you teaching people today?

I’m definitely back in the Midwest…


After living in various parts of the country, and recently moving to a new one, I have realized that you can tell where you are by traditions, “customs” and quirks in different areas.

For instance, even if I was blindfolded, I could tell I’m in the Midwest by things such as:

  • Having the choice between unsweetened tea and what is known as sweet tea (sometimes pronounced as one word – sweettea): And if you don’t specify which one you want, you get something as sweet and sometimes as thick and syrupy as pancake topping. Shudder. (This is also prevalent in the South.)
  • Being called hon (short for honey), darlin’ or sweetie (they also do this in the South): It wasn’t until a waitress said that to me in my first week back in the Midwest that I realized I have been doing that to other people for years. It’s a habit of years of Southern and Midwestern living.
  • Every driver in every direction pulling off the road for a funeral procession: In some states, it’s the law that funeral processions get the right of way. But in the Midwest, and even more so in the South, it’s the people’s law that you pull over, now, and wait until the last car has gone by. I like it.
  • Roadside memorials: Yes, I realize people do this all across the country, but nowhere else (except maybe the South) do they go all out, and even put flowers and other objects at them for years after someone died in a traffic accident. I’ve seen memorials that are fresh and clean more than 20 years after they were started.
  • Rural driving: When you are driving rural, stop signs are just suggestions and there are no speed limits. And tractor trailers on interstates in rural areas refuse to move over when you’re getting on. I’ve had to almost come to a complete stop, because a big truck just wouldn’t move. You have to drive defensively in the country far more than anywhere else.
  • Flowers in the cemetery: There is a huge local cemetery that is always heavily decorated, year round. I assumed that the cemetery workers do this or maybe the funeral homes. After all, many graves go unvisited and even neglected in most of the cemeteries I have visited. However, I asked a relative about this the other day and he told me the families and others left behind do the decorating. “Wait until it gets warm out,” he said. “You’ll see people out there having full picnics at many of the stones.” All I can say to that is wow.

And then there have been things that have caught me by surprise here, such as:

People often mispronounce words or use the wrong words. (A few examples: 1. I was helping a woman today with her computer and she told me I needed to launch Godzilla if I wanted to get on the Internet. I had no idea what she meant until she pointed at Mozilla Firefox. 2. I was at my local library’s coffee stand and the woman at the counter told me they only had “two of these lovely blueberry sconces left.” Needless to say, those were not things to hang on the wall to light up the place, but rather delicious scones. 3. A waitress asked me the other day if I wanted naynays on my sandwich. A dining partner had to tell me that was a local pronunciation of mayonnaise.)

A trip to my local Walmart (the most affordable grocery choice for a writer trying to make a living on her own) brought anger from a sales clerk. I had been told the store price-matches other stores; you just have to tell them the price and where else it is and they’re supposed to match it. I’ve been having great luck with that (and have gotten some good deals without having to go from store to store for things I want/need) until a clerk on a recent trip angrily whipped out her phone and spent nearly 10 minutes keeping me and everyone else in line waiting while she tried to find the ad I was talking about. Was the 18 cents off per can coming directly out of her paycheck?

A trip to my local Goodwill store for used books brought an interesting encounter with a judgmental sales clerk. I asked whether they had any books from the “Twilight” series. (I’ve been upgrading my paperbacks to hardbound books when I can find them reasonably priced and in good condition.) The clerk glared at me and said, twice, “We don’t carry THOSE kinds of books.” When I asked her what she meant, she said they don’t stock books with the devil or vampires in them. (However, they did have many religious books, which some of them no doubt mention Satan…)

And here is one of my favorite encounters. A trip to my local library brought even more judgment. I saw on a shelf a book called “The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck.” As I smiled and jokingly apologized to the older women at the checkout counter about the title, one crossed her arms and said, “Oh, we know what book THAT is.” Another said, “I don’t approve of THAT word.” The great thing was when I said, “Well, I thumbed through the book and it looks like it has some great lessons in it, like not caring what other people think,” the irony sailed right over their heads.

What traditions, “customs” or quirks do people have where you live? Leave a comment below. And if you enjoyed this post, please share it with family and friends, and on social media!

You aren’t what you eat; you’re what you do


I recommend changing careers if you wake up one day and realize that the thing that has always made you happy is making you deeply unhappy.

Oh, it isn’t like it happened to me overnight. It was more of a wearing-down-over-time kind of thing. First, an unkind boss and then the company becomes less than caring paired with long hours and low pay and there I was wondering, “What am I doing here?”

So now I’m on one of the biggest adventures of my life. I made the best plan I could, fashioned a type of parachute moneywise and jumped out of the corporate plane for freedom. And I’m not looking back.

I decided that rather than write and edit for someone else to make them money, I would write and edit for myself to make me money. It’s exciting and fun and scary as hell.

They say you never know what you’re made of until you risk it all and find out. Well, I’m finding out, day by day. It’s been nearly five months since I left my job of 10 1/2 years. It was a job I loved, until it wasn’t.

The pay was never great; the hours were terrible. Sure, I could take a long lunch often when I wanted to, go to the office later in the day if I needed to and make up hours sometimes when I wanted to. Sometimes, I was even allowed to work from home.

But there were times when I called in sick and I would get asked, “Are you sure you can’t make it in anyway? What’s wrong with you? We need you here.” I once worked a 15-hour day, and workdays that lasted 10 hours or more were not the exception, but rather the rule. Some weeks, my dog walker saw my dog more than I did.

For years, I wasn’t allowed to take vacation when I wanted to, and sometimes not at all. There were years when I was told, “You can take one of these weeks here, or don’t go.” Honestly. I have the emails to prove it.

I missed events I had bought tickets to, family events, things I wanted to do with friends and even funerals of family members. I missed too many holidays to count because I HAD to be at the office.

More than one man broke up with me because I always had to put my job first. I never met a relationship that stood up to that test, at least not for very long.

But that is all behind me now and I’m working for myself. I can spend the day in my pajamas if I want to, watching episode after episode of “Star Trek” (The Original Series) and I have. I can also write all day, but do it in my pajamas if I want to, like I did today. I can play hooky when I want to, and I am spending a lot of time with my dad, my last family member. See, two years ago, I lost other family members, unexpectedly, in the space of a few months. That can really change how you think about your life and what it means to really live it.

After I grieved until I could grieve no more (although that never really ends), I took a look around and thought about the time I have left in life. After all, maybe I won’t live to be as old as I want to be. My mom didn’t. She had dreams and goals and things she was going to do. And then she was no more, and the dreams and goals and things were gone. Because of that, I thought about what I really want, and want I really don’t want. Lo and behold, that job was the first thing that I no longer wanted.

I’m freelancing now, and working on a few books. I spend time with my German shepherd and we go for a lot of walks. She loves chasing her tennis ball in a field near where we live in the little town into which I have disappeared. She’s snoring away at my feet as I write this. But it has been hard to find a groove, to set and/or stick to any kind of schedule, to get things figured out.

Turns out that when all you are is what you do, you don’t quite know who you are when you don’t do that anymore. That’s OK. I’m happy now. And that’s what really matters.

If there is something in this post that speaks to you, please share it with family and friends.

Why do people have to suffer from cancer?


For months, people have been talking about Joey Feek, the country singer who battled cervical cancer for a year and a half.

This includes people like me, who had never listened to the music of country duo Joey + Rory until recently. According to Rory Feek’s blog, This Life I Live, his 40-year-old wife lost her battle at 2:30 this afternoon. She had been in a deep sleep for days, her morphine dosage upped to help ease her pain.

I’ve been following the couple’s story for a couple of months. I can’t tell you why. Nor do I know why others have been so captured by it. Some people say it’s because of the strength and dignity with which the star has been handling her death. It isn’t wrong that the young mother of a just-turned-2-year-old is getting the attention, but haven’t many thousands, or even millions, of people all around the globe been doing the same thing for untold years?

Is that the key – that Joey’s story is touching the rest of our lives because we have experienced something similar on some level?

Because every time I read something about Joey, I think about my mom’s last days, spent in a hospice bed, surrounded by people who loved her, dying of more than one form of cancer. She faced it with dignity, too. I remember the last conversation we had, while she was in that bed, four days before she died. We remembered many things from the past, we said things we needed to say, but most of all we laughed laughs that needed to be laughed. We also tried to say goodbye, but it is impossible for me to judge how well we did that.

Those days were gut-wrenching, and so have been these days, watching and waiting for Joey to win or lose her battle. These days also have me asking questions.

Why can’t we solve the puzzle and cure cancer? Especially in the United States, where we have people who have millions of dollars, why can’t we get this mission accomplished? Companies spend millions, maybe even billions, of dollars, on testing makeup on animals (which is so wrong), but we could be using that money to find the cure for a disease that is killing in ever-more-increasing numbers.

And why do people have to spend their last days in waste and pain? We allow our animals to go with dignity, but we mostly won’t allow it for our people. Judging by how many people treat animals, I wouldn’t say the majority of people love them more than people, would you?

But we do allow our animals to go when it’s time. And it appears to be peaceful. I have had three German Shepherds who needed to be put to sleep when their illnesses (cancer for each of them, how ironic is that?) became unbearable. And I held each of them while they appeared to fall asleep and then their hearts stopped beating.

I was also holding my mom when she left this world, but those last four days were filled with constant worrying about and monitoring of her pain, and her crying out here and there when the medicine wasn’t working so well. Why, when there is absolutely no hope, can we not do the same thing for people, end their suffering?

I certainly think it could be a slippery slope from OKing death to sanctioning killing. But when we have the capability to do for people what we can do for animals, why the double standard?

If this topic means something to you, please share it with others and/or comment. I’d love to hear from you.