The Best Compliments—Ever

When I’m having a tough day, there’s a special compliment I pull out and imprint on my brain….

It’s from a woman who emailed me saying: “I was receiving chemo and reading your book outloud. All of us in the room were laughing so hard, the nurse came to check on us.”

The compliment made me cry. Little did the reader know that I’d written the book for my mom. She died before I finished it. The reader’s words were balm to my soul.

My writing critique group analyzed the mysteries of what  makes a GREAT compliment.  The warm words you haul out when days are dark and the laughter is scarce?

Here’s a start.  Feel free to add to the list…or even argue with it:


Recognize the person’s character. It’s easy to say, “That was a  (good meal, nice piece

Your smile reminds me of the Laughing Cow. NOOOOO…that’s not the compliment you want to use.

of writing, kind gift, nice outfit….blah blah,whatever ).

So go one step deeper. Compliment the character trait. The willingness of the cook to take time to create such a  tasty meal.  Or the openness of the writer to share so deeply. Or the talent of the giver to craft such a lovely gift or outfit.

Anybody can give someone a piece of chocolate,  But the compliment comes from recognizing the behind-the-scenes personal effort (thinking about them, spending time and money, and delivering it—that takes intent and concern.  It’s like a kiss to the soul when someone else

You have a crocodile smile. Er…I mean a BIG smile. Forget it. That won’t work either.

recognizes the depth of your efforts.

Make the compliment specific. I like to hear the words, “Good job,” but I like it even better when someone says, “They way you describe this character makes me laugh and cry in the same sentence. “Nice smile,” becomes even more personal when it’s “Your smile makes me feel important.”

Do You appreciate it or not? I have a friend who hands out compliments in this manner: “It’s a good thing you’re small, or you couldn’t wear that dress.
I have begun replying, “Is that a compliment or a complaint?”

C’mon. Don’t be stingy. If you appreciate something, commit to saying say so with, “I really

Your smile helps my heart laugh and remember the world is good.

liked it when….”  “It meant a lot to me when….”

Be genuine.  I bet everyone has received a fake-O admiration. It’s like pouring sour milk over a conversation. Thanks for the Blaaaah feeling I get from your pseudo goodwill. If you don’t mean it–don’t say it. But surely there’s something positive you can say about a burnt meal or a bad hair-cut. Even if it’s about how they have the character to deal with it (eventually laugh about it??)  and go on.

So now share with me please….

What’s a compliment you pull out on your crummy days?  Why is it special?

Photos by: Jo Jakeman, fdecomite, Delirante,Vanessa Pike Russel

Weasel-y Troubles and Donuts of Comfort

Don’t you hate it when someone tells you, “Troubles produce endurance”?

I want to stomp my foot, clench my fists and yell.  I don’t want endurance. I want myWeasel_Dead weasel-y troubles to roll over, four stiff legs in the air with big Xs on its dilemma-like eyes.

I want comfort. Like fat donuts. Or hot buttered bread.

I recently told a baker this and he educated me that yeasty products can be mixed two ways.

Stirs the four, yeast and half the needed water into a slurry.  It’s made several hours ahead of time. Later when the complete dough is mixed, it can be shaped and baked after 1 rising.. (This allows the baker to sleep through the night.)

Bread dough which has risen and is ready to go...

Is the way we do it at home.  Mix the ingredients. Let it rise. Knock it down. Let it rise. Knock it down again and then shape it.

The straight dough method requires more “hand discipline.” It takes longer. It gets “knocked down” more often.

It also produces a better textured bread with fewer holes and a deeper flavor and  aroma.

So I sigh…
I suppose that’s like us…traveling through life.

The “hand discipline”, the “knocking down” creates a better product. The works of our hands become more flavorful because of what we’ve been through.

Phooey!!! It seems no one escapes life’s knocks.  Not even bread.

But you can bet, while I’m learning my lessons…I’m padding the blows with prayers, a few fatdonut-01 Cup-of-peppermintdonuts (and maybe a hot chocolate, too.)

The Rule Women Are Afraid to Break

Thank heavens fashion has changed over the last decade.

Even those pioneer women who crossed the plains broke the rules. Oh…they wore long

dresses and corsets….but they didn’t tighten them.  Walk 20 miles cinched up in whale bone staves?? No Way. These women knew how to survive and it wasn’t in a corset.

That brought up a hot discussion among the Lutheran Ladies

What should Women Wear to Special Occasions Now Days?

(Weddings, Funerals, etc)

Dresses?   Yes, everyone agreed.

Slacks?  Okay. As long as they’re elegant. A few ladies admitted they don’t wear dresses anymore…only slacks.

Jeans?  HA.Ha.  Get out of here.

Zara Phillips, Daughter of Princess Anne at the Royal Wedding

Hats?  Wear ’em if you got ’em.

But there was one powerful rule most women were afraid to break. They’d heard it since they were born. Everyone agreed it had changed, but rarely did anyone break it.

What was this powerful magic forcing its domain over a woman’s closet????

 The No White After Labor Day Rule

The why of the rule has been lost, but like a ghost story, it still haunts fashion.

The myth is that in the 1880s, there were complex social rules for those in the know. Show up to a gala in a puffy-sleeved gown when the “cool” ladies wore straight sleeve and you and your vulgar new money could expect to be snubbed (just like at a Jr. High Dance.)

Not wearing white after Labor Day seems to be one of these rules.  By the 50s, the No-Summer-No-White  had become a commandment for everyone.


You can blame Coco Chanel for changing the rules.

She introduced:

The Little Black Dress

Tweed Suits

Bell Bottoms.

And She wore white year-round.

Go ahead. Free your white clothes.

Let them enjoy Christmas. 

Do you break the “no-white” rule?
SmileyHo Ho Ho Santa Smiley

Dinner for the Exhausted

You know how I love change, (cough, cough).  Well, I’m sure the Kitchenettes, those brave ladies who clean the church kitchen, are gonna love the Exhaust Burger Dinner. As a matter of fact, it’ll change every busy man or woman’s life.

No more rushing home from

I hope I have time to stop and get some potato salad

  • Work
  • Committee Meetings
  • Choir
  • Gym

to cook dinner. A home-cooked meal is just a drive around the block, a few times with the …..

Exhaust Burger

Add the burger in the handy-dandy pocket. It’s not cooked by the fumes, but by the heat generated by those fumes as you drive your car.

Sorry, only one burger at a time, but if traffic is bad…you can hop out while I-5 looks like a parking lot and change those patties. (Hint: Keep a foil pouch in the back seat and toss the cooked burgers in.)

Featured in Design Boom in 2008, I’m just not sure why it doesn’t come standard with a new car purchase. Smiley  How do you get dinner on the table on a busy night?

Fake Friends Forever

Let”s have coffee sometime and catch up.”  “Yeah. We should do that.”

And as my friend walks away, we both know,  it’ll never happen. Time, kids, older parents, volunteer work. It all gets in the way. We’d like to be better friends, but when? We just did all the “catching up” we wanted to do  in the grocery store, standing between the toilet paper and toothpaste.

It used to be you knew your fake friends.

Even that has changed:(and we like to examine change….)

Welcome to the Twenty-first Century’s
Fake Digital friends.

Twitter is the worst. Need a popularity boost?

  • There are 20 ebay sellers and 58 websites where people can buy fake Twitter followers.
  • The average price of buying 1000 followers is $18
  • A Dealer can earn as much as $800/day for 7 weeks of selling followings if they can control  20,000 fake accounts. (You’re rethinking your day job, aren’t you?)

Why do people want fake friends? explains it like this, “People buy

Twitter 6x6

Twitter 6×6 (Photo credit: Steve Woolf)

followers in a vain attempt to build legitimacy. They are essentially trying to game the system.

A search in the WP forum shows this can be a problem for blogs, also. Out of nowhere, a blogger get 5 -10 new subscribers a day for several weeks. The Help Gurus say no harm can come of it and never mind that the followers have suspect names, or link back to a blank page or even a Wikipedia page.

What can you do?

For Twitter, you can enter your handle at Status People  and  discover the number of fakers you have.

For WP:  There’s nothing you can do if fake friends want to follow you. They’re autobots. They won’t comment. They won’t pump up your popularity.


Maybe it’ll help us remember to cherish and take some time with the friends we really do have.

A Season to Break Mirrors

For every time, there’s a season. This is the season  I’d like to break my mirror. Fall brings out my tiny shopping gene, but it never ends well.

I peruse the mail-order catalogs and dog-ear pages before I go shopping. I don’t want to

Barbie has a designer and tailor….that’s why she looks so good.*

waste too much time in those stores which are like buffets of textile disappointment. I’ve done my homework and know what I want before I walk into Macy’s. I’m like a Barbie doll all hopped up on choices and the hope of finding a pair of pants that fit.Smiley

But after trying on the carefully vetted threads, I walk from the dressing room, twisting right and left, trying to see myself from all angles in the mirror. I’m more baffled than an English Lit major trying to do Chinese algebra.

It’s taken years, but I’ve finally deduced the reason for my bewilderment.

The clothing promises every possibility of looking like this when it’s hanging on the hanger……

I’m not sure why those ridiculous department store mirrors reveal…..

I think it’s the lighting…or maybe I need another foot and a half of leg

….or an unbreakable mirror?

I hate shopping.Smiley How about you??

(*Barbie’s Clothes by Hegmony77, Thin model: Heidi Marie by Will Foster)

Secret Back rooms and Church Keys

The Brothers kept the secret to good brews under lock and key

Book research takes me to little-seen backrooms. That’s how I recently came to be in the dark cooler (which was formerly a bank vault) of our lovely local restaurant.

I was learning how to tap a keg.

My protagonist needs to know these things. Being good Lutherans, we take full advantage of our German ancestry. We like beer. I’m not talking about ditch-crawling drunk or as obnoxious as a fanatic at a tailgate party. Just a smooth brew

to go with brats and kraut.

And you, my treasured friends, will learn the secret to correctly launch your beer.

  1. Formerly, you needed a church key. So called because of its resemblance to…well…the old ornate keys monks carried to the brewery in the cellar.
  2. The shape changed because canned beer was invented. You had to punch two sharp holes in a can to get your beer out.
  3. Now days, twist caps and pop tops are universal among brewing companies, thus making the “church key” go the way of the typewriter and VCRs. (Save them, they’ll be worth something someday…to your great, great grandkids who won’t know what they are.)
  4. Unscrew the cap and pour into a tilted glass to control the head (unless it’s a stout—which requires a 2 step pour, and is too much work for me.)


KeyPhoto by OrangeSmell; Video: Michelle Allves

The Smell of Serenity

This Scent has real “Animal Attraction.”

Let’s say you get spritzed by those lab-coated ladies at the cosmetic counter. (Why do

they wear those coats?  Surely they aren’t flinging powder around or saying, “Oops, How do I keep getting lipstick on my sleeve?”

Anyway….a year later, if you had to identify the smellum they sprayed, you’d be able to recall it, with 65% accuracy. Smells are processed by the same brain department that files away your emotions and memories.

This explains why you can walk into a school and be transported to the day Billy puked at his desk which was right behind yours.  And even after the janitor threw that red-sawdust looking stuff on top, you still dry-gagged the rest of the afternoon.  But Mrs. Lockhest, the teacher wouldn’t let you go to the nurse’s room.  Oh no she didn’t….instead, she scolded you, attempting to make you feel sorry for Billy, and then

These desks had convenient flip-up seats to easily clean the floor after Billy

she sat you in a corner, giving you and your fragile stomach extra math problems to do.  But you spent the time figuring out how to get Billy back for spreading his gross mac & cheese regurgitation in a 180° arc. Good grief, couldn’t he have been a tidy vomiter and kept it under his desk? No siree. You’d get Billy—as soon as he got out of the nurse’s room where he was lounging on a cot and skipping math.

Like I said….smells evoke a lot of memories.

Know Your Nose (Helpful facts)

  • Your sense of smell is weakest in the morning, growing stronger as the day wears on.

So whether in church or an office in the mornings, all that perfume, deodorant, and hairspray everyone coats themselves with is less likely to affect you. But by noon…your olfactory nerves will be popping…see the last suggestion.

  • A recent study showed that people in a citrus-scented room cooperated more and
    This image shows a whole and a cut lemon.

    Cooperate!!! Life hands us lemons…we’re fundraising them into a citrus-scented pipe organ.

    offered to make more charitable donations.

Good to know. So during your next fund-raiser, lemon-Pledge the table or walk around swinging a bag of lemons through the air and ask for donations.

  • Your sense of smell becomes sharper when you’re hungry.

Which explains why even sometimes McDonald’s smells good to me. And heaven forbid the late service runs long on a pot luck Sunday.  All those smells wafting from the kitchen will cause a pastor—even a Lutheran pastor—to only sing one verse of the closing hymn rather than cranking through all 114 verses—as usual.

  • The more estrogen you have, the better sniffer you have

Any pregnant woman has experienced this.  One time I thought the smell of the pipe organ was going to make me sick.

  • If you’re in space, you’ll likely loose your sense of smell.  The lack of gravity allows sinuses to back up like a clogged disposal, snuffing out your ability to smell.

See…clogged sinuses can come in handy. They can save you from over-abundant perfume sprayers, sneaky bags of lemons, or Billy and his “shared” macaroni and cheese.

Because mood and medication affect our sniffers from hour to hour, it’s believed we never experience a smell the same way twice.

Chapel of Holy Cross, Sedona AZ, by Dougtone

This doesn’t hold true for me. Most sanctuaries and chapels smell the same. I breathe in the scent dust, extinguished candles, old hymnals, and hopeful prayers.

The tiny part of my brain that processes these clues kicks out the same message each time: Lay your troubles down. Rest. This is the scent of serenity.

What smells take you to a place or event?

How To Stop A JawFlapper

My Roman Catholic friend jokes that:

“…when church is over—people burn rubber getting out of the parking lot.”

Lutherans would do this too if we didn’t talk so slowly. By the time we’ve mulled what we

I like mice like the ones at: All Saints Allesley. Each pew is carved by Robert Thompson of Kilburn North Yorkshire and has a little mouse carved on it somewhere.

truly wanted to say through 15 filters—so it’s not offensive, flamboyant, or overly pigheaded—it’s lunchtime and we’re ready to get in our cars and forget about it until the next time we meet.

Except for me….

My family says it takes a good 20 minutes for me to get from the pew to the car because I talk to everybody—even the church mice. Well…I’ve got stories to collect and another book to write…but if you truly want to escape…then….

How To End a Conversation

For the love of silence, Kris. Give it a rest.!

Here are some tips for ending a conversation with me or someone like me who’s flapping their jaws.

 STRATEGY 1: Make a positive ending comment.  This is the UNIVERSAL signal for wrapping up.

  • DOs:    “I’m glad we talked.”
  •             “You’ve given me some things to think about.”
  •             “I enjoyed our conversation.”
  • DON’Ts: “Kris…isn’t that your husband…driving out of the parking lot?

 STRATEGY 2: Review and Plan.  Again, this is another signal indicating you’ve heard the person and the conversation has come to a close.

  • DO:    “Thanks for letting me know the details. (The review of the conversation).  “I’ll get back to you and let you know.” (The plan.)
  • DON’T:  “Kris!!! My eyes are rolling in the sockets with all these details. (The Review). Just e-mail me (so I can delete it as soon as I get it.)” (The Plan)

STRATEGY 3:  The Excuse AND Reason.

You’re allegedly ending the conversation NOT because the other person is making your brain  go to sleep and you want to run away, pulling at your ears and screaming, but because you have something else that MUST be done.

The excuse and reason must be used you see in this bad example.

  • POOR EXAMPLE:  ”Hi…can’t talk. Gotta go.”

This response doesn’t work as my kiddos will attest. Without an excuse, it makes the other person feel unimportant. (And adding a wave, while walking away doesn’t make it any better…are you kids listening?)

  • BETTER EXAMPLE: “Sorry, Kris. Gotta go. I’m late for a meeting.”

HINT:  If you’re using the Excuse Strategy, at least make your reasons believable.

  • “I’ve got to wash the chickens.”
  •  “Clean out the fridge before the milk expires.”  or
  • “I’m late for a meeting that we didn’t invite you to.”

Are not acceptable excuses. Put on your thinking cap or another mouth filter.

So…there you have it!!


Of course, the best time to escape is when there’s a lull in the conversation; but if you’re visiting with someone like me, who can talk as I breathe both in and out, you’ll have to interrupt. I know …I know….you hate to do it.  But believe me, it’s quite helpful. I appreciate it every time I’m interrupted with:

“Sorry, Barb. I’ve got to let you go.  Your husband is driving out of the parking lot.” Smiley

amadabslater, :Mollypop, Thirdculturejb

Flying over all Creation

If you’ve ever wished FLYING was one of your super powers….

Set your coffee cup down. Turn up the sound on your computer and turn off the lights (well you don’t have to…but it’ll make you feel like you’re flying, too.)

This brings tears to my eyes…I’m not quite sure why….It’s a moment to discover with wide-eyed wonder…this creation we’ve been given called….


Yes, it’s NASA footage from the International Space Station
The white lights? Lightning
The green lights? The Northern Lights

Video Credit: Gateway to Astronaut Photography, NASA ; Compilation: Bitmeizer (YouTube);
Music: Freedom Fighters (Two Steps from Hell)