How Not to Give Criticism

photo-1442458370899-ae20e367c5d8

I’ll get to the point, just wait a minute.

Okay…no matter how old I get…I still keep learning something. Whether I want to or not.

I needed to hand out criticism to a committee member. What I would like to use is the kick-butt approach:It goes like this: ” For the love of St. Pete, we’re talking about the book fundraiser, Lulu. After the meeting is over, we can talk about  your achy knee and  strange-mole problem and all the books you’ve used to diagnosis yourself..”

I’ve used this kick-butt technique a couple of times. I felt kind of skunky afterward..  But no one was insulted enough to volunteer to take over chairing the meeting, which would’ve been a nice side benefit to offset the skunky feeling..

So I switched to the ol’ interrupt-and-refocus technique.

“LuLu what in blithereens does your topic have to do with what we’re talking about— which at the moment, is the BOOK FUNDRAISER?”

Again I feel skunky for such a shut-up-and-get-with-the-topic approach. But that quickly goes away because LuLu can relate anything to the latest topic. She simply says (quite officiously) “Well, just wait…I’m getting to that.”

Five minutes and four doctor visits later, she finally reports that she has books that didn’t help at all and she’s going to put them in the book-fundraiser…if we ever get one planned.

So finally I used the OREO technique. (A suggestion for improvement is sandwiched between a couple of compliments)

“Lulu, wow that sounds like you’ve really done a lot of thorough research into in-grown toenail problems. How about you  hold those thoughts until we finish talking about the fundraiser,then we can hear your amazing information after the meeting.”

Mother Mary, Joseph, and all the baby donkeys!!!! It worked. WhooHoo. (and no skunky feeling)

There’s only one catch. I have to hang around after the meeting and listen to the FULL info dump on toenails.

I learned more than I ever wanted to know. But I figure someday it’ll be me, blathering on about the ridges in my fingernails or accidental  farts or how I don’t sleep well during a full moon.

Someday I may be lonely and the only way I know how to relieve my desperate ache is to join committees so I can be with people and hijack  conversations so I can talk about myself.

I hope they know the OREO Technique.

By Ismael Nieto

By Ismael Nieto

Have you ever dealt with a conversation hijacker?

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Good-by Phone. Hello Change

Vintage Elgin Men's Wrist Watch, Sterling Silver Case, 7 Jewels Circa 1918

Do you know about the Time Lady?

“Who?” a group of young people at my discussion table asked.

“Used to be…watches had springs and they had to be wound up. Sometimes they ran fast. But usually, they ticked the seconds off slowly. If you asked a group of people what their watch showed, (of course, most people wore a watch—even kids). everyone would have a different time by a few minutes. This meant that before any important caper like blowing up the world or heisting artwork from a museum, crooks had to “sync” their watches.  But first…..somebody in the group had to call the Time Lady.

Actually, back in the 60s everybody called the Time Lady. Usually it was a free service provided by a bank or the electric company. The electronic pleasant-voiced woman would say something like…
https://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisgold/6998063888/in/photolist-bEoUzW-nNDQ4N-a2derf-kPtyqt-atHcjy-gBjBLC-58VhsE-nqkTon-qvR6ht-aGwfC4-hqjzdP-6gpCvj-8xDRuT-mULqL6-55YBjW-7PBEN-7ck9RA-4SDjU3-abR5z5-5kuDUs-a9r2W8-8hBN7K-4tCww7-5EHsVx-4aZZVF-bpywGq-dpdnMa-aaoGmV-qNdN43-gBh5T9-7c4ZeM-5vo6ju-dyfX6r-8DXCH9-i7wKLF-aarCz1-6hftMB-6i7qAL-bCDodD-2TbxJY-ev5z2R-aaoQui-i7wRwj-65iQ9N-j5R14-kPB3fb-7k9Yi2-fEg7Xz-57pb1e-9tZMiJ

“The time is … four thirty-three. The temperature is sixty-three degrees.”

Sometimes lonely people called the Time Lady over and over just to hear a  voice talking to them.

“You’ve got to be kidding!” The young folks shook their heads, appalled at such a hit or miss method to organize schools, trains, and dinnertime. “Well that explains a lot,” one of the young men said. “Now, can you tell me why this weird little barbell is on my icons? What’s that supposed to represent?” Because it sure doesn’t look like a phone.

iPhone: The Home Screen, the Tantalizing Empty Row, and the Four Major Applications

Buckle up, ladies and gentlemen. Change is coming faster.

Photos: watch-Joe Haupt, woman -Chris Golderg; phone-Pleter Ouwerkerk

How To Speak Hair to Your Hairdresser

I’ve not talked with anyone else about this….

Here's my selfie.

Here’s my selfie.

but do you happen to notice the back of heads when you sit at a play or in church?

Hopefully, whatever is happening soon takes my mind off others around me.
And, I know…I know…liturgy is the work of the people. It’s as though the pastor is the director, we are the actors and God is the audience. Once a week isn’t too much to give a little thanks.

But last week…there I was…noticing the head in front of me, and the haircut I wanted to wear.

I had to resist the urge to pull out my camera phone and take a picture. It’s been made very apparent that, “I don’t speak “hair.”

In case you don’t either…here are some handy-dandy “helps” to make sure you don’t come out of the salon, wearing a headful of something that you couldn’t  wear to a late-night convenience store.

HOW To Speak HAIR to your Hairdresser

  • BRING PICTURES.

    Front. Back. Side. Whatever you can get…which means I’m stopping ladies in grocery store aisles and asking, “Can I take a picture of the back of your hair?” I usually don’t ask for the front lest they think I’m a “Creeper.” Several times, I’ve taken pictures by using the zoom on my camera of haircuts that I’ve seen at concerts and plays.

“Really?” my stylist said with a cocked eyebrow, looking at my blurred photos?  “You want something that resembles an aviator’s helmet?”

Well at least it isn’t a photo from a magazine. She broke me from bringing those to her. I thought Meryl Streep had an awesome “do” in The Devil Wears Prada.  When I brought that photo, I earned TWO arched eyebrows.

“You do understand it’ll take about 5 days to achieve this look?”

“No…” I said meekly.

“Well, it’ll take about 4 consecutive visits to lift all the color out of your hair, then one or maybe two visits to put it back in and work the style.

“Just cut it like usual.” I shrugged.

And that’s when I learned—from every stylist in the salon—what it takes to make hair look like it does in a photo shoot. Lights, chemicals, cosmetics, clothing specialists, 4-5 days of work … “And it’s probably a wig,” one of them added.

Okay, okay. So now, I only bring in pictures of real people in bad lighting.

  •  DON’T SAY, “I WANT TO BE BLONDE

    Look at hair samples. Then grip your seat as your stylist tells you that because of the color of your hair, your color-job won’t turn out like that. (Or…it’ll take about 5 days to…etc. etc.)

When the stylist says, “It’s going to turn out more like…this,” and she points to a sample shank of hair in another color family, trust him/her. Don’t hope he/she is wrong and your locks will morph into a Julia Roberts sheen if you use a little “anti-frizz” oil and Big Sexy Root pump.

Again…trust me. I’ve learned the hard way. Now if I want a red streak in my hair to advertise the Church Blood Drive, I rub a hank of my hair with a red piece of chalk.

  • DO NOT LIE TO YOUR STYLIST.

Lutheran Lady secrets

Photo by Jehane

Perhaps you’re mature enough to remember Clairol’s advertising ploy…”Only her hair dresser knows for sure”?

Well…Confess all your hair sins! Your stylist MUST know what you’ve done to your hair.  Statements like, “ I haven’t used color on my hair in a year,” won’t fly.

“Are you sure? Because it looks like it has had color,” the stylist said.

“Oh…no.” I gave a solemn headshake. “I stopped that long ago.”

And then when she put her chemical mishmash on my hair, strange and unexpected greens appeared. I wasn’t being evasive on purpose…when it comes to hair… I forget.

“Breakage” occured in the follow-up days to fix the green sheen.

It turns out that the “color molecule” stays in the hair shaft long, long, long, after the “wash and wear” promise on the box has faded.  Actually, the only way to get rid of it is to grow it out and cut it off.

I’d like to say I’m mature and responsible hair owner. (Ha.Ha.Ha.)

I’d like to say … my stylist has whipped me into shape and taught me lessons about chemical pomades, nutrition, and even drinking more water. (Snort!)

What I’d really like is for my hair to look good without any effort. (I’m lazy like that, and if you’re one of those people who shampoo and run your fingers through your hair to let it air dry, and look stunning…well…I’m happy for you…about like I’m happy for the mother in my kid’s play group who used to say, “I never have to remind my child to do her homework. She just does it.” (BLaaaagh)

Photo by Stilfehler

So for now, I sit in church and notice the back of heads.

  • The mother who didn’t have time to do her own hair because she had children to herd.
  • Girls who have braided tresses without flyaways and loose ends sticking everywhere, and what tremendous patience SOMEONE had to have to accomplish that.
  • The lady who has a big hole in her hairdo because, like me, she never looks at the back of her head.

 And then there are the ladies with no hair.

And I remember why I’m there.

Talking to the Creator of the Universe about hair is different than talking to your stylist, isn’t it?

“Thanks for giving me a head,” is about all that’s needed and puts the rest into a perspective.

From that angle…we all look good.

The Chickens of Change

Let me get this out of the way right now. I think chickens are stupid.

peepsNow….before some of you get your feathers fluffled, let me give you my chicken credentials, so that you know…that I know these fowl dummies.

I grew up in the era of getting little purple, pink, and pastel-dyed chicks for Easter. No…
not the marshmallow kind..

chicks_Easter

The live kind.

Oh…stop gasping!!!  Remember, this was the era of no seatbelts, leaving kids in the car while you went into the grocery store….and people smoked in every closed building.

Live chicks were no big deal. After they grew their coming of age-pullet-feathers, we put them with the other chickens. The weather-hardened ones. The ones who stood around, gawping as a chicken hawk soared down and took them for a little road trip. The ones I put in a box and they’d go to sleep because they thought it was night. The ones who couldn’t figure out how to get back on the other side of the fence to their chicken buddies—even though they were standing in front of the open gate….You know…the  stupid ones.

Maybe if I wouldn’t have put the purple or pink chicks with the dumb ones, they would’ve grown up to be geniuses. By the time I was old enough to stop receiving baby chicks for Easter and start asking for a chocolate stash, I was convinced that chickens didn’t have the good sense God gave a whisk broom.

That’s why this trend of urban chicken farming, amuses me. I have a friend who waxes on for fifteen minutes about the pleasurable sounds of chatty chickens. For her, it’s a whole brilliant, new world of discovery as she talks about when they roost and how to get an egg that doesn’t break in her hand.

I keep my mouth shut. Why?

“Stardust Melody” 1927
One of the most recorded songs of the 20th Century

Because years after I became too cool to raise color-tinted chickens, I discovered “good” music. I once went on and on about this great new song. I even sang a couple of verses for my Dad. He let me have my moment of discovery. It was a while before he told be that “Stardust Melody” was a hit when he was young. It was just making the rounds again.

Oh.

Things change. Things stay the same…kinda the same…

I still think chickens are stupid.

Before You Die: Regrets of the Dying

LutheranLadies.comAn interesting list appeared while I was doing research for the next Lutheran Ladies Circle novel. It comes from a palliative nurse, Bronnie Ware, as she worked with folks who were catching the bus to the next world.

It was a LIST OF REGRETS OF THE DYING

That makes sense.  Death doesn’t wait until we’ve watered the plants, put the mail on vacation-hold, and paid all the bills. It comes, when it’s time. And it’s not necessarily synced with our personal schedule.

Some Regrets of the Dying…

*)” I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
This was one of the top regrets, and easy to see why.  We worry about what others will think of us and then we make decisions based on fear of their judgement.   Later….we ask ourselves, “Why did I do that?” or promise, “I’ll be smarter next time.”  And sometimes we are…if we don’t run out of time.

*)” I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”
Most  folks don’t say, “I wish I would’ve done more laundry and washed more dishes.” However, constant work would NOT have been my ol’ German grandpa ‘s regret. He was a hard-driving man. Every moment (besides sleeping and eating) had to be spent productively.   He said it kept away his fear of being hungry. I suppose, not every person has the same regrets. Granddad was certainly an exception to this one. At a very old age, he  toppled to a stop  while pitching hay  onto a wagon.  His heart thumped to a halt a few moments afterward and I bet his last thought was,” I wish I could’ve finished getting the hay in.”

*) “Why didn’t I stay in touch with my friends?”
We let go of friends for so many easy reasons.  Our interests don’t run in the same circles anymore. Our politics don’t match. Our personalities don’t match.  We get busy. Soon friends (and sometimes relatives) are relegated to the Once-A-Year Christmas card.   And then the end nears, and the ghosts of those old forgotten relationships haunt the heart.

*) “I wish I’d let myself be happier.”
Hindsight  is twenty/twenty they say.  How many times have worries curled around my feet like a slinking black cat, tripping me—only to end up never happening and thus wasting uncounted hours of cursing the cat?

When standing at the end and looking back…

  • It’s easier to see the line-up of catastrophes that never appeared
  • Or how life seemed to work out, even when problems fell.
  • And then there are even more regrets for wasting that time and encouraging early-appearing  white hairs.

My research was to gain insight into a outspoken character, Aunt Ula, who takes off on a wild trip, gathering  the pieces of her past. But as I read the list, I found myself making new rules for my own life.

REGRET  can be a strong motivation for CHANGE.

There’s a joke that goes: How many Lutherans does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: We don’t know.  We don’t like change.

Perhaps it’s the same for Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, Baptists and others. But hope still beckons. Sunrises, kindnesses…even the cute but irritating cat are reminders not to allow the past to dictate NOW.  We remember that we live in a state of forgiven grace—warts and all. We make adjustments and move forward.

Because even in the last twilight of life, we’re all still moving forward.

Twilight near dresdenNote:  OKAY, Okay. I received you emails. I turned the comments back on. It’s just that I know I can’t always get back to reply to every comment. But some of you emailed me. Your admonitions made me snort root beer out my nose at the predicament I put all of you in by tethering your talk-back . I’m sorry. Please don’t take offense if I don’t reply to every comment.

Oh…never mind. You can be as offended as you want. I’m changing so I can avoid Regret #1 above.  “Stop worrying what other people will think.”
AND…..Regret #3:  Losing touch with friends.

Let ‘er rip. Tater chips. Comment to your heart’s content. I’ve missed you.

AND….please, please come back and check the progress bar at the top, right-hand side. I’m sequestered at the keyboard this month knocking out the initial draft of Book 3 in 30 days. (National Write A Novel Month). I could use your support or a swift kick in the patoot every now and then. Thanks.

(List source: The Top Five Regrets of Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departed,  Photos: clock-Marsmet546  , man-Shanoor Habib, cat-Doug88888, Sunset-Wikipedia )

The Lutheran Ladies: Out of the Church and Into the Front Yard

You know these women. You work with these women.

The Lutheran Ladies’ journeys continue. Now they’re out of the church and setting up shop in the front yard. They aren’t afraid to tell you:

  • Your shirt doesn’t go with your pants.
  • Your casserole needs more seasoning
  • You’re dating the wrong man.

Join them as they travel….

ThroughKnothole_CVR_SmashwordsThrough the Knothole
(in the Lutheran Ladies’ Series)
Book 2

Length: 60,000 words

Kay McCabe is about to lose her house. As a single mom, it’s taken her years to create a safe, cozy home. But when two old Lutheran women need a place to stay, she’s pretty sure she’s about to lose even more.

When Kay’s job falls off an economic cliff, her knee-jerk solutions of renting rooms to the Lutherans and working in a bar, plug up life even more. Now she’s stuck in a new job she hates. Exhausted, she comes home to a couple of comical old church women who barely restrain their opinions, especially about her romantic interest. It’s like living with her mother again—actually two mothers.

She’s lost her privacy. Lost her humor. Lost her faith in others. And God isn’t answering his email.

Now Kay must decide: to try to get life back to normal—or squeeze through a knothole toward the new and unknown.

AVAILABLE NOW IN PAPER AND E-BOOK
Paper ($8.49) or Electronic($3.99):

Get Your Favorite Version Here:

Amazon
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Laugh, Enjoy. And Tell Others…because you know someone just like these women.

One is looking for normal
One is a charming nutcase
One is Manager-in-Training-for-the-Universe

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

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.

THE SPONGE METHOD.
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...

THE STRAIGHT DOUGH METHOD
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.)