Coming Home

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It’s just about time to start thinking about making arrangements and plans for Summer vacations… if you’re the planning type.    With a mild winter here in the mid-atlantic states, it feels like Spring already.  We went away this past weekend.  Not a huge vacation, just a long weekend getaway.

It always feels good to take a break.  There’s an old saying of UK origin, “A Change is as Good as a Rest”.  It’s unclear who said this first.  Some think it came from Arthur Conan Doyle, and we know that Winston Churchill said it.  Anyhow, that applies to our weekend adventure.

I’ve taken a little time off from my day job.  We went to Williamsburg. We like to go there, and we visit at least once a year.  We have our places we like to go, our meals we like to have, and our shops we like to visit.

Have you ever wondered why it seems to take no time at all to get to your vacation destination?  It takes forever to get back home again.  Is it the excitement of getting away that distracts you, as you travel towards your vacation destination?  Are you just over it all on the way home?  Is it just me, or does everyone experience that?

I love to go away, but you know what I love even more… coming home. No matter how nice a place is, or how much you enjoy it, there’s nothing like sleeping in your own bed.  For me, there is a certain contentment I feel with my life and my home.  I certainly don’t get to see my kids or grandkids every day, but I miss them more when I’m away.  It’s kind of a vague feeling of not being accessible, I guess.

As my writing business grows, it occurs to me that I can do this anywhere.  I work remotely, and this weekend I was able to accept and work on assignments on the fly.  It is exhilarating to have that freedom.  So much so, that it doesn’t even feel like work to me.  I am passionate about writing, and enjoy the varied assignments I’m lucky enough to work on.

So… If you follow my blog, and wonder where I’ve been, all is well.  I’m just writing to build my business.  I love this blog, though, so bear with me while I get things organized.  We’re about to discover all the mysteries of the universe!

-Cat

The Lost Art of Customer Service

When I was considering my blog topic for tonight, I thought that I should write about something more personal.  The thing is… I take customer service very personally.  These days, you can buy or sell anything on-line.  They are converting to order taking robots at McDonald’s.  I saw a vending machine with iPads and iPhones in it.  Is customer service dead?  Are we programmed not to care about our buying experience anymore?

I spoke with my prescription drug company recently.  I had a credit card on file with them.   They could charge whatever medication they sent out, rather than sending invoices to pay.  So, my credit card was compromised, and had to be replaced.  When I saw that I had a balance with them, I called their customer service to straighten it out.  Of course, I get the automated menu.  I’ve learned what to say when they ask you to state why you are calling.  I just say “customer service” repeatedly, and it gets you to a human faster.  Bottom line… you have to trick a machine in order to speak with someone.

I told the representative about my card.  I let them know that I was calling to pay my balance and add the new card for future payments.  He says “Okay, I’m going to try to add that card.  Usually, it doesn’t let you change cards if you have a balance.”  I asked him “Well, how will I pay my balance if you won’t take my new card information?”  That stumped him for a minute, and he put me on hold so he could speak with his supervisor.  Then he came back on the line, and the two of them had decided that they would work it out for me.  Wow!  I’m pleased to report that all is well now, but what a cluster!

I had a beautiful online experience recently with a company called Brighton.  I purchased a lanyard from them that I really loved.

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So, when it arrived, ahead of the expected time, it was in a box, with a heart shape cut into it… beautifully done.  I opened the box, and it was wrapped in two shades of tissue, and tied up with a gorgeous bow.  When I opened the ribbon, there was a card enclosed.  It had my first name on it, thanking me for my purchase and sending me good wishes.  It was hand signed by someone.  Classy!  I would buy from them again in a heartbeat.  Why? Because I felt appreciated as a customer.

This is the thing that’s hard for machines to do.  They really can’t express gratitude for your business.  They can’t help…  they can just refer you to another source, usually a website.  If I wanted to talk to your website, I would have logged in.  There’s a reason I called you instead.

In this world, your business can stand out by delivering a great experience.  If people didn’t notice in the past, they do now.  It almost takes you by surprise when someone is pleasant in their work these days.  I look for those places to do business with.  It’s proven that people will travel farther, and pay more, for the experience.

What are we thinking?

-Cat

Side Hustle

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That’s what Urban Dictionary calls it.  Your part-time job, alternate income stream, consulting, or in my case, freelancing.  What do you call what you do… aside from your “day job”?

A lot of people who I work with during the course of my day have something else that they do on the side.  These are people that make a good income, but want to develop something of their own.  We can be so creative, and the ideas that we have are so varied, that at times, they can support one another.

My passion is my freelance writing.  Most of the work I’ve been doing is in the B2B sector.  That means that my Side Hustle is to help your Side Hustle grow and prosper with business writing.  So many people have a fear of writing, or they know that it’s not their strength.

There is such a need now for business writing.  Do you have a website?  Of course you do!  How’s the content working for you?  How are you driving people to it?  Do your emails hit the mark?  What about your bio… or your direct mail campaign? Your social media marketing?  It can all be overwhelming, and to worry with all this stuff while you’re trying to do… what you are trying to do… can be too much.  It’s easy to get mired down with the details of it all.

Maybe you’ve managed to turn your passion into your “real job”.  If you’ve got that entrepreneurial spirit.  There’s nothing more rewarding than going to work everyday, doing what you love, in a business that you created.  Most people think that being a business owner means having a ton of money and spare time.  In most cases, I’d say nothing could be farther from the truth.

Owning a business, and developing it into a successful venture, is hard work.  My oldest son, and his wife, both have businesses. He builds custom furniture, and she’s a photographer.   My youngest son has a side hustle as well, working as a videographer and video editor.  My daughter in law bakes and decorates cakes on the side.  Like my writing, these jobs provide a creative outlet.  A little extra cash never hurts, either.

What’s your passion… your side hustle?

– Cat

 

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Football Team

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So… here it comes!  It’s that time of year again.  Let’s be distracted from politics for a few minutes.  Let’s talk non stop about the teams, the halftime show, the commercials, and all of the other hoopla surrounding – THE  SUPER BOWL!

This is actually a lonely two weeks for me.  I have nothing relevant to talk about.  Last year around this time, my coworker, Nate, asked me who I liked in the Superbowl.  I told him that I didn’t care.  He then asked me who my favorite football team was.  I told him that my favorite football team was “Art and Music”. He seemed puzzled by that.  When I went on to explain that I preferred art and music to football, he looked even more perplexed.  I told him that I wasn’t into sports.

My first husband loved watching sports on TV.  I wanted to like it.  I tried to like it.  I pretended to want to try to like it.  It didn’t work out for me.  When I left him, he told me how great it was to be able to stay up all night and watch the game.  He didn’t have to worry about ruining someone’s night, making someone cry or be angry.  I told him that was okay.  I didn’t have to listen to it, watch it, or have it wreck my plans, or waste my time.  In other words… it worked out for both of us!

I hit the jackpot in my current match!  His favorite football team?  You guessed it… art and music.  What a world of difference!  We never talk about sports, we don’t watch sports, and we don’t plan our life around sports.  He will sometimes watch golf if we’re home and it’s on.  I’m okay with that… it doesn’t make much noise.  True fact – before I wrote this post, I asked him “Hey, the Superbowl is this Sunday, right?”  He responded by saying “How should I know?”  I Googled it.  It’s this Sunday.

Is it in our genes to watch sports?  I never watched sports growing up.  My Dad’s trophies are more for the chess team and debate team.  I grew up with two sisters.  None of us played sports.  My family encouraged my love of art and music.  It wasn’t until I started dating my first husband that I learned about TV trays for Thanksgiving.  I have four grown kids.  My oldest loves his football.  My second son isn’t really into it. My third son hates sports.  My daughter can take it or leave it. 

I made all my kids play sports when they were growing up.  I see the value in it, and wonder if I would have been better off for playing when I was young.  By the way, I loved watching my kids play.  My boys were all pretty athletic.  My daughter was the first girl to complete a season of football with the Boys and Girls Club in our area. Other girls had come out in August to practice, but had not played once the season started.  I remember the first play of the first game Catie was in.  She got knocked about ten feet out of her cleats, and landed squarely on the ground.  After that, she developed tenacity and coping strategies, and didn’t fall for that again.

I love to go to a live sporting event.  There’s so much to see, and it’s all happening at once!  I just don’t want to devote the time it takes to follow it on TV.  I get it, I’m just not into it.

I hope your team wins this weekend.  I know mine will!

– Cat

 

All You Need is Love…and Prayer…Oh, and Meditation

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Working towards my writing resolution for this year, I’m focusing on four things to do in my spare time.  – Learning, Blogging, Working, Reading.

Part of my learning experience has been to try to listen more intently and effectively.  I’ve discovered that nothing sharpens your listening like a guided meditation.  I can’t tell you that I’m an expert, or that it’s changed my life… yet.  But I can tell you that I have faith in the process.

Now, not all guided meditations are created equal.  I have turned to the master of guided meditations, Deepak Chopra.  I guess I’m rediscovering him, as I used to listen to him years ago.  His voice is relaxing to me, even when my mind wanders and I stray from listening.

He’s written roughly 50 million books.  I may be exaggerating a little, but it feels pretty close to that.  I’ve made it my goal to dig in, but I’m afraid to listen to audiobooks by him, especially while driving.  That voice.  One way or another, I’m going to sleep.

If this feels to new-agey to you, there is an element of that.  Maybe you feel like prayer is the same thing.  Some think that meditation is a secular form of prayer.  I think that they’re two components of the same thing.  You might call it God, or some other name (Mother Earth, Higher Power, etc.)  For this example, we’ll call it God.

So, when you pray to God, you are putting something out there. Sending something to God, or into the universe.  When you meditate, you are listening for the answer.  I wish I had this explanation at hand for my grandson when he was talking to me about prayer.  He asked me “But, how do you hear God?”

I think that this is a problem for most of us.  When we pray, we tend to say “Here’s my problem, God, and here’s what you should do to fix it.”  As if we would know.  Then we get frustrated and feel that God’s not listening when things don’t go our way.  How many times have you prayed for something that, as it turns out, would have been a disaster?

We never know whether something is a blessing or a curse.  Some things may not be revealed to us in this lifetime.  I don’t know what the big picture… the grand plan, is.  I could have the whole thing wrong.  I’m actually not trying to figure things out.  I’m just going to believe that things will work out exactly like they’re supposed to.

– Cat

Being Left-Handed…It’s Not Just About Scissors!

Most right-handed people will probably skip over this post.  They most likely feel like it doesn’t have anything to do with them.  Most of us left-handed people won’t notice.  We’re used to people ignoring our left-handedness.

At work, I move the mouse over to the left side on shared computers when I’m using them.  Yup, I want to use the mouse with my left hand.  I don’t move it back to the right when I’m done.  I figure that you might have to move it if you use a computer after me.  But, consider that I have to move it EVERY time I use the computer, because it’s never set up on the left.

Most of you righties think that being left-handed is about comfortable scissors for us. And a lot of it is.  Maybe you think about desks in school.  If you’re not first in the classroom to claim a left handed desk, it’s tough making a go of writing assignments.  Do they still use pens and pencils in schools?  If they do, it might interest you to know that you can buy left handed writing sets on Amazon.  If you love a lefty, you can buy them a complete left handed College Set (Also available for left handed middle schoolers).   I didn’t even know that was a thing.

Other things you might not know were available for left-handed people:

  • Notebooks – YES!  I use one that’s bound at the top
  • Kitchen Utensils (?)
  • Can Opener – Good Idea
  • Tape Measure – (?)
  • Guitar – Okay
  • Watch – Not Sure
  • Computer keyboard (Numbers on Left)
  • A Left Handed Saute Spoon (from Le Creuset) ???
  • Holster – Makes Sense
  • Playing Cards (?)
  • Mouse – YAY!
  • AND…Chopsticks for Left Handed Children

Obviously, a lot of its marketing.  But there are some great ideas there.  So… being left-handed is a different mindset.  You are often the odd man out.  You may adapt, but some things are awkward.

You want to arrange your kitchen differently than the rest of the world.  When a look at a magazine, I like to browse from back to front.  With a juicy gossip magazine, it doesn’t make any difference, since the stories are two pages tops.  Bowling balls are tough, believe it or not.   You do, in fact, drag your hand through ink when writing. The alternative is making people stare as you exhibit the left-handed writing contortion technique.  Then, your hand stays clean, but you get cramps in weird places.  I prefer inky.

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My Mom is left-handed.  None of my kids are left handed except for my stepson, Andrew.  My Stepfather is left handed.  When my Mom was growing up, they smacked you on the hands at school if you were left handed.  I’m glad they stopped that by the time I went to school.

When people notice that you’re left-handed, they feel obligated to remark on it.  It’s usually “You know what they say… left handed people are in their right mind.  HaHaHa!”  Here’s the joke I tell to left handed people who I meet:

“You know what they say about right-handed people?”

“nothing”

– Cat

Paradigm Shifts

Some of those “aha” moments are pretty strange.  They say that insanity is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  I must be insane.  It seems my thinking gets lodged in a crevice.  It gets encouraged by my emotions and there it sits.

Until… BOOM!  Hello paradigm shift!

This phrase was coined by Thomas Kuhn.  He was an American physicist and philosopher… that’s interesting as a stand alone.  Anyway, it’s a deep and fundamental change in the way you view or understand something.

Maybe it’s God saying “enough already”.  Maybe it’s a self-preservation measure initiated by our subconscious.  When I think of some of the major paradigm shifts I’ve experienced in my life, I can’t really pinpoint the catalyst.  I guess that’s not the point, but it sure would be nice to conjure one up when you feel in need of one.

I’ve had several paradigm shifts that have forced me to take my life, or my thinking about my life, down a new path.  It’s always turned out right, although it usually involves some “going through” stuff.  It also feels like working without a net, which can be scary and exhilarating all at the same time.

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                                                                                                              Mary Engelbreit

I love this illustration by Mary Engelbreit.  Pay no attention to the date, and that I’ve kept this in my memory for about thirty years.  The image is very instructive, and cuts right to the heart of things. 

Sometimes we make a choice to walk through a door.  You may feel uncertain or scared of the door you’ve chosen.  When you try to go back through it, you find that it’s locked. One Choice… Keep it Moving!

– Cat

Where is the Cloud?

Even though I’m over 50, I’m okay when it comes to technology.  Notice I didn’t use the word “savvy”.  That indicates a level of proficiency that I’m not sure I want to advertise.

I used a computer in my business in the eighties.  I sold computers in the nineties, and had one of the first, hardwired “carphones”.  I skipped the bag phone and went right for the cell phone/pager combo.  I used a computer in my home in the early nineties.  Anybody here remember AOL chatrooms?

Anyway, my day job these days is for a “technology” company.  Okay, it’s a cell phone company.  I can help with basic trouble shooting, but there’s a lot going on with cell phones these days.  I like to use words like “magic” and “gremlins” when I’m troubleshooting.   Which is probably why they don’t ask me to do too much of it these days.

I was talking with a gentleman today.  He was about my age.  He said “my phone says it’s out of room.  What does that mean?”  So I starting explaining that the cell phone has a finite amount of storage space.  I start talking about the cloud, and explaining why he should upload his stuff.

He stops me mid sentence and asks “Why are we both looking up? Is that where the cloud is?”  I decided to hand this one off to a coworker.  I know, I forgot I was a badass there for a minute.

Now, I’m really not much of a conspiracy theorist.  My Mom called to tell me a few months ago that her cell phone had been hacked.  I was able to almost convince her otherwise, and I got her the help she needed.  The problem was, as I thought it might be, that she had every app she had ever used open.  A quick lesson in closing stuff down got her back on track.

The thing about me and technology is that I can usually bang my head up against something until I get it right.  In other words, given enough time, I can figure anything out.

But, let’s get back to the cloud.  When I got my last phone, I retrieved all my info from the cloud.  AND two pictures of some random guy I don’t know, in a room I don’t recognize.  I’m glad to report that he seems happy.  How cool is that…..not!  Because, of course, that makes me think.  I’ve got three thousand pictures in my phone.  I really wouldn’t know if I was missing any of them in particular.  Has someone else received any of my photos as the bonus?

If so, I hope it’s one of these:

Because they don’t know the history of holiday butter sculptures in our family!

To the point… I don’t get mad when technology doesn’t work.  To me, it’s amazing that it ever works!  I stand by “magic” and “gremlins” as a reasonable explanation of technology.

  • Cat

You Are A Badass… How to Stop Doubting your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life!

I haven’t done a book review on here yet, but I’m stepping out on a limb to tell you about this book by Jen Sincero.  I have the audio version, and get a great coaching now every time I’m in the car!

First Warning – There will be bad language.  Jen gives you the real.  If you have sensitive ears….

Second Warning – I am now unstoppable in my quest to take over the world after hearing this great mix of wisdom and humor.

In this book, she talks about the doubt she had for the self-help community.  She thought that inspirational and motivational quotes were crap.

Right off the bat, she talks about the difference between wanting to change your life, and deciding to change your life.  What a distinction, right?  In my last post, Being Brave, I talked about being cautious vs. being brave.  I love this quote from Anais Nin that Jen used in this book that speaks right to that point.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”

She talks about being a religious and spiritual skeptic.  Like many of us, her views shifted over time.  A lot of her story reminded me of a situation that I dealt with when I owned a service business.

A had an employee with a drinking problem.  I kinda knew, and I kinda didn’t want to know.  Basically, I didn’t want to deal with it.  I had a talk with him about it.  He said he knew he had a problem, and that he was working on it.  When a customer complained, I had to call him into my office.  I realized at this point that having a good talk with him was not going to do anything. 

I let him go, and he was very nice about it.  He said that I had given him chances that nobody else would have, and that he understood my position.  So, I asked him “Have you thought about giving AA a try?”  He responded by saying that he looked into it, but it seemed like they talked about God too much.  I looked him in the eye and said “Sometimes you have to ask yourself… Is my way working?”

Jen transitions nicely from So What? to Game Plan.  She gives a refresher on the importance of mindfulness.  There’s a discussion on using meditation to reach your goals.  Then there’s the chapter called “Gratitude: The Gateway Drug to Awesomeness”.

I had never heard the quote from Albert Einstein:

Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.

Anyway, if you want to feel inspired and motivated to add more of anything positive in your life.  Go buy this book.  Or download it.  I’ll be shameless and add a link.  100 percent recommend it!  Let me know how you like it!

– Cat

 

Being Brave

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It’s hard work, being brave.  I love this quote, because it’s so true.  We do think of Braveheart, or war heroes, and even Merida in the movie BRAVE.  We do think of people without fear, being strong and living their lives, no matter what gets hurled at them.

The truth is, we’re all scared.  Of all kinds of things.  Some people seem scared.  Some people seem brave.  But none of us get out of this life without some hurt, frustration, and self-doubt.

I saw an ad on Facebook… I know, shocker, huh?  It’s advertising jewelry to promote awareness of mental health issues, particularly depression and suicide.  I’m thinking about getting this piece of jewelry.  Because it’s a great cause, and we could use some dialogue.

But really… I want it because on it are the words Be Brave.  I want it to remind me everyday that you’ve got to be brave.  You’ve got to process and deal with whatever crosses your path.  We all need reminding from time to time.

When I think of some of the cancer survivors that I know, I am overwhelmed at how brave they are.  When you lose someone close to you, it takes bravery to get through the following days.  For some people, getting out of bed in the morning is an act of bravery.  I would say that on the bravery challenge sliding scale, I’m someone there in the middle.

Another quote on bravery that really got to me:

“Be Brave.  Even if you’re not, pretend to be.  No one can tell the difference.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

That’s true, though.  By the time you convince others that you are brave, you have almost convinced yourself!

I love the complexity of humans.  Two things strike me in particular:

  • How resilient we are
  • How fragile we are

What makes the difference between bending and breaking?

It’s bravery!

The ability to say “Is that all you’ve got to throw at me, life?”  The  fine art of planning your next bold move while the walls are falling down.  Being a phoenix.

I feel as though I’ve been more cautious than brave as I moved through life.  I’ve paid the price for that too.  Some people do see me as brave.  I hope I’ve got them fooled, since that means I’m on my way to actually being brave!

– Cat