Chaos

While we are still travelling around the world, that doesn’t exactly stop me from thinking and therefore, does not stop me from sharing! Sometimes I feel as though chaos reigns over my world. I do not like this. To be honest, in this instance, I do not really care how the dictionary defines chaos, it doesn’t matter because I have my definition and I am aware when it has struck, and it has.

Chaos is when you can’t hold a thought in your head for very long. And when I say very long, I mean like a full minute. Chaos is feeling all the things you need to do and all the things you want to do spinning about you at such a velocity you are sure that any decent weather man would classify  you as an F5 tornado.

Chaos is also when your emotions are such that you can’t tell what you feel. You’ve heard people say about the weather where they live being so changeable, “If you don’t like the weather wait five minutes and it will change!” Well, that is what emotional chaos is like. Someone asks you, “How are you today?” How do you answer when one second you are great and then the next you are irritable, and then you are happy again.

So what to do about chaos? Well, the chaos that I have described above, not too much. So you take control of what you can. For me tonight it will be to clean. I am just going to start tackling stuff until I feel like I have taken charge of something, anything. And then I’ll breathe a little easier.

Anyway, that is what I think!

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Organized? Um, well…

Something that I really struggle with is being organized. Trying to find a way to do what I need to do and what I want to do is not easy. I would say it is like being on a balance beam or tight wire, but it is really more like trying to cross the grand canyon on a spider’s web. So what tools have I tried successfully? What has been a dismal failure? Or does it matter, am I just doomed to live in chaos?

Here’s what I think.

Tools:

My favorite and most successful tool is a list. Having a list to refer to helps to keep me focused, and the wonderful feeling of scratching off some dreaded task increases my energy and makes me want to scratch some more! One trick I use too is to make lists as specific as possible. I don’t “clean the kitchen”, I “rinse dishes, load dishwasher, run dishwasher, wipe down counters…” You get the idea I am sure. I find that I personally like my list on the computer. There is an up and a down to that strategy.  The upside is that I get to sit down for a minute, maybe take a very short break to reward myself. The downside is that the short break can easily become a long break. Right now I am using a program called Astrid. Any word processing program would do the job, but I want color and fun and a list that is interesting!

Next is a good calendar. I find that I do better with two. I have one, a white board type that I see regularly because it hangs on my bedroom door. I keep track of appointments, pay days, time spent in service, when and how much certain automatic drafts from my account are going to be. Then I just bought a book type calendar with each month spread across two pages. I keep that one on my dining room table. It combines the two, part list so I can see how busy I am on those days and then a place to put appointments, etc. So why three list/calendars? Out of sight, out of mind. This gives me three rooms that have something in front of me to say, “get crackin’ lady!” All I need now is one that is easy to use, chock full of features, pretty and will post to Facebook when I need to do something, but I guess you can’t have everything.

The last tool I have not done, but I think I am going to do it very soon. Studies show that goals that are written down are more likely to get accomplished. My list and my calendars are a form of this, but I think it might be nice to have a contract of sorts with myself. You may have heard of S.M.A.R.T. goals, I think that is what I want to try to add to my tool box.

I started out saying what has been dismal failures. I think it really is unfair to call anything a dismal failure because, well the truth being, I would have to own up to being the one that has failed. I try and try and still I just get overwhelmed or bored and just give up. So if you are struggling just don’t give up. Eventually we are both likely to find the right combination of tools to help us get organized!

 

 

 

Timeliness

For starters it is the quality of being timely, so I had to look up timely and here is what good old Miriam-Webster‘s had to say:

As an adverb:

1. archaic: early or soon

2. in time : opportunely

As an adjective:

1. coming early or at the right time

2. appropriate or adapted to the times or the occasion

So timeliness equates to the quality of being early, on time, opportune, appropriate.

For starters today I am not going to tell you what I think, rather I’m going to tell you what I don’t think. Timeliness is not…

going over the speed limit, zigzagging around cars and running red lights to get to work on time. Or to get to anything for that matter, on time.

pushing your way to the front of the line so you can be waited on first.

talking on your cell phone about the hot date you had last night for 20 minutes after you clocked into work.

asking someone into your office for a meeting on time but then making them wait until you show up, get off the phone, finish reading something, finish texting, etc.

Okay, so hopefully you get the idea. Now please don’t think that I don’t understand that sometimes stuff happens. But it shouldn’t be all the time. In fact, it really ought to be a rarity. I remember the days when being late to work would get you fired. And with the economy as it is, that is something to start worrying about now too.  There are plenty of people out there that want a job and can be on time.

It is interesting though, that being on time is not all that the word timeliness is about though. It is also about being opportune and appropriate. Timely is showing up at a time when needed. And it is showing up to the right place too. Arriving at the dentist when you were supposed to be at the hospital checking in for your much-needed heart surgery, that would be pretty untimely.

So here is what I think, or rather what I hope. I hope that all of you out there try to get to the right place, at the right time, with the right attitude. I hope you will, by leaving early, do it safely. I hope that you consider others and their time as much, if not more than, you consider yourself and your own time.

Creativity

So, here is what I know, I love all things creative.  The more things I try, the more I love being creative.  I have, in general, been self taught in all that I have done:  painting, drawing, polymer clay, pastels, beading, writing, needlepoint, origami, scrap-booking.  And, most of the time, I have felt fairly confident in the things I have taught myself, but I also realize that in some facets of each of my arts I am lacking.  A Jack of all trades, Master of none kind of thing.

So yesterday I signed up for a creative writing course.  I think my writing is fairly good as it is, but my ability to build a story and then follow it through is lacking.  So maybe I’ll learn something.  The course is one of those correspondence courses, Stratford Career Institute.  The syllabus sounds thorough, at least for what I want to learn and so I am hopeful.  But nervous too.

Some results of my creative streak:

Pastel and Acrylic on Canvas; Acrylic and polymer clay on wood.
Wire, Bead and Polymer Clay Key Chain
Polymer Clay on Glass
Beaded Hair Combs

For the Birds

Here’s what I think, birds are some of the most incredible creatures ever created. They are beautiful, smart, funny and fun to watch! Here are few things you may not have known about our beautifully feathered friends.

You eat like a bird! Okay, let’s get something straight here, this is no compliment! Most birds eat half their body weight in food per day. And some young birds, they can eat their full body weight worth of seed a day. Okay, when you weigh just ounces that may not seem like much. But consider if a person did that! A 150 pound person would have to eat 75 pounds of food a day to keep up with a bird! And let’s not even talk about keeping up with that baby bird.

Bird brain. Why thank you very much! While it was once considered that birds were inferior to mammals in regards their brain, thus leading to insults such as the previous, it turns out that science has proven this to be wrong. Birds generally have quite large brains and they use them well.

So very beautiful! Hopefully you have noticed this just by the pictures on this post. Birds come in every color, a variety of sizes and shapes, they have expressive faces, and they can literally make you feel awe at their abilities. Consider this visual, an eagle is soaring high in the sky. Then after catching sight of a fish, it swoops down, snatches it out of the water, then flies away for dinner. Of course their are other visuals, but I think I’ll leave off on my descriptive writing and just let you look at some pictures and decide for yourself!

Now I could go on and on with these photos. There are so many beautiful birds! But what are your favorites? Are they exotic? colorful? or maybe just one of your backyard feeder birds? Let me know what you think!

Coping with Pain

 

Well, let’s just start with what I think, pain is a pain in the butt!

I have fibromyalgia, a wonderfully mysterious  disorder (serious sarcasm to be read here), that allows its host to enjoy widespread pain. This pain is so wonderful (sarcasm is the order of the day), that it will not leave your side for any pain medicine. It is just that loyal of a friend!

Okay, while what I just said was true, let’s drop the sarcasm for some reality.

 

Obviously I have fibromyalgia. However, I don’t want to talk about how much pain I have or how much energy I don’t have. What I really want to share is how I cope. I have 4 main coping skills that I use to get from one day to next and to remain really quite, very, incredibly? happy. Which ever of those is the biggest adjective, that is the one I am glad to say that I am…absolutely no sarcasm meant here.

My first and foremost coping mechanism is my faith. I have a very good knowledge of the Bible and I use it to build me up. I have a strong relationship with God and I use that to comfort me. Obviously whoever is reading this may or may not share my religion, I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. My point is that faith and knowledge of our Creator can be a real comfort and does help me to cope. (If your curious about my faith)

 

 

 

My second coping tool is smiling. As often as I can as much as I can I smile. It releases wonderful chemicals that actually do have an effect on the pain. No, it won’t make it go away but it will help. So if you can do it, smile!  Also connected with this is laughter. Just as important, it releases the same chemicals in your brain. So find something to laugh about. A favorite, , animal videos on youtube, friends with positive attitudes.

 

 

That leads to number three. Don’t let yourself be isolated. Granted there are times that we have pain that is too much to have to deal with people at the same time, but if it is just a mild or even medium pain day then socialize! My friends give me things to think about other than my pain. Distraction can, in my experience, work as a pain reliever too.

Number four, do what you can do, do what you like to do. Today is a good example of that for me. My pain isn’t too bad, I have a fair amount of energy. So today I will do whatever that allows me to do. Don’t waste a good day thinking that it will make the next day better. It might, but it might not. When you have chronic pain you can’t wait around for it to suddenly, permanently go away. Make the most of your good days. Have fun with them. Accomplish something, even something small. And the second half of that is do what you like. Make it a point to do things you enjoy. Today I am writing to all of you. I am a very creative person so I may work on origami or a painting or something along those lines. I enjoy that so I do that. It gives me things, fun things, to look back on when the pain is so bad I have to be in bed or on the couch.

 

(Note: This does not include when you have been ordered by doctor to stay in bed. If medically running around doing errands, cleaning house, going for walks, etc. is bad for you it is bad for you. This is simply about chronic pain with no other health risks involved. Also please keep in mind I am not a health professional, just someone who lives with pain.) 

Well that about covers it. My four best coping tools for pain. They may at first seem impossible. Or maybe they seem ridiculous, but they have worked for me now for over seven years. And I do consider myself to be an incredibly happy person. I hope that it helps someone out there.

How Fast Our Brains Work…No Really!

So, how fast can you think? We have all heard how our brains are super computers processing tons of information at the speed of lightning. And it is true considering everything that we see, hear, feel, taste and smell that we are processing an awful lot of information. Such as, right now I can hear the keys of my key board clicking away, my guinea pig chewing and running around his cage, the whir of the computer and some random background noises from outside. I am looking at my computer screen, but I can also see out of the corner of my eye my cat watching the guinea pig eat,  the clutter on my desk, light from the windows. My nose is stuffed up at the moment so I’m not smelling much. I can feel the keys of the keyboard, my chair, the desk, some muscles cramping. As for my mouth, well we’ll leave off there and say you get the point. This is a lot of processing and it can not be denied. But how fast can you think? A whole other question!

If you are like me you probably feel like a Commodore 64 running software for the Hubble Telescope. But then again…

Maybe I am not as slow as I think I am. Through all the fog and burnt out circuits when it comes down to it maybe I think pretty fast. Example number one was today driving from Greensboro to Winston-Salem, N.C.  Ahead of me were two vans, one in my lane and one in the lane to the right entering the highway. Now the van on the left we will call Diane and the van on the right we will call Jack. Diane was cruising along minding her own business. Jack was entering the interstate and needed to merge left before he was forced to mess up the state of North Carolina’s nice grass shoulder.  The problem was they were running right next to each other and Jack was not checking his blind spot. I was following a safe distance behind.  Well, it was a safe distance assuming everyone else was doing what they were supposed to do! Now in a matter of about 3-5 seconds I thought the following:

He isn’t checking his blind spot, I need to back up more, so glad that Cee (my passenger) is sleeping because if they hit at these speeds we are likely to get  swept in and she will get hurt less if she is relaxed, keep slowing down, is there anywhere for me to go, he sees her, she sees him, they’re both moving away from each other, whew glad that didn’t happen.

3 to 5 seconds, that was all it took for me to think all of that. Now this set me off to thinking about whether it is fair of me to say I am a slow thinker after all, and to look for other instances of my brain’s lightning fast reflexes!

Example number 2:  A couple of weeks ago I was driving and it was raining. Just a mist by then, or maybe we were even in a pocket of dry but the road was still wet.  I was driving on a road and approaching a red light.  The red light however was a the end of a steep hill, maybe 45 degrees. It wasn’t a very long hill, 3 or 4 car lengths I would say. As I began to come to a stop, or rather as I tried to begin to come to a stop, the following thinking occurred:

Red light, push the brakes, push the brakes harder, I’m going to hit him, move to the turn lane there’s no one there, we’re going to end up in crossing traffic, pump the brakes, two, no three cars passing, slowing down, I’m probably giving Bernice (my passenger)  a coronary, whew stopped, I need a drink.

Again this was a less than 5 second span of time and every one of those thoughts piled in just one on top of the other. And to boot, I had to act on several of them.

So, how fast do our brains work? I really don’t have any idea. I suppose we could say that in a pinch my brain can think one thought per .33 seconds. I mean if we just use really basic algebra and assume that in those two instances I was thinking as fast as was possible for me.  But putting a number to this was never what I was aiming for. Really, here’s what I think. I think that I can process thoughts fast enough in a pinch to be really impressive, at least to me. Just don’t ask me where I left my cell phone.

Now for those curious about the literal answer, I have no idea. Here’s an article that ponders the question. 

Home Cookin’ Restaurant!

Around 21 years ago, I was stationed with the Navy in Jacksonville, N.C. For a few months of my tour I worked at the medical clinic at Camp Geiger. One of my favorite parts of working in that clinic was Friday lunches. Every Friday we would go to this itty-bitty little hole in the wall restaurant. To tell the truth I’m not even sure it had a name, at least I never knew what it was. Anyway, this little gem offered lunch for $5. For that you got a main dish, two side items, a bread and a drink. You ordered off of a chalk board that hung on a wall, no menus. Each day they offered 3 or 4 main dishes and 10-12 sides. It was all “home” cooked, not frozen, not canned just delicious and all for just the $5. Well, that was more than alright for real food!

So today I was running errands and was passing another hole in the wall restaurant, O’Henry BBQ, here’s a map. I hadn’t eaten my  lunch and it was past 2 so I pulled in. My mind was on finding some good N.C. BBQ until I walked in the door. At that moment I traveled back in time, or at least I was hoping I had. The “wood-paneled walls, the chalkboard replaced by a white board. Oh but it felt the same. The same combo idea, choose your meat, choose you veggies, have a drink and your bread, $7.25. You heard that right, $7.25! And good. I had country fried steak with the best gravy. Fried okra that tasted like my grandmothers. Though they tell me (even showed me) it is frozen I have a hard time swallowing it. Though no problem swallowing the okra! The roll was soft and tasty and the sweet tea was sweet southern. Now I have to be honest I wasn’t crazy about the corn. It’s canned and I can taste that in corn. But there were so many other options that I can’t wait to try: green beans (with requisite bacon grease), stewed apples with cinnamon and butter, mashed “taters”, squash, slaw, pintos, black-eyed peas. And some things I’m not all that into, but others might like: Apple sauce, beets, peaches, potato salad, cottage cheese, mixed fruits.

As I originally wrote this, pen on napkin , still sipping my sweet southern iced tea, I could remember those lunches all those years ago. It’s a good memory of good food and good co-workers, happy taste buds, happy stomach, smiles and laughter. I’m glad now I can make new memories in the same vein in a restaurant that is different and yet the same. And since I have managed (unintentionally) to use this sentence in every post, I won’t slack off now. Here’s what I think. It is a wonderful thing to have good memories of the past, and the opportunity to savor them in the present, so as to have even more good memories in the future!

And as a final note, if anyone remembers that nameless restaurant, it was out Hwy. 17 towards Wilmington in Jacksonville, N.C. I’d  love to hear your remembrances  Or maybe it still stands and serves good “home” cooked meals for a really good price. I would love to know that too.

Customer Service: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

This is a very old essay I did for an English class a long, long time ago. But it is still one of my favorite pieces, and it is still what I think!

Customer service falls into three categories: The good, the bad, and the ugly. Unfortunately the good is becoming harder and harder to find. We all know what kind of service we are receiving when we get it, but I wonder do clerks know what kind of service they are giving? Do they know when they are chasing away their paychecks? Do they even care? Elbert Hubbard said, “Folks who never do any more than they get paid for, never get paid for any more than they do.” Maybe it’s time that they cared about what we want, time for them to care about what we deserve.

What we deserve, and what we get from the good, is a friendly greeting. The simple joy of a “Hello, how are you doing today?” is a wonder. Add a smile and shopping or dining can seem like heaven. When you are ready to be waited on, they are right there. They are attentive to your every need, wanting only to make your visit a productive and pleasant one. They know their product, or their service, and what they don’t know, they are glad to find out for you. If you visit often, they remember you. They listen to your comments with a sincere concern for your happiness. When it is time to hit the checkout line, they thank you for your patronage. If you have any problems, they want to fix them. Most of all, they know that the customer is always right!

The bad is less enjoyable to be sure. With the bad, when you walk in the door, you are lucky to get a blank stare and certainly never more than a nod. If you get a “hello” at all, it is because you said it first. When you need their help, you feel as though you have put them out. You have a question? They don’t know the answer, and they don’t know who to ask to get it. They listen because they know they have to. You can tell because of that “Hurry up and go away” look in their eyes. You suffer, but you make it to the checkout line. These clerks only want to go home so don’t count on a thank you. In fact,  you haven’t even picked up your things and they have already moved on to the next person in line. Do yourself a favor and don’t have any problems with these folks. Any attempt they do make will be lame at best. They aren’t really sure what to do when you have a complaint.

Then you have the ugly. These folks require saints for customers! You will never hear a word when you walk in the door. You can look them in the eye, say “Hello” and still they won’t speak to you. If you need help with something, don’t hold your breath. They aren’t going to notice you for at least an hour. Make them stop and notice you, and be prepared. No one can get as rude or indignant as the ugly clerk can! What is worse is that these clerks do know the answers, but they certainly aren’t going to share them with you. If you do have the patience of Job and make it to the checkout line, there is only one thing to expect. These people are just glad you are leaving and are no longer going to waste their air. Again, as with the bad, you don’t want to have any problems. If you do and you decide to address it, your clerk will refuse to help you. The ugly clerk knows only two things. First they are always right, and second the customer is always clueless.

The good, the bad, and the ugly, they’re everywhere. But mostly it is the bad that we meet now. The good with their sincerity, friendliness, and helpfulness are going the way of the dinosaurs. The ugly with their rude indignation are still rare but are quietly growing stronger. The bad seem to have the world at their feet. They are indifferent to our needs and to our wants. But we can make that change. We can choose to not accept the bad. We can choose to live without the ugly. “I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.” Oscar Wilde said that, and I agree. Is it not time we were all satisfied with nothing but the best?

~K

Now I wrote that back in the nineties and little has changed. Or has it? I see even less of the good and more of the ugly. I said in the final paragraph that we could make a change and I still believe that. Yes, by all means, let a manager know when you receive bad service. They need to know it. If they seem to be part of the problem then talk to an owner or a district manager. But there is something else you can do. Don’t forget to let the good know that they are just that. While you are at it, let their managers know it too. Positive reinforcement is even more important than our complaints when we are misused as paying customers.

Next a note to business owners and managers. I have often experienced one problem resulting from my sincere compliments of your best employees. When an employee does well they are quickly moved up the ranks and out of the view of the customers. That is great, good work deserves to be rewarded. But then you must do your best to find good employees to replace them. Also, I notice that sometimes when a great customer service representative is moved up the line so to speak, consideration isn’t given to whether that is really the best position for them. They may not be cut out for management. Why not consider raises, bonuses, prizes for outstanding employees? Allow them to continue doing what they do best, and what keeps your customers happy. So that is an update to what I think!

©1998, 2012 Kendall Stewart

Contagion…

There is a contagion out there that I really think everyone needs to be aware of. It can be spread by physical or visual contact. Also audibly in the right circumstances. This “bug” is in fact so contagious that it can spread literally in seconds and has an immediate effect on the brain, altering levels of vital chemicals.  You may be thinking right about now, “Why haven’t I heard anything about this? What should I do?”  Well, here’s what I think. Since I am talking about the incredible smile and it’s ability to change your life and the life of others around you (even complete strangers) I say get infected! Smiling has real health benefits and is something we all need to catch more often. Aside from the purely external benefit of making us more attractive to others, smiling has been proven to increase neuropeptides which fight stress. Let’s face it, who here couldn’t use a little help fighting that? … Yep, as I thought, no one. We all face stress every day and we all could use a little pick me up. A smile might just be the pick me up you need. Also released when we smile are the neurotransmitters: dopamine, and serotonin, as well as endorphins.  So a little run down on the effects of these little chemical gems. Dopamine motivates us. It allows us to see rewards and then go for them.  Serotonin works as an anti-depressant and mood lifter.  You’ve probably heard the word if you have any experience with depression.  Endorphins, now there is a chemical for you.  They work at blocking pain (I’m all for that) and increasing mood (I’m all for that too). Other benefits of these chemicals being released in the brain are a decrease in blood pressure, lower heart rate, and increased relaxation. Sounds pretty wonderful doesn’t it? But how true is it? Well I know I have benefited from it many times. Lousy day? Put on a smile and sure enough I perk up. I used to work in customer service. Actually I used to work in very fast paced, demanding customer service. My co-workers often thought I was off my rocker. Why? Because I kept the biggest smile plastered on my face all day long. Truth be known I didn’t particularly care for my job, but as long as I kept smiling I still managed to have fun. I got through every day feeling pretty good. So I have a challenge for you. If you really want to know if it works decide right now to spend one whole day smiling at everyone, including yourself. Sure, life might knock you down a little through the day, but smile anyway. And then at the end of the day you be the judge. You decide if the smile isn’t the best little “virus” you could ever catch!