Category Archives: Everyday observations

English Only, Please! But …Post by Mary C. Findley

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I work at a major retailer and try to provide customer service to many people from other countries setting here in the United States. I don’t know their legal status and that isn’t what this post is about. I do believe people should enter their chosen country legally and that they should learn the language of that country. However, when it comes to America and its language, that could be more difficult than it first appears.

  1. English is probably the number two most difficult languages in the world to learn. Chinese is supposed to be more difficult.
  2. Even if you get a handle on basic communication of the spoken language, you might still be defeated when it comes to the written language. (example: I have had people show me their smart phone with a picture of the item they need to find. They can say a few words to me but they can’t get out the whole message of what they need.)
  3. Going beyond the written language, there is the symbolic language of advertising and product packaging. This is where I really want to start explaining how hard American English is to understand.

I have had people ask me to help them find the right size of diapers. They look at a package and see a visual assault of varieties and sizes. Which blocks of graphics with numbers are sizes and which refer to weight of child, age of child, type of diaper, amount of time it should last before needing to be changed? Whew! I have a lot of compassion for people who have to try to figure this out.

A little family of four was out shopping and the father needed a belt. He brought me an extra large one. He had no idea how to figure out which one he really needed. I ended up having to go back with him and put belts around him until we came up with a 34-36 waist. So I showed him belts that had numbers instead of small, medium, large, or extra large, and with a lot of pantomime, I hope he found what he needed.

Many items no longer have a numerical price printed on them. Just a barcode and its numbers representing the UPC code that contains pricing information. We have a scanner near my work area but sometimes the results are frustrating. Why is this on a sales rack but not on sale? Did someone forget to change it in the system, or did another shopper just drop it off on the rack where they found cheaper items? Even people who speak English have trouble understanding that. One person showed me two items, one of which was on sale, the other seemed at least similar, but was not on sale. She could not understand that I did  not have the authority to give her the sale price on the second item because it was not the same thing. She stood around for a good while as if waiting for circumstances to change, occasionally saying phrases like, “Okay, see you again sometime,” but clearly not really knowing what they meant.

Back to the people showing the picture on the smart phone. Say they want laundry detergent. I can take them to that aisle, but when they get there will they be able to sort out what the different products do? I can’t read their minds and know what they are really looking for. The variety and choices for an ordinary American are bewildering. What if you can barely (or still can’t) make out what the words on the package mean even after you have some basic conversational English down?

I remember an old illustration told as a story of some people arriving in the United States, going to a store, and happily coming home with a can displaying a beautiful picture of fried chicken. They opened the can and found … solid vegetable shortening. Is it clear, what’s in that can, even if you know a fair amount of English?

A couple of examples on the other side of the coin. A woman who spoke very good English demanded a discount on a clothing item that was supposed to be two pieces (top and bottoms) but had only one of the pieces. I pointed out to her that it was already half price. She said, “I don’t think you understand what I’m saying.” I replied that I did understand but she still walked away angry that I wouldn’t just give her what she wanted — an even lower price. Another person called the store, I answered, and she wanted to know when customer service closed. I gave her the time, only twenty minutes or so in the future. She said, “But I’m on my way there now. They aren’t going to close early and I won’t be able to do my business?” I repeated the closing time three times, while she got more angry. In effect, insisted that I was personally going to cheat her out of the chance to get her business done because I would not assure her that Customer Service was not going to be closed when she got there. She used an obscenity to express my lack of ability to communicate to her satisfaction. Both of us spoke perfect English. No real communication took place.

Just sharing a few thoughts so that we can be more compassionate when someone who doesn’t know English as well as we would like comes up to us and needs help. Give that help. As much as you can.

And when your English and my English are just fine and we interact, but you aren’t satisfied with the outcome, please remember that civility costs nothing, and treat me and my fellow retailers with compassion too.

(image credit johnhain at Pixabay)

 

 

 

 

 

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Even I Can Use Instagram — Post by Mary C. Findley

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I haven’t written an actual “writing” post for awhile. As I posted not too long ago, it’s been a year of upheavals and little or no writing for me. Still, I have picked up a few ideas for writers in my stumbling, fuddy-duddy way, that might help. I tend to discover things other people have known and used for a long time, and one of those is Instagram.

Unfortunately, I discovered it after I dunked and destroyed my first and only smart phone. I’m back to a regular old keyboard phone for now. I joined a group of authors on a lovely new blog called Candidly Christian (see my first post here)  http://candidlychristian.com/life-lessons/ .

The moderator asked us to join Instagram to help promote. I did that, on my laptop. I discovered that I could join, follow, and like (or heart) posts, but I couldn’t post anything myself from my computer. I kept getting messages in my email to download the app, tormenting me with the memory of my dear departed smartphone. So I figured I was doomed to never know the joys of true Instagram participation. I flashed back to the days I started using Twitter and didn’t have any tweets. https://elkjerkyforthesoul.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/curiouser-and-curiouser-an-authors-adventures-in-twitterland/

Or so I thought. I do know that in the world of devices there is usually some kind of workaround. It didn’t take long to discover that there is indeed a Chrome extension for Instagram that works on laptops and desktops. The picture at the top of the article, which is Ruth, daughter’s “hearing-aid” cat, referred to in my first Candidly Christian post, is also my very first Instagram post. I know, I know. In the future I will crop and clean up images better. But I like to share my struggles as well as my successes with struggling fellow writers.

When you set up your Instagram profile, you might fetch up against the daunting task of including your self-description. Describe yourself and your reason for being there in 140 characters. Not easy. I based my profile description on my Amazon author page. Here’s the highly distilled, Instagram version:

Cover artist ❤ pets cross-genre author w/never-say-die heroes crazy smart husband 3 kids 18-wheeler shotgun Proverbs 16:3 Book midwife elkjerkyforthesoul.wordpress.com

Here’s a link for a Chrome Instagram Extension. https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/instagram-for-chrome/opnbmdkdflhjiclaoiiifmheknpccalb?hl=en-US

Here’s my Instagram profile. https://www.instagram.com/marycampagnafindley/ It’s lonely over there, and I’d appreciate follows and whatever else you do on Instagram. (still figuring that out.) And pointers.

And, oh, dear, I hear there’s something called Snapchat! eeps!

 

 

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Rolling Along Through Breakdown and Blessing

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I attended a church Book Club meeting last night and one of the icebreaker questions was “If your life was a book, what would the title be?” The title of this blog post is the one I came up with. Many readers know hubby has been an over-the-road truck driver off and on since 1998. Employment has always been tough to find while we wait for fame and fortune as authors (ha ha!) so truck driving has always been his most successful source of income. I also had the opportunity to “ride shotgun” with him for the last eight years. God has provided “just enough” for us financially as we lived in the truck and traveled the lower 48 and Canada.

However, in January, truck #3’s engine blew. We paid for diagnostics and discovered needed repairs that exceeded the true value of the truck. Even people with cars can relate to that Catch-22. We tried to qualify for a loan but apparently paying off 3 trucks did not constitute enough credit history (nothing current), so we had to scrap the truck for $3500 and come to stay with daughter in Tulsa OK at her apartment. We pay half rent, but the future still seemed pretty uncertain. BTW our daughter Vicky has been such a help and encouragement to us through the years, and more so now, putting up with me fulltime and all the rest. God bless her as she goes through her own transitions.

I applied for local jobs and Michael investigated some options, including going for a PhD in History at OU. I am now a proud part-time employee at a Walmart I can walk to, and my muscles and joints are groaning in protest about all this activity.

The results of Michael’s GRE exams were a bit disappointing so he was not sure what to do next. He met online a small truck company owner based in the Dallas area. He was looking to expand and agreed to take Mike on as a driver. Unfortunately that job has not worked out for various reasons. He is going to take the GRE again but in the meantime, a trucker friend had recommended the company he works for, a very small (4 trucks) outfit based in Ohio. Michael finished his last load for the previous company this week and has made his way toward the orientation for the new job, leaving most of his equipment and other property here at the apartment.

We have been pretty discouraged these past few months. The truck was our home and our income, and we had the freedom to choose the best loads as well as to travel and most of the time get work done on our books. But we got a bit stalled with all these life happenings. It felt like we were back in Basics for Believers, at the 101 course level, saying, “God, what is Your will for our lives?”

But there has been some encouragement. I am making progress on Conflict of the Ages Five, the next module in our homeschool curriculum, with the editing, formatting, and questions and images that need to be added.

Now, back to the Book Club meeting. The books we will read were already chosen, and I was a little discouraged about not having an opportunity to maybe insert one of our books. But the lady leading the group did acknowledge me as a published author, and I got to tell them about a couple of our books. The lady who is in charge of women’s and children’s ministries at the church asked for a list of all our books. That was exciting.

Hubby arrived at the airport for his new job orientation this morning. Unfortunately his checked bag(s) did not. (Everybody knows checking bags is a bad idea, but he had to take some extra things in case he goes straight out onto the road for a week or two before coming back here.) When the driver arrived to pick him up, he agreed that waiting for the next flight, which the missing bags are supposed to be on, was the best idea, so he is doing that while the driver makes other runs. But the driver said he has read our books Antidisestablishmentarianism and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: A Readers’ and Writer’s Guide for Believers and is eager to talk to Michael about them. Wow! Plus I had a fan of the Alexander Legacy series ask on the blog when the fourth book in that series is coming out. Encouragement! These are both people we don’t know!

We hope people who follow this blog are sticking with us through these transitional times. we are certainly not giving up on writing, and we are making plans to get back into video production, too. Stick around, folks. We don’t know what’s ahead, but it’s pretty certain breakdowns and blessing will always come. We hope you’ll pray that through both we can extend our reach and be a blessing to others. — post by Mary C. Findley

 

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Review Or Die! (Not you, the Reader — the Author)

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It’s a pain to write reviews. If I liked a book, I liked it. I don’t need to review it. Maybe I’ll tell some friends. Maybe I’ll lend the book to someone else. And it sounds stupid to say, “This book was great! I loved it!” What good does that do anyone? Other readers don’t care about reviews. They pick a book because they get pulled in by the cover, they’re a fan of the genre, or a friend or some bigshot blogger they follow recommended it. Who cares about my little dumb reviews?

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Honestly, I can sympathize with those reasons for not writing a review. But I’m still going to shoot them down and give you some help to understand why every time you read a book but don’t review it, you are sucking just a little bit of life out of that author. If people keep taking these attitudes and not writing reviews, eventually, those authors will die, in a publishing sense. Their books will receive little attention and that’s death for a book and for its author. He really can’t keep his story alive by himself. He needs your help.

  1. “It’s a pain to write a review.” No, it’s not. It’s easy. I even gave you a pattern in a previous blog post. Take a look, follow the steps, and voila! The review is done before you know it. Here’s that link.  https://elkjerkyforthesoul.wordpress.com/2012/02/09/how-to-write-a-book-review-the-author-will-love/
  2. “Maybe I’ll tell some friends.” Please, please, do. But imagine how many friends you can tell if you write your opinion down. You can widen your influence and the author’s if you just take those few minutes and write that review.
  3. “It sounds stupid to say. ‘It was great! I loved it'” Maybe it does to you, but it sounds like music to the author. It’s like water on brown grass. It’s like food to an author’s empty stomach. Be that water. be that food. Say whatever you can say. Write whatever you can write. Just go there and do that review thing!
  4. “Other readers don’t care about reviews.” You might be surprised by how many do. Many people read reviews before deciding to buy a book. If there aren’t many, they might skip on to one that has some.
  5. “Who cares about my dumb little reviews?” But there’s another reason to give an author reviews. It helps give his book reality and credibility with sites where he might want to promote it. Real, genuine reviews are like seeds. They multiply opportunities for an author to get known, get read, and get more sales. You can help in this way that costs you so little. You can help a lot.

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I, as an author care about your reviews. They’re not dumb. They’re your thoughts and feelings. People who put their thoughts and feelings into writing a book welcome feedback. What’s the point in writing a book if no one cares enough to share their thoughts about it? I look at my beloved children, my books that I worked on to produce. I think, when some have ten or more reviews, and some have one or two, or even none, that nobody loves those children. Nobody cares about them, so it must be nobody cares about me either. And I wither a little. I get thirstier, and hungrier, and I die a little.

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I failed to mention one thing about reviews. They don’t have to be good ones. Sure, parents want everyone to love their kids, but if you’ve got constructive criticism on why a book isn’t what you hoped it would be, put that down, too. Don’t think all we want is a string of fives and maybe a few fours. Lay it out there — what you liked and what you didn’t. If we think our books are perfect, we need your humbling. We need your honesty. Help us be better authors. Even if we don’t do a rewrite of that book, it might help us do the next one better.

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So help us. That’s what reviews are really all about. We are flowers. Water us, feed us, encourage us, pinch off our dead blooms and help us grow new ones. Don’t let our books and our fire to write die in discouragement and dim corners. Shine a light on them. we need your help. We can’t do this alone. We are only the authors. You are the readers. — post by Mary C. Findley

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Why Elk Jerky? — Post by Michael J. Findley

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When I was a young teenager, a group of men from our church went elk hunting. They brought back some elk meat and gave it to my mother, brother, and I. It’s tougher than bison or venison we were told.

So my mother marinated it and turned it into jerky. It was a slow process, but it was delicious and we had months of great tasting elk jerky.

Chicken soup is for those sick and in need of medication. Elk jerky for the soul is not chicken soup for the soul. Elk jerky is for those on the Lord’s firing lines. It supplies protein to those fighting in combat.

It is a combination of encouragement to keep on and ammunition to those on the firing line.

Image Credit: USFWS – Pacific Region Follow
Elk – Hanford Reach National Monument
Credit: USFWS

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The End of Reason — Post by Michael J. Findley

A tangle of cables and wires in Shanghai, China

A tangle of cables and wires in Shanghai, China

Knowledge increases about fifteen percent per year. This flood of information and the ability to access this information has resulted in an almost complete breakdown in the ability to reason. There is more information available today than any time in earth’s history, but what do we do with that information? No one has ever been able to know all the information available to them during their lifetime. But you can, if you so choose, find more information on any subject than anyone could at any time in history.

This has not resulted in greater understanding. People are neither better informed than previous generations, nor are they more grateful for what they have. Instead, the universal attitude is, “Since I can look it up why do I need to remember anything?” With instant access to information, nothing is important enough to study. The two foundations of reason, ‘Is the information true?’ and ‘Is it significant?” are routinely ignored.

Reality has been replaced with a continuous Alice In Wonderland existence where all that is important is ‘am I happy?’ People who do not get what they want immediately throw tantrums. These tantrums include assaulting and killing people who do not gratify their lusts instantly. Instant gratification turns everyone into a god or goddess. No one should be allowed to stand in the way of a deity attempting to gratify her lusts. Give her what she wants immediately or face her wrath.

As Solomon warned us, there is nothing new under the sun.

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Can You Change? Will You Change? — Post by Mary C. Findley

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We love books. But we live in a semi truck. Yes. We live there, full-time, hubby and I. It’s not one of those with a motor home setup. It has small storage spaces here and there, but we have to have clothes, food, tools, personal care supplies ,,, Not a lot of room for books. We have perhaps a dozen books, if that many, in the truck, and they fill an entire cupboard. They are reference books that only exist in print, or samples of some of the books we have written in print format.

We also have a Kindle Keyboard, a Kindle Fire, and a tablet. Among all three, we may have 2000 books. Not sure. But it’s probable that we have more than you do in your whole house.

Do you read ebooks? More and more people say they do. It’s still kind of like a novelty, reading ebooks as opposed to print books. Some get them on their phones, their tablets, or even own an ereader especially for books. Some claim they buy a lot of books there, or take advantage of the free ones that are EVERYWHERE online. You can certainly save a ton of money, in most cases, by buying ebooks versus print books.

But many people still prefer “real” books. They want to hold them in their hands, and they have bookshelves filled with them. Why not? Books are nice. Hardcover books are substantial, and last a long time. They can even become valuable. For thousands of years, people have valued physical reading material, be it clay tablets, scrolls, parchment, or paper books. They are treasures, and can be ornaments to a home. Beautiful scroll cases. Ornate bookshelves.

But what happens when you no longer have a home? You say that won’t happen? It has happened to many people, for many reasons. I’m just going to focus on just two reasons, though. I’m not necessarily talking about homelessness. That’s a different issue, for another time.

One reason for not having a home is the need to be mobile, like our current need. Our work requires constant travel. Go where a load is, pick it up, go where it needs to deliver. We have some stuff in storage, but that’s mostly more books, which are kind of becoming a burden, because storage has to be cared for and paid for.

Another reason for travel is to make personal appearances. Many sales jobs require that. Public speakers of all kinds have to do that. We are trying to segue into that, to be teachers and to promote our books by making appearances at conferences and conventions. Go where the people are, to tell them about what you want them to buy from you. But even people who do that usually have a home base — a place they keep coming back to. Normally that’s a home, with books and bookshelves.And they sell physical books at these appearances.

But there’s a third reason for constant travel. It’s called persecution. People have suffered that for thousands of years, too. Elijah in the Scriptures is an excellent example. Where did he come from? Where did he live? We have no idea. But we know of two incidences in his short career where he had to pick up and move out, fast. He predicted no rain for around three years and then God told him to run and hide. After the drought ended with that spectacular sacrifice on Carmel, he ran again. Pretty sure he didn’t take his book collection with him. Maybe, you’ll say, he didn’t have to make that second move. He just did it because he was scared. He still did it, fast, and likely didn’t take a lot of baggage.

The point is that we as believers are too rooted in our homes and our stuff. What if we had to move, suddenly? What would happen to our books? How would we study, learn, teach, and even amuse or distract ourselves and those we care about? Don’t give me the excuse that earlier believers didn’t have electronic devices. We do, but we’re relegating them to the toy department. It’s time to realize they are tools God has given us.

Apocalyptic stories drill home the mantra that we will be at a mere survival level. We will trudge, and kill the enemy, whatever it is, and trudge some more, and scrounge for food, and hide, and become hardened and tough, and nothing else will matter, until we reach that refuge, however elusive it is. One day we will get home again, and start accumulating stuff again.

But what about the people in the Scriptures who wandered in sheepskins and goatskins? What if we never have a regular home again? What will we do for books then? How will we teach our children?

I haven’t seen the movie The Book of Eli, but I understand that Eli listened to recordings for most of the movie as he traveled. That’s one way to “read,” and necessary for him. It sounds like a great idea that he had to barter for power sources to recharge his listening device. A nifty, practical concern.

Still, the movie, to me, seems to have had a rather silly point — fighting and struggling and killing and nearly dying to possess or preserve a physical book. When are we going to realize that digital books can live forever, go anywhere, come to us easily, instantly? They take up almost no physical space. They can have beautiful, color illustrations. They can have sounds, even be listened to rather than just read. These things are treasures in the aether. They can flee persecution with us, in our pocket or our backpack.

Christ said to the disciples to go to the ends of the world, sharing the Good News. But we won’t go, because we won’t leave our stuff, and some of that stuff is physical books. Print Bibles, concordances, study guides, devotionals. Homeschoolers even have tons of paper to teach their children, with the best of intentions. Maybe the disciples wouldn’t leave their stuff, either, and that’s why persecution came. When it did, they went everywhere, preaching.

Most of us still haven’t got the message that anyone can go and tell the Good News, because we’re stuck to our stuff. We can’t even answer a question out on the street without going home and looking it up in our paper Bible. What if your Bible was right with you, in your phone? What if, instead of your kid using his handheld device to play games or check Instagram, he had his Bible, his schoolbooks, wondrous, edifying pleasure reading, right there in his hands?

When there’s a fire or a tornado or some other disaster, we have to pick up and move fast. What do people grab first? Their phones. Sometimes nothing else.

When we are persecuted (and we will be) we will have to move fast and travel light. Many people already are fleeing death for their faith. What will you be able to take? Not those bookshelves of Bibles and homeschool curriculum and reference books. Probably not any of your physical books. But what if your tablet or phone is also your book shelf? What treasures can you take, and preserve, and share?

Just think about it.

Images from Pixabay.com

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