Category Archives: Travel, Humor, Everyday observations

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


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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He Is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!


Dr. Bobby Kelly’s portrait from the Oklahoma Baptist University website.

Yesterday Dr. Bobby Kelly of Oklahoma Baptist University preached at South Tulsa Baptist Church on John 21. He pointed out that after the extraordinary events of Chapter 20 — the Resurrection and all that surrounded it, Chapter 21 is such ordinary-sounding stuff. The disciples went fishing. Jesus made breakfast on the beach.

But, while Dr. Kelly pointed out the usual agape vs phileo love conversation between Peter and Jesus, he said the point about which word was used when was far less important than something else. Peter denied Jesus three times. He must have been so racked with guilt over that. Yet Jesus gave Peter three opportunities to express his love. Now Peter could get over his guilt and move on. Jesus offers us the same opportunity, to get rid of paralyzing guilt and move on into His service. We should take Him up on that. — post by Mary C. Findley


South Tulsa Baptist Church

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Christian Indie Conference, Anyone? Post by Mary C. Findley


The original Christian Indie Authors Network will hold its first official Christian Indie Author Conference July 30- August 2, 2015, at the Radisson Quad City Plaza Hotel and Convention Center, 111 East Second Street, Davenport, Iowa, 52801.

I chose the image at the top because one of the themes of the Christian Indie Author Network is “A light in a dark place”. Books nowadays are getting to be pretty dark — focusing on vampire romance, demonic influence, serial killers, and so many other topics without shining the light on the hope, comfort, and heavenward focus we can have with Christ.

Please consider joining us at this conference. It’s for writers, with educational opportunities and promotional ones. I will be teaching two sessions: One on Book Cover Design for those with limited means but who still want a professional-looking cover, and one one formatting your ebook without being afraid it will be spit out by the Smashwords Meatgrinder or look like alphabet soup on Amazon.  These are just two of the author training opportunities we will present. Authors can also have a table to sell their books and meet readers. Vendors can advertise their services for authors as well.

It’s also for readers. Come meet these strange creatures called Christian indie authors. Find out about books you’ll be glad to know exist. You might even meet costumed characters and that crazy Christian Steampunk writer, Sophronia Belle Lyon.

You can reserve your hotel room, find your registration forms, and learn more about this first-ever conference for writers and readers who love it Christian and Indie!

(Image from pixabay)


Filed under Travel, Humor, Everyday observations, Writing, Reviewing, Publishing, and about Blogging

Through the Windshield June/July 2014 — Post by Mary C. Findley



We haven’t had a “Through the Windshield” post in awhile, and hubby usually does these. But, let me tell you about our Canadian adventures. No cell service, no internet except free wifi at certain select truck stops when it works. First, 4-6 hours or so correcting the paperwork and submitting for approval so we could get in. Second, violent wind and rain that closed over 30 roads in Manitoba and Saskatchewan with flooding. We called on a landline to notify our agent ASAP but it made for a most exciting day and willful misunderstandings by a certain broker. Really only about 4-5 hrs late, after going over 100 miles out of route just to make it there at all. Fun times. Ducks. I forgot to mention the ducks. You think that nice weather for ducks thing is a joke, but they were EVERYWHERE!

As usual, we were unable to get unsweetened iced tea. (They only have the hot variety, or sweetened instant from dispensers.) Pepsi is also kind of rare. The good thing about Coke is that we drink less of it, which is better for the waistline.

Three days later, we finally made it out! No, we didn’t actually see the area pictured above, but sure did see a lot of flooding.

Image credit: Highway 16 near Elfros. Saskatchewan, Manitoba communities under states of emergency after flooding caused by a deluge of rain.
@BigBlueWheeler via Twitter

Christmas in July sale all month! 99 cent books with Christmas themes plus some romance, mystery, Steampunk, historical and contmporary. Come have a look by clicking the image below!

christmas in july graphic 1


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But I Don’t Have a Belief System!

belief system

My memory isn’t what it should be, but I do not remember anyone saying that he/she did not have a belief system until about 2 years ago. Almost daily now I seem to hear someone say that.
Anyone who claims that they do not have a belief system is either uneducated or dishonest. There is nothing wrong with being uneducated. God confronted Job out of the storm and asked Job, “Who is this who darkens counsel By words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.” (Job:38:2,3) God then asks Job a series of difficult questions that I certainly could not answer. I seriously doubt that I would do as well as Job did.
One of the greatest benefits of a true education is to realize how little we really know. And that realization of our limited understanding extends to our lack of understanding of our belief system. But a lack of understanding is not the same as denial of reality.
“A belief system is a set of mutually supportive beliefs. The beliefs of any such system can be classified as religious, philosophical, ideological, or a combination of these.” Wikipedia (I quote Wikipedia because this should be common knowledge. You can find the same information in many, many other places.) You get up in the morning. Or you don’t. Whatever you do, the “why” is a belief. The combination of all the “whys” in your life is your belief system.
Everyone has a belief system. This is not a matter of opinion or a question of a point of view. This is a simple definition of terms. It is what the English words “belief system” mean. It does not require that we live our lives consistent with our belief system. We are all inconsistent, sinners, hypocrites, failing to live up to our own personal standards. But we all live our lives according to some belief system.
To deny that you have a belief system is to deny that you understand the basic meaning of English words. When we hear the words “green fence,” we all understand the basic meaning of the words. We might all have a different shade of green in mind. Perhaps we all have a different type of material in mind for the fence; wood, stone or metal. But the basic meaning of the words is required or people can not communicate.
What people mean when they say, “I don’t have a belief system” is that they are above morality. They believe that they can manufacture their own standards of right and wrong, that they are, in modern terms, above the law. Of course, that is not how they view themselves. They justify their actions and beliefs with phrases such as, “who are you to judge me?”
The frightening aspect is that people who really think that they do not have a belief system are the most easily manipulated by the unscrupulous tyrant. That tyrant might be a simple gang leader or he might be a Hitler or a Stalin recruiting brownshirts, SS, or KGB thugs.
Every single person I have met who claims that they do not have a belief system has the same belief system. They are either atheists or agnostics. They think of themselves as good because they help other people. But they are easily manipulated because they have never thought through their beliefs. They also get angry too easily when this is pointed out to them. While they insist that no one judge either their actions or motives, they are the first to judge other people.
I could write about these people for pages. But the real issue is not other people. How honest am I? Do I understand, and have I thought through, what I believe? Are my beliefs and convictions rooted and grounded in my sinful self and all the misery that will cause? Or are they rooted grounded in the eternal Word of God, with my sins washed in the blood of the Lamb?

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Five Findleys Go on an Unexpected Journey

Our family of five all went to see the Hobbit movie together. It was our first time together in five years. The youngest just got out of the army in May and the daughter finished college this summer and got her own apartment, which was where we got together for Christmas. It was also one of the few times our whole family has unanimously agreed on liking a movie.

Mike read the book over 35 years ago. After watching the movie he got an annotated ebook copy including many of JRR Tolkien’s notes. One of the first things that struck him was the changes from the version I read decades ago. Tolkien originally used the term Hobbit Weed to draw a comparison with those, like the Amish or Native Americans, who process natural tobacco rather than use commercial varieties. When Hobbit Weed was interpreted by some to mean Marijuana, Tolkien changed it to tobacco so there would be no misunderstanding.

There is also an explanation of why the Hobbit uses the terms goblin and hobgoblin in the Hobbit, but Orcs in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Tolkien says The Hobbit uses common terminology, but the LOTR trilogy is from the point of view of Frodo and that Orc is the Hobbit word for these creatures.

One reviewer says the movie follows the book about 75% of the time. This seems to be a correct assessment. Since most movies trash the book they are based on, we should be thankful it follows the book this closely. The movie has the major events and follows the order of the book.

One glaring exception is the addition of all the scenes with Radagast, who gets one sentence in the book but is apparently mentioned in other Tolkien works. He is filthy, uses drugs, prefers the company of animals to people, and uses magic indiscriminately.

Changes from the book to the movie are not for the better. The book uses Bilbo’s point of view and information could have been conveyed better in that way instead of telling all the dwarf back story separately. The movie makes the elves mysterious and inhospitable to the dwarves, feeding them strange plants. being suspicious of their mission and forcing them to escape. In the book the elves treated them with great hospitality and kindness and sent them on their way with supplies and good wishes.

Elrond and his council supported the dwarves because they saw the need to defeat Smaug. The dragon is portrayed as the cause of the evil spreading over Middle Earth in the north. Gandalf has to leave them to help fight the Necromancer, the cause of evil spreading over the southern part of Middle Earth.

The confrontation between Bilbo and Gollum is extended in the book. The movie cutting down on that exchange was probably a good idea. In the book Bilbo and Elrond both express concern about the dwarves’ love for gold. Bilbo goes with the idea that he is helping then regain their ancestral home and defeat Smaug.

One complaint often repeated in reviews from a Christian perspective is Peter Jackson’s tendency to make the story “dark”, but the Hobbit does have dark parts. Jackson makes it less dark than the book. Tolkien has Gandalf put out all the lights, kill the Goblin King, and fill the tunnels with goblin bodies as he frees the dwarves and they flee through the narrow passages.

Both the movie and the book are filled with virtues — loyalty, camaraderie, thrift (when they begin running out of supplies), reverence for tradition. Disdain for greed is less apparent in the movie. Every step of the journey in the book, people comment on the dwarves’ legacy of greed. They support the dwarves’ need to defeat Smaug and regain their home, but are concerned about their motives.

The songs appear throughout the book to communicate values and history. By cutting back on verses in the movie the pace improves but important information is lost.


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For Your Christmas Baking Pleasure: Uncle Vanya’s Bread Balls

bread ball recipe

Warning: Don’t forget Uncle Vanya’s cast-iron rolling pin is always ready for those disrespectful of his recipe.

Make sweet roll dough as follows:

1/2 cup warm water
2 (1/4 ounce) packages active dry yeast
(Uncle Vanya uses cake yeast. Don’t tell him if you use dry packets)
1 1/2 cups milk, lukewarm (Uncle Vanya says you must scald!)
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup shortening
7 -7 1/2 cups flour


1 Mix water and yeast in large mixing bowl.
2 Stir until dissolved.
3 Add milk, sugar salt, eggs, shortening and 1/2 of the flour.
4 Mix until smooth and pour out onto floured surface. Knead while adding the additional flour. Knead until smooth and elastic( about 5 minutes). Note that Uncle Vanya does not own a watch, so this time is approximate.
5 Round up in greased bowl with greased side up. Cover with damp cloth.
6 Let rise in warm place until double (about 1&1/2 hours).
7 Punch down; let rise again until almost double. (No short-cuts, single rising stuff, says Uncle Vanya)
8 Dough is ready to to make into balls now.


2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts (no peanuts, but other nuts can be used)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups finely chopped peeled tart apples (Other fruits such as currants, cranberries, anything tart, can be substituted)


On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into about a dozen small rounds. Spread with butter. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, nuts, cinnamon and nutmeg; add fruit and toss to coat. Place a manageable amount on each round of dough and press the dough together, sealing the filling inside. Do a good job. Uncle Vanya does not approve of leaky bread balls)

Place in a greased 11-in. x 7-in. baking dish. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes. (Yes, babooshka, they rise three times!)

Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Tatiana also likes to deep fry them like doughnut holes, just until they are crispy brown on all sides.

ICING (or you could just roll them in cinnamon sugar while they are warm, says Tatiana)

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
2-1/2 teaspoons whole milk
Combine icing ingredients until smooth; drizzle over warm balls. Yield: 1 dozen.

Dodge ebook 25 percent


Illustrated Version: (The image above , Uncle Vanya’s recipe copied down on a napkin by Edward Ferrars for Elinor, is included in this version)



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