Being Crafty

craft itemsA couple of weeks ago I went to a well-known craft store (the mecca of crafters in the Louisville area).  I am not a crafter, but I recognize the value of this store.  We needed a piece of black photo matting and spray adhesive for a project my son was working on.

As I walked in a whoosh of the aroma of glue sticks, paint and artificial flowers overcame me.  Having shopped in this store I knew the direct path to the photo/framing area.   A sales lady greeted me and wanted to help me quickly (20 minutes to closing).  There was little chit-chat.  She understood what I was looking for, but kept trying to sell me far more of the mat board than I wanted.  This would have saved her from having to custom cut a piece.  Nonetheless, she finally relented and understood that for my purposes, a custom piece was the best buy.  She went to make the cuts.

Prior to her exit, I asked where I could find spray adhesive.  Remember I’m a stranger in this land of craft supplies.  Her answer taught me just how much I didn’t know about where I was.   She said, “Follow this aisle at the back of the store past the craft items; it will be down the aisle on the left.”   While I listened to all of the directions, when I turned to follow the back aisle, it occurred to me that in my inexperienced mind, ALL of the aisles were craft items.  I didn’t realize there were sub-categories of craft items.  I had to wonder, are there other things I needed to know, like the language and crafting etiquette? Watch your manners…

Having only five minutes left in store hours according to the overhead speaker, I began the journey looking down EVERY aisle.  Before I got too far off the one aisle I knew would lead me back to my custom cut board, a friendly clerk asked to help and led me directly to adhesive spray and even made a suggestion.craft items 2

True confession:  going to a craft supply store makes me want to buy, take up a craft and create something.

Store was closing – whew – bought only what I needed and left.  No new hobbies.  To my friends who are crafters, you have my admiration and appreciation for your talents.

What are your hobbies?

All the best,

KK

A Child Being Mistreated

sad childOk, what would you do? I was sitting in a fast food drive-thru, had paid for my food and was waiting. Just as they passed in front of me the “mother” grabbed the little girl by the back of her head and yanked her hair clearly mad at her for something. The little girl screamed and began to cry. I almost came out of my car to grab the mother’s hair to see how she liked it. The scene hurt me to the core. The mother let go and went into the restaurant with the “grandmother” and the son. I still wanted to go after the mother, but decided all that would do would cause a fight with the woman not resolving her heart issue.

I said a prayer of protection over the children and for God to deal with the mother. I watched as the father comforted the child and she settled down. As they walked in I noticed on the girl’s t-shirt the saying, “God is on our side.” May she always know that saying as true.

What would you have done?

KK

Let’s Talk Customer Service

mediocrity 2Over 85% of the jobs in the United States are service oriented.    These services may focus external of the business such as a customer service representative or any employee who interacts with customer making a purchase.  Other service position focus internally such as an administrative department or IT department of a company.

Let’s take a look at those roles in which the services provided directly impact the image of a company, the future of its employees and sales.   As consumers we carry an expectation when making a purchase.  Our expectation falls in line with the quality or expense of the item we are going to purchase.  Therefore, our expectations when at a fast food restaurant are different from that of a four-star restaurant.  Can we agree on this?

I have to give kudos to an employee at the MacDonald’s in Jeffersontown, Kentucky.  I went in to purchase a plain cheese burger for my mother-in-law.  The restaurant was fairly busy. After standing in line for a short time, I placed my order, paid, waited and when handed a bag, I walked out.  Before I stepped off the sidewalk, a female employee came after me and said, “Mam, I’m sorry, we gave you the wrong burger.  That isn’t a plain cheese burger.”  A little surprised with her effort in the midst of a lunch rush, I followed her in to trade what was in my bag, for the correct special order burger.   She handed me the new bag, smiled and apologized again.

I must admit, I walked out thinking two things:  “Way to go McDonald’s for hiring such a good employee and that girl will go places.”  She took her entry level, order-taking position at McDonald’s seriously.  With so many jobs available in service positions, to be successful for both the ework ethic 2mployer and the employee, it is the front line employees (representatives of the business) who make the difference.

On the contrary to my experience at the fast food giant McDonald’s, I was recently doing weekly shopping at the Stoneybrook Kroger.  I went in the morning in the middle of the week; not a really busy time for the grocery.  I went through the store with my list and coupons filling our family’s food needs.  With the list fulfilled I proceeded to the checkout.  After completely unloading the cart, I remembered an item I didn’t pick up.  So I asked the cashier where the humus could be found.  She looked at me blankly and said, “I have no idea.  I’m up here all day.  I don’t know where anything is in the store.” She went back to ringing up the groceries making no effort to ask someone else where the item could be found.

Holding back my laugh and lecture of this twenty-something, I shook my head, and finished my transaction.  Looking at her badge, I was hoping to find a trainee sticker or some reason she wouldn’t have a clue where to find items in the store.  There was no indication of being a recent addition to the Kroger team.  I will find humus elsewhere, but the sad thing is that the cashier will go nowhere.  She is a “front line” representative of the Kroger Company and has no idea where to find things in the store.

I will gladly extend grace to customer a representative who are obviously having a bad day but still shows up and tries.  And to those in entry-level positions who take the opportunity seriously as a proving ground for their future, “good for you”!

To those who are in a position of hiring or of mentoring the new employees or young adults in a business, PLEASE, help these young people learn early in their careers, how doing even the most entry-level position with care and excellence will make all the difference in where they find themselves down the road.

All the best,

KK

Tis the Season

For the last eight years February was the beginning, March was the get ready and April was GO! The ritual hasn’t changed come rain, sleet, snow and sunshine, THIS is the start of the big season. Over the years the prep time has grown to the point of not really feeling like the season ever ends. Are we finishing that one or getting ready for this one? And over the years, while still full of hustle and bustle, the season has become more enjoyable; so much so that even I am looking forward to getting things going.

We’ve made our annual pilgrimage that feels (and costs) a lot like buying school supplies, to the sporting goods store. We’ve checked the list and made sure the supplies are ready…

Pants, check. Socks and belt, check. Cup, check. Water bottle, check. Stadium seats, check. Sunflower seeds, check. Camera, check. Clothing for any and all kinds of weather, check. Hand warmers, check.

The season of which I’m referring and currently planning for is none other than youth baseball season! You were thinking that, right?

This will be the first year for metal cleats. That’s my boy behind the plate, don’t you slide into home and into his pretty face with those spikes! Thinking it, not saying it…I learned several years ago the best position for me to play during the game; number one fan! I’m at just about every game in the stands and cheering our team on. Win or lose, good game or bad, I’m proud of my player and his team for preparing and showing up to play their best on the field.

Little league and now collegiate baseball is amazing. We watch our kids grow from picking flowers in the outfield when they are five years old to being young men who play their position with skill and precision. They stand tall and are proud of the team they represent. Win or lose they show the character of the men they are becoming when they encourage the opposing team.

The coaches, us parents don’t always understand their game strategy, but we trust them with our boys not only because of baseball 1their knowledge of the game, but because they will help us show our sons what it is to be a man with values and integrity. Our boys need good coaches and we have been so blessed to have many. Some of the parents get a little weird and a little over the top when the umpire is having a bad day. But within minutes after the final run is scored, it’s the boys who are bugging around talking highlights, tossing a ball around having already forgotten the bad calls.

I do love all the things that make youth baseball great: the game strategies, being outside on a sunny day watching our boys play with absolutely nothing electronic but the scoreboard, the crack of the bat or the whap when the ball hits the catcher’s mitt and the excitement when the perfect play is made.

With the final flakes of snow melting away, our team will take the field this weekend having shaken the dust off their bats, grown in maturity, taller in stature, and better in skill. I can’t wait to see what happens! Win or lose, it will be a good season.

All the best,
KK

Password Protected

Passwords, UUUGGGHHH! Having had accounts hacked, I completely understand their necessity, but it’s getting a little out of hand now that we have to have an application on our phones to keep all of our passwords under one password. Do you remember the security questions that protect your passwords? Do you try to be cleaver with passwords and security questions only to outsmart yourself? You can’t remember the password or the answer to the question because you aren’t in the same snarky mood you wereM in the day you set up the account.
Well,  I won’t tell you the secret to my password creation, but I will confess to having my application that holds all of my passwords implode when I failed to enter my password correctly. Is it the dog’s birthday, or my cousin’s best friend’s address, or was it my favorite color when I was in the second grade. I can’t remember and these buttons are so close together, I even put the wrong password in wrong. It got me so flustered that I kept getting it wrong and then I got THE MESSAGE. All of your passwords have been ERASED, please start over. Oh, doody! Fine, so I begin again with the most commonly used passwords. Ironically, I remember these without having to look them up, why are they in the password keeper? Nonetheless, I begin again determined that the keeper of my passwords isn’t going to get the best of me.
Your thoughts on passwords.
All the best,
KK

Have you done it yet?

Welcome to the end of the first week of January.  Last week you started the month and the year with high-hopes and lofty resolutions.  Now that things are settling down to normal and the kids are headed back to school, it’s time to solidify those resolutions into goals that you can work toward accomplishing in the next 358 days.

With clear and realistic thinking, sit down and write your goals for 2013.  You’ve heard that the journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step; writing your goal down is the first step.  Your goal becomes real when you see it staring back at you from the page.  It becomes your destination and map for a new journey this year.  Then take the second step and write under the goal the first five action items to accomplishing your goal.

For example, one of my goals is to read at least 12 books this year and at least two of them need to be new authors and genres for me.  So under the goal I number lines one through twelve.  Now I just go to work filling in the blanks.  I know a book a month doesn’t seem like much, but realistically I have little time in my day to read, so I know it’s attainable given my work and family obligations.  Last year, I would have read more, but one of the books I chose was painfully slow.  But I finished it and am glad I stuck with it.

Can’t think of anything you would like to accomplish this year?  Ask yourself a couple of questions:  if I could do one thing to improve my situation, financially, physically, mentally or emotionally, what would it be?  What do you need to do to accomplish this?

If it helps and you want someone to hold you accountable, share your goals with a trusted friend and give them permission to ask you throughout the year about how you are doing toward your goal.  Having gone through this exercise every year for the past 20 plus years, setting goals has become a part of my psyche, I’m pretty good at holding myself accountable; ok except for exercise goals, these I stink at.

One thing is true, if you write nothing down; set no goals, you are likely to be the exact same physically, mentally or emotionally as you are right this minute.  Even if you don’t fully accomplish the goal you write down, any effort toward that goal is better than no effort at all.  In the end, you will celebrate all the steps of your journey even if you didn’t reach your destination.  That’s what 2014 will be about.

Let me know how it’s going,

KK

Gardening in the spiritual sense

Many times on Sunday afternoon after church and our family lunch, Jay will retire to a nap, Cole to the couch for relaxing with some TV and I head for the yard.  Some might call what I do, “yard work”, but for someone like me who works in a professional setting, climate controlled office 40+ hours a week, it’s much, much more than that; even though I end up hot, sweaty and very dirty.

I like plants and flowers and have garden areas in the front and back of our home.  It’s still absolutely amazing to me to plant a seed or small flower and watch it grow.  Isn’t that amazing?  Most of the time while pulling weeds or trimming I think about the sermon from that morning, our Creator and this earth He gave us that we so readily consume without a second thought.  Sometimes I think about all my questions for God, like “are weeds that bloom really weeds or just misplaced flowers?”  Today, I planted mums (.88 cents at Home Depot) and my trees from the Arbor Foundation (www.arborday.org).   Today I thought about the legacy of gardening I’ve inherited.  Family legend has it that my MaMaw Bray could poke a hole in the ground with her finger, put a stick in it and grow a tree.  My mother is a gardener and gave me something close to a stick with roots last spring assuring me if I put it in the ground I will have a Butterfly bush.  I did what I was told and sure enough there grew a Butterfly bush that was very busy this afternoon.

Being outside trimming and cleaning up the garden reminds me of how we should constantly be aware of how God nips and prunes us to become the beautiful person He sees when He looks at us.  At the end of my time outside I usually turn on the hose and give all the flowers a drink, hose down the sidewalk and my feet.  What a wonderful site and fresh smell; completely natural.

Ok, so to top it off, I like to mow also.  In fact, I’m a little sad that my son is getting old enough and motivated (by the pay) to want to mow.  It’s like getting a haircut.  You start out a little unkempt and in an hour you have a clean, well-manicured look and feel.  The same holds true for your lawn.  Within a short time (and even when you don’t edge) you have a tidy looking yard.  To make mowing really appealing in today’s vernacular; it’s pretty much instant gratification.  There, I said it.

Coming in from the garden I am sticky, dirty, and if I’ve worn a cap it’s pretty much sweat-plastered to my head until I’m safely in the bathroom where no one can see the mess of my hair.  I always feel my cleanest after a post-gardening shower.  From a dirty mess to clean and fresh, huh, pretty much the point the pastor was trying to make.

Think about it,

KK

Sugar cookies and memories

Yesterday I made sugar cookies to take to school at lunch time for Cole’s birthday.  Evidently it is still cool for mom to show up with cookies at middle school lunch as long as she doesn’t hang out too long.  The cookies were homemade slice and bake, but I wanted to ice them to look like baseballs.

One thing to understand, I am not an artist and if I can’t just shoot a fun shape out of a cookie press and add sprinkles, I’m stretching my talents.  Standing in the kitchen icing these cookies, I began to think about my son and how he is growing into a young man.  I felt thankfulness for the grace and encouragement God had delivered over and over to us throughout the years.  I thought about the day he was born and the first moment he looked at me as if to say, “so that is what you look like, I only knew your voice for these nine months.”

Then it came time to add the red icing to make the laces on the “balls”.  It wasn’t great.  Some were ok, and then I remembered my recipients, middle schoolers.  The cookie that looked like home plate was good and I eeked out five or six good baseballs, the rest got sprinkles.  I was running out of time and needed to get them over to school.

At one point I thought maybe I should scrap the idea and go buy the pretty ones from the bakery.  But then I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to reflect and embrace the blessing of a birthday many years ago and yesterday.

I have no idea how Cole will remember his 2012 birthday.  Maybe we will laugh about my attempt at cookie decorating; but I can almost promise you that he will know that every swipe of the icing spreader, and every squirt of the icing decorator was done with love.  Yes, I could have easily swiped my debit card and bought pretty cookies, but it wouldn’t have been the same experience for either of us.

Think about it,

KK

What I did on my summer “vacation”

Before the nice people in the unemployment offices read this and think I wasn’t looking for a job as part of the last four months, let me assure that it was at the top of the list every day.  Our summer days started with my rising to find on average four to six emails had been delivered to the email box dedicated only to the job hunt.  While the puppy ate breakfast and Cole slept in, I read and responded to the most appropriate opportunities.  After all efforts of application and follow-up were exhausted, there were various household chores that needed attention.  Stay with me, this “vacation” gets better.  I bore you with the standard schedule to present the over-arching theme of the summer (or so I thought) was to find a job.  There was something far greater to seek and embrace.

Time; a season with Cole that I would have never had; morsels of priceless moments that included impromptu water gun fights, silly singing in the car, afternoons spent at the swimming pool, and conversations that I will cherish for the rest of my days.

We worked together on household chores and I taught him to mow the lawn.  We took a few minutes to one night to look outat the full moon.  Another night we sat on the deck and looked at the stars.  He showed me the big dipper and the little dipper. We baked our favorite Christmas cookies and pressed them into non-Christmas shapes.  We volunteered at Lifebridge, sorting clothing and school supplies for those in need.  How wonderful to see Cole’s enthusiasm for helping others.  I had time to not worry about bed times and chores I only had evenings to complete.  With a slower pace, it seemed our time was less hectic and more meaningful.

This was the summer before Cole started middle school.  Yes, middle school, these are said to be three clumsy awkward and wonderful years a parent never considers when they first hold that sweet smelling infant.  From those who have gone before me on this parenting journey, I have been warned; but I choose to not fret.  Over the last four months, we have had these golden moments of connection that further solidified a relationship that began long before his birth.

We are over a week into the school year and have had few bumps.  The bumps will come, but when they do, I will be ready to listen first and then respond.  What I learned this summer is that the response Cole needs may be with words of wisdom, or just asking gentle questions to help him further figure out his own solution. Either way, I get to be there for Cole.

It has always been my goal as a parent to raise Cole to be a man of faith, who at the age of 18 will go off to college and his adult life.  At that point my relationship with him will change but will be soundly rooted in many hours of prayer and time well spent with him.

I wondered why God allowed this season of my life, if only for the memories the past few months gave Cole and me, I am grateful.  A job will come and I will work full time again, but I will do it with a new perspective on balancing family and work.  I will remember this pace and practice gearing down to take in moments that last a short time, but are treasured
for a lifetime.

How was your summer vacation?

All the best,

KK

Didn’t Make the Couponing A-Team

When I was growing up (40ish years ago), coupons were clipped from the Sunday or Wednesday Courier Journal (or Louisville Times, depending on how far back you want to go).  Women would make their grocery list based on the family needs and the coupons they had.  Clutching their list and their coupons they set their course for the grocery store. Depending on how savvy a shopper they were, they might wait for double coupon day; but that was about as extreme as it got.

Now I’m the mom going to the grocery and would love to save a little on the bill, but somehow it just doesn’t work for me.  I’ve tried – couponing has become something of a sport and the rules keep changing.  First of all, there are coupons in the paper, but who wants to buy 5 of something to save .25 cents?  Recently though, a friend tried to explain to me how you take those kind of coupons, save them for a day when the item is on special and you go on double coupon day.  WAY TOO MANY THINGS TO REMEMBER, while trying to use the coupon before it expires.

Oh, that’s the other thing, the expiration date.  I can promise you any coupon I attempt to use, expired the day before.  While my couponing friends will tell me that the date doesn’t matter many stores will take them, I can also promise you the cashier in my line will have just graduated from cashier school and will read every coupon and find the one that is expired.  “No exceptions, lady.”

The sport of couponing takes on new dimensions with the likes of coupon websites like, www.livingsocial.com, www.groupon.com, www.couponing101.com, and www.thekrazycouponlady.com.  When I share with my couponing friends an item I’m looking for a coupon or good deal on they immediately send me to these sites or sites like www.slickdeals.com, www.skoreit.com or www.Deals2buy.com.  Ok I think, I’ll play, millions of people are simply jumping on-line, finding the deal, printing the coupon or finding the site and saving money.  I tried this recently as puppy food was added to our grocery list.  Here is how my adventure went, I Googled “coupons for Science Diet puppy food”.  Found the site that promised coupons and “big savings”.  From that link I had to register my email address, download some kind of toolbar, and go to my email to activate the account, go back to the site and print the coupon.  The process took the better part of 20 minutes, but the coupon promised was several dollars in savings so it would be worth it until…I printed the coupon that was not for puppy food, it was for the lite version of Science Diet.  I have a puppy, not an old fat dog. UUUGGGHHH!

Although I agree with the preface that you can save money and have what you need when you need it,  I really don’t have the need to become an extreme coupon player.  But I would like to be able to just save a little money here or there.  I am open-minded enough to take suggestions, but I am not going to create a binder of coupons that I have to review and rotate based on expiration dates.

Can I join the coupon-using team?  I will settle for second-string…

All the
best,

KK