Marie Osmond Needs To See A Pulmonologist.

I don’t often dream about Marie Osmond, but after a late night at the church on Wednesday, and a bit of television to try and kill the migraine (along with the drugs that sometimes help, and a head-rub from my spouse) I went to bed a little later than normal.

0100 rolled around and there she was, on the television screen, and she was having a hard time breathing. It was loud, very loud, and she was obviously in distress. Leaning in closer to see what was wrong, I felt her breath on my face – bad breath. Televisions don’t have bad breath.

But Shelties do. I awoke from my slumber to see Stormy with her paws on the edge of the bed, and her snout six inches from my face. The flash of lightening and roll of thunder confirmed my fear: there was an unmedicated Shetland Sheepdog in my room during a thunderstorm. No Marie Osmond. Sorry, Marie, I wish it had been you.

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Stormy, as some of you know, is badly named. She hates storms. Any storms. Even a really windy day will send her into anxiety fits. The big thunderstorm was enough to seriously unhinge her.

Normally, as in if we have a clue, we give her a couple of Benadryl before the storm hits, and put on her Thundershirt (WARNING: Autoplay sound!). It works. (Don’t bother sending me hate mail about drugging the dog: my vet approves. I approve. I’d have to strangle her without it.)

Up. Shuffle down to kitchen to find pills and pill hiders. Drug dog. Watch television for 20 minutes so dog starts to digest. Go back upstairs with dog.

Look down stairs. No sign of dog. Dog peering around the corner. Dog afraid to come up stairs, rain loudly pelting window behind me. Cripes.

Down the stairs, and at 0130 pick up a chubby Sheltie and lug her upstairs, shaking (her) as the storm rages.

Set dog on bed. Close door. Anxious dog leaps off bed, flops to floor next to door.

Experience tells me that even if the noise of the ceiling fan drowns out the rain and thunder, she’s still going to freak out every time the flash of light hits her under the door. Trust me, been there a few times.

My ceiling fan has a setting where a few small bulbs light, but not the main lights. I click it to that dim setting, and pull the covers up. Thankfully, as a long-time night-shifter I can sleep with the light on. That’s good, because she won’t be able to sleep without it.

Every hour for the next 5 hours I wake up to check the time and the dog. Not overly restful, but when 0700 rolls around, she’s well recovered.

There are things we do for our dogs/spouses/kids/neighbors that go above and beyond. I’m okay with helping the girl out, as she’s my friend.

But why, God, couldn’t she be afraid of the noise of crashing surf. I’m pretty sure she couldn’t hear it from Saint Paul.

Be blessed, and may the thunder that frightens you in your life be silent this night.
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Assault on Saint Agnes is available here. Just click this link!

When you finish reading any book (especially mine) please review it at www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, and www.goodreads.com. Your review increases the chances of someone looking for a new book greatly. Authors appreciate your review, even if it is just “I thought this was a good read and will give it to my dog to chew. I especially liked the ending, because it made me feel better when he killed all of the main characters. (no spoilers, please)” Those few words (more than 20, fewer than 1,000 is ideal), and a 1-5 rating, make or break how the search engines find us. Thanks in advance.

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Let Us Examine This A Bit More Closely.

An hour ago the verdict was rendered in the Yanez manslaughter case in Saint Paul. The officer was found not guilty on all counts by a jury of 12 citizens selected by the defense and prosecution. They deliberated for five days. The verdict is in accordance, from what I know, with the appropriate laws.

This means that while a life, Philando Castille’s, was lost, another has been adjudged not guilty of malice in the incident. Castille was black, Yanez brown. And, blue. You see, the shooting happened when, as Yanez described it, Castille reached for a gun during a traffic stop. Castille’s girlfriend said he was only reaching for his wallet, as instructed by the officer.

Was it a good shooting? None are. But was it justified? The jury did find it so. You see, Castille had told the officer that he had a gun just before reaching for the wallet.

Now, before you go one step farther down that road you were itching to take, do this:

It’s a one time opportunity for you, as the officer, to get it right. If the guy in the driver’s seat starts digging for a gun, and gets it out while you’re weighing all the options, he’s going to be able to shoot you. If you have told him not to get the gun out, and he starts digging, you will likely be shot. White, black, brown – you will likely be shot.

How do I know? I’ve been on both sides of that window. When I deal with officers, my hands are in sight at all times. I don’t make sudden moves. I have survived to talk about it. Sad but true, do otherwise and you take a chance.

Does that mean Castille was a bad guy, or that he needed to die? No, but it means that in that time, and in that place, events moved in such a manner as to lead to his death.

Going forward we can do better, both as citizens and as police. I know the police are getting a lot of training as a result of cases like this one, but citizens should realize that they have a part of the bargain to uphold as well. Watch a few nights of LIVE PD on A&E and you might hold a different point of view. But you have to have an open mind about it to gain from it all.

What makes me sad is that people I know, and consider friends, in the black community, lashed out and spoke about “pigs” and the need to get even. Even for what? A bad night on Larpentur Avenue? The fact that Yanez is brown, not black? The fact that there are problems in some places between cops and citizens? Or the … what? What exactly will the violence, and anger, and hatred based on race and a uniform accomplish. Do they hate the black cop that sits in their pew at church? Or the thought of cops in general.

I read more than a few statements that the city should burn. Why? What will that do besides hurt more people?

I am not asking for subservience to the police. I am not asking for anyone to give up their rights. I am asking for everyone to take a breath, think about how this could be avoided in the future, and remember that it’s dangerous not to follow instructions when dealing with a man/woman with a gun.

It’s that simple: do it right, you’ll come out the other side. Pride has no place in that situation. I am one seriously compliant, humble guy at that moment.

I also frown on burning down the city I live and work in. I’m praying for peace. I’m hoping that people remember that those juries find an awful lot of people not guilty every day, and sometimes it’s the guy you’re rooting for, sometimes not. But it’s the way our law works. And it’s the most fair system I know of.

So, be cool, Saint Paul.

Posted in extraordinarily sage advice and unwanted butting in, law enforcement, Sincere Stuff, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Darius & Duke: God Sent Some Angels Today.

The morning walk to the bus was required because I was lazy. Instead of getting into my workout clothing and walking the couple of miles to work, I elected to have a cup of coffee, a bowl of cereal, and watch the news.

Fifty yards from the bus stop I noticed Darius. He was waving a vodka bottle at me as I passed the door to the liquor store. I got the sense that he was asking if I’d grab another and join him. Even in my wildest days, 0905 was a bit early.

As I crossed the street, he offered me the bottle. I’ve seen him around for the past few years, we trod the same streets and he occasionally has been to the church where we have the Good Neighbor Meal. I declined the offer and shot the breeze with him while we waited for the bus. Very cordial fellow, and in spite of his wardrobe (he was only a bit shabbier than me) he carried him self with the dignity of that rare bread of intoxicant who isn’t oblivious to their own world. In short, he was a happy drunk, and he was glad to share the morning air, and his vodka, with a fellow traveler.

After boarding the bus, we chit chatted a bit, but I mostly gazed out the window. It was a companionable silence for the most part. I carry some gift cards for McDonald’s with me most of the time, and I palmed one before we hit the final miles to my stop, intending to hand it to him as I left.

Darius looked at me staring out the window and waved something at me: it was a McDonald’s gift card. “You need anything for lunch? I’ve got a card for you.” Touched? Here was a guy who was living on his brother’s couch, and who’d walked a full mile to get to the only liquor store in the area. He was concerned about me. Yeah, I was touched.

He got off at the next stop, and I just prayed a bit harder for him as we pulled away from the curb. He had money. Lots of it (he confided the amount to me.) I was worried that some predator would hurt him for the money. But I have a hunch that he’ll be fine – angels seem to be that way.

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Why do I suspect he was an angel? Because for the next 8 hours my workday was filled with misery. My every attempt to do the right thing led me into one more minefield, one more trap, one more migraine, and one more explanation to the powers that be that while I’m slow, I’m not actually incompetent.

The end of the day came, and Darius’ kindness had sustained me during the worst moments. But it was largely a day of learning just how ignorant I truly am in some ways. I took the elevator down to the lobby and walked out the security door to see people skirting a madman on the corner. That’s how it looked.

I had to pass him to get to the bus home. As I approached, he asked me if I believed in Jesus. “Yes. I certainly do.”

“Can I pray for you?”

He put his hand on my head, and it was obvious that the Holy Spirit had filled this man. He prayed for a full two minutes, blessing me and encouraging me. At the end, I shook his hand and introduced myself. He grabbed my hand tightly and commenced to pray even more fervently.

When the “Amen” hit, he released my hand and thanked me for stopping. He encouraged me to pray and seek God. I wished him well. I felt that aura that you get from time-to-time when light enters your life.

Tonight, sitting here putting this to paper, I know God sent those two messengers to book-end my day. He knew I’d need those two angels to carry me through the doubt and pain I felt in my ignorance.

Thanks, God. Say hi to those angels. I’m sure they’re close by both of us this night.

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Assault on Saint Agnes is available here. Just click this link!

When you finish reading any book (especially mine) please review it at www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, and www.goodreads.com. Your review increases the chances of someone looking for a new book greatly. Authors appreciate your review, even if it is just “I thought this was a good read and will give it to my dog to chew. I especially liked the ending, because it made me feel better when he killed all of the main characters. (no spoilers, please)” Those few words (more than 20, fewer than 1,000 is ideal), and a 1-5 rating, make or break how the search engines find us. Thanks in advance.

Posted in Love, prayer requests, Sincere Stuff, Uncategorized, walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

When Your Customers Call And Are Already Mad, You Have A Problem.

I have a friend who’s worked in customer service positions for many years, and he speaks with a bit of authority. Same goes for beer drinking, and barbecue, but today we’ll stick to being the poor sap who gets the angry phone call – and his boss.

Thousands of times in his life he has been on the answering end of a call that starts out hostile. I know it isn’t his grating voice in every case, so it must be something else. He relates that he’s conducted a mental survey of all those angry calls over the years, and come up with a brilliant conclusion: they guy before him done ’em wrong.

Not every time, but often enough that a pattern has emerged. To be frank, it usually involves someone who has a technical problem that’s beyond the capability of the person who took the call. He’s in that boat often, but knows to reach out to his support engineers and wise coworkers who can help. When you get the really angry customer on the phone, they’ve probably been through the wringer with at least two other people. Sometimes more. Many more.

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Two things seem to be involved: a lack of ownership for that customer’s satisfaction, and a lack of self-respect. My friend agonizes over getting it right. He hates wasting the customer’s time even more than me. They’re paying him. He works for them. Etc. So when a colleague (and this includes several different employers/groups over the years) promises a call back, to look into a problem, or some resolution in the next hour, and doesn’t follow through, that’s where the angry call comes into play. It’s even worse when they (the coworker) hasn’t documented a thing that they’ve done. Now we get to drag the already unhappy customer through all the trouble-shooting steps again, and they don’t want to play. At this point my friend becomes a problem as well. Not him personally, but “the part of the machine wasting my time” kind of entity. Every thing you ask them is one more needle in the left eyeball.

It will decline even faster if you can’t spot the problem, or don’t have a resolution handy. Or even a clue as to what they’re talking about. Often, especially in extremely technical jobs, the customer just knows their stuff doesn’t work, and since you (the organization) can’t answer why, it must be your doing. Kind of hard to argue that point.

This is where the boss comes in: they need to monitor their subordinates work. The reality is ugly: if you don’t supervise some people they will sink your organization.

Good bosses will quickly spot the trend when they review records: when the same thing happens over and over, and the same cast of characters are involved, it’s time for some digging. Raised voices, angry faces, nasty comments, and spontaneous vacation days are indicators. Not fool-proof, as everyone has a bad day. But if Joe is forever talking about how stupid his customer was, and lecturing them on the phone, it might be time to watch Joe closely. Check his notes. Check his call times. Randomly contact the customer involved and see how Joe’s customer service was that day.

I try very hard not to light off on the next person to answer the phone. It doesn’t always work, but I try. I recognize that I may not be getting someone like my friend on the other end. Something about sugar and flies. But when I spot one of the bad ones, I usually end the call as quickly as I can reasonably escape and try again much later. Less likely that I’ll get them again.

In our world, that kind of service drives your customer to the competition. Enough of that, and you’re toast. You can ask United about that kind of thing. But they aren’t alone.

That’s it. Just my observations from talking to lots of people in customer service jobs. But as a boss, you should grab a couple of calls now and then and listen from the start. You might find something you hadn’t suspected.

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Assault on Saint Agnes is available here. Just click this link!

When you finish reading any book (especially mine) please review it at www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, and www.goodreads.com. Your review increases the chances of someone looking for a new book greatly. Authors appreciate your review, even if it is just “I thought this was a good read and will give it to my dog to chew. I especially liked the ending, because it made me feel better when he killed all of the main characters. (no spoilers, please)” Those few words (more than 20, fewer than 1,000 is ideal), and a 1-5 rating, make or break how the search engines find us. Thanks in advance.

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Well, That Wasn’t Exactly Overnight. But It Was Fun.

Today’s blog will be fairly short. It’s plain old bragging, and a little bit of some other stuff.

The bragging first.

This past Monday, I was honored to represent the various veteran’s organizations as the emcee at the Memorial Day remembrance for the Archdiocese of Saint Paul & Minneapolis. It dawned on me that I’d been doing this for over a decade now, probably a lot longer. I’ve only missed one year, and that’s because my surgeon threatened to hobble me if I got up on the podium four days after knee surgery. I like public speaking, and I’m not at all nervous in front of crowds. I am okay with any size audience, so if you’re a producer for a network talking-head show, invite me: I promise no stuttering or flop sweat.

I digress. After the ceremony I was at the back of the tent handing out flags to people to mark the graves of their veteran that we had missed during the decoration work a few days before. A very nice woman came up and told me that she was reading Assault on Saint Agnes and enjoying it quite a bit.

I live in my own head, and it never dawned on me that I’d ever meet anyone who was reading the book that hadn’t purchased it from me at a signing event. Found out that she had read a review in a newspaper (first one I am aware of) and grabbed a copy to read. She said she told her husband that “He’s the “guy on the back of my book” and then I read your name in the program for the ceremony.”

I was recognized. And not for doing something bad. That was really cool. I’ve been spotted from television commercials and print advertising I’ve done over the years, but this is the first “you’re the guy on my book” sighting.

Very cool. I’m tickled and pleased.

Please follow me on Twitter, and “Like” the Facebook author page. Don’t forget to subscribe (the box is on the right side of the page) to be eligible for free e-books and other benefits! Oh yeah – grab a copy of Assault on Saint Agnes if you’re of a mind.

Now the other stuff.

The garden is growing slowly. Seems like we’re still in March, not June. The up side of that is that weeding is minimal. The down side is that I’m not going to get many melons out of the patch, and darned few habaneros, if the weather doesn’t warm up quickly. That would make my salsa and hot sauce production a bit dicey.

The audio book work on the DiMercurio series proceeds apace. The second book I’m doing will be ready by the end of June. I’m really enjoying the work.

The sequel is moving along as well. Evolving, getting better all the time.

The first batch of jam is now on the shelves. Strawberry and rhubarb. It’s really good.

The ghost writing project is also moving forward. I’m very optimistic about where that is heading. Fascinating subject to write about.

Lastly, I’m going to be teaching a few writing courses over the next few months. None are open to the public as of yet, but that’s under negotiation at the moment. I am tickled to think I can give back some of the time and effort other authors have given to me in my journey.

That’s it. See you next week.
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Assault on Saint Agnes is available here. Just click this link!

When you finish reading any book (especially mine) please review it at www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, and www.goodreads.com. Your review increases the chances of someone looking for a new book greatly. Authors appreciate your review, even if it is just “I thought this was a good read and will give it to my dog to chew. I especially liked the ending, because it made me feel better when he killed all of the main characters. (no spoilers, please)” Those few words (more than 20, fewer than 1,000 is ideal), and a 1-5 rating, make or break how the search engines find us. Thanks in advance.

Posted in Assault on Saint Agnes, audio book, book review, canning, gardening, memorial day, popular culture, television, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Well, That Wasn’t Exactly Overnight. But It Was Fun.