There’s a Wasp in My What?

If you own a home, chances are at some point you have, or will have to get rid of a wasp nest somewhere on your home or property. It isn’t all that fun, but at least when you can see the darn thing, you can come at it with a spray can of Raid at night and kill the buggars.  But what about when you suddenly notice the damn things are flying around your house, and there’s no sign of a nest? That happened to us the other day, when I was pressure washing the side of our house on a fine, warm fall day. I hit a corner of the house where the bowed out area for our patio door meets the house again. Suddenly I noticed dozens and dozens of wasps everywhere, and they’re all flying behind the inside corner strip at the top, right by the soffit. Seriously? So I do what every sane woman does in a situation like this: holler for my husband. Yeah that worked well. He didn’t have any better idea of what to do than I did, except to wait for dark.

Well, we got a can of Raid and waited, and tried to listen in the walls to see if we could figure out more precisely where they were, but no luck. We weren’t even sure if spraying up by the soffit would work. THEN we did a little Internet research and stumbled on what is turning out to be a cheap and ingenious solution to the problem. It needs just a few things most homeowners already have at thier disposal: A shop vac, a ladder, some tape or velcro, and either water and dishsoap, or bleach.

  1. Put a few inches of water and a bit of soap in the shop vac. Make sure your filter is in place, and the exhaust port uncovered. ALTERNATIVELY you can put a few inches of bleach in the shop vac, no soap is needed.
  2. If you have rigid extension tubes for the shop vac, connect as many together as you can (we used 4), then connect your shop vac tubing.
  3. Rig it up to a ladder with tape or velcro. Get the nozzle of the shop vac right up where the wasps are going in.
  4. Plug in the vac and turn in on.
  5. Sit back, watch ’em get sucked in and die.


The first day we did it, we ran the shop vac for maybe 3 hours total. I’m running it a second day as there are still more wasps, although it’s slowed way down now. The goal is to get all the drones out, and eventually the queen will come out as well. When she does, your work is done.  You can plug up the area, but it’s my understanding that a new queen won’t move into an old nest.

Something to be aware of, if you do use bleach, you’ll get wasp soup. Bleach, as you might recall from high school science class, is sodium hypocholorite, and it does in fact, dissolve organic things like wasps, and rather quickly. So we aren’t too sure how many we actually caught, because by the time we took the cover off the shop vac maybe an hour after we turned it off, they were already dissolving. As a precaution, if you turn it off, make sure you disconnect the hose and COVER the opening, because if there are live wasps remaining they will fly out.  I think most of the wasps died right away, so we probably would not have needed to wait an hour.

(There are many videos about this on YouTube, so so need to add one from us.)

Unfortunately, as we walked around the house we noticed the little suckers busily trying to build new nests in a few other places. So we’ve done our best to hit those spots with the Raid, in hopes of driving them out before they’ve gotten too cozy.  I know one of the spots seemed to have a queen inspecting it, and I think we did get her, so perhaps we’ve dodged on bullet. I’m not entirely convinced we’ve dodged them all so I guess we’ll have to wait and see.


A Trip to the Twilight Zone

Several years ago, my husband brought a proposal for a trip to witness an event to my attention, and at the time I really didn’t think he was all that serious about it. Fast forward to a few months ago when he brought up the topic again, and it was readily apparent to me I’d significantly underestimated his interest in this event, so we began planning how we might be able to be among those who watched the 2017 Solar Eclipse, and in August we took a road trip down to Columbia, Missouri for the big show. We are terribly fortunate, my husband’s brother and his wife live there, so we were able to stay with them, and his nieces were in the process of moving from Florida to Jefferson City which is about 30 minutes south of Columbia. One was there already and was gracious enough to let us stay with her for the first two nights in spite of the fact that she didn’t even have towels or pillows unpacked yet, items we were happy enough to bring along. (Thanks Mary!!)

The trip down was mostly good, up until the last half hour before Jefferson City, when we hit a heck of a rain storm. Suddenly our long drive got even longer, when hubby had to slow WAY down just to see the road. Fortunately that didn’t last terribly long, and after winding our way on a curvy, hilly road in the dark, we got to Joanna and Mary’s house, a couple of weary travelers stumbling out of the car and into an unexpected wall of warm humidity. Yeah, that wasn’t planned for at all, after all that time in an air conditioned car and we were instantly dripping wet. Fortunately his nieces’ house had AC, so we were quite comfy inside. What we didn’t realize is that Missouri is known for it’s humidity, and the air conditioners go on May 1, and don’t go off until the end of October. The other thing we didn’t know, is that there are armadillos in Missouri…yep, you read that correctly, armadillos. We saw a couple of dead ones on the road, and fortunately other drivers hit them, not us, as I’ve heard they can do some awful damage to your car. I guess it’s because they have this weird startle reflex causing them to jump straight up in the air…so when cars drive over them, they jump up, and that lovely armored shell causes all kinds of damage to the undercarriages of cars. Ugh.

Sunday morning we headed up to Columbia, where we had the unique experience of attending church where my husband’s brother is the pastor. It’s not an ordinary church, but rather is an international church on the campus of Baptist University. There were attendees from a number of different countries and cultures there, so his brother is kind of acting as a missionary right here in the United States. His wife teaches Sunday School to the children, and she said it can be really interesting as some of the children don’t speak any English at all. She finds she has to be creative, and uses lots of crafts to teach the kids. Look out on glitter Sundays!

Monday dawned, and was the big event. We set up our lawn chairs and waited, then watched in dismay as hazy clouds started to fill the sky. Apparently this isn’t an unusual phenomenon with eclipses, as the moon begins to cross in front of the sun and the temperature drops, it causes clouds to form. So on top of the partly cloudy sky we already had, we got more haze blocking our view. We did get to experience and see the eclipse, and while it wasn’t nearly as good as some parts of the country, I can’t really fuss because back home in Minnesota, I understand it rained all day and where they were hoping for a partial, they got nothing so I really shouldn’t whine.

The experience – now that was something else. While I can’t say the four of us were moved to tears or were overwhelmed, like some folks seem to have been, it certainly was an awesome and amazing sight. IMG_9633Perhaps if the sky had been clear it would have been different for us, but the sun/moon were periodically disappearing and reappearing behind clouds, so we had less than the 2 min of viewing the corona that a lot of others got. (I want a do-over!) It was beautiful, eerie, and kind of otherworldly. My husband and I took some photos that unfortunately were also a bit on the hazy side. The thing that was weird though, is that it got dark out, but not as dark as I thought it would. IMG_9651The light that remained literally made you feel like you were in the Twilight Zone, and then all of a sudden it was done, the sun peeked out, warmth came back and the haze disappeared.
We also got a few photos on the “exit” side. You’ll note that the sun looks orange, which is more from the color of the filter covering the lens of the camera than anything.

So would I travel again to see an eclipse? You’d better believe it! They happen about every 18 months somewhere in the world. There are total, annular and partial eclipses. I’d never heard of an annular eclipse before and had to look that one up. That’s when there is a ring of the sun that is still visible, where the moon isn’t quite covering all of the sun. In that case you can’t remove the protective glasses at all. It’s like having a “ring of fire” in the sky. I think that would be interesting, but not nearly as much fun as a total eclipse. So who knows, maybe we’ll plan some around the world vacations around the coming total eclipses. There are a couple that go over Australia, and I’ve always wanted to go there. Can you imagine what a trip that would be? Dive the great barrier reef, visit New Zealand AND see a total eclipse? Truly a trip of a lifetime for us. Have you gone anywhere that you considered your “trip of a lifetime”? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.


M is for…Martyr?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

“Oh no really, you shouldn’t have”, or “It’s no trouble” or “No, that’s ok, we’ll take care of the food, you just show up”. Do any of these sound familiar? If you live in Minnesota, chances are you’ve most likely said at least one of them, because, well, we’re just so gosh darn nice. We don’t like to put anyone out, other than ourselves, and what are friends for, anyhow? Here in Minnesota, we put the M into lots of things…mosquitos, Joe Mauer, Mall of America, but the best is martyr – just ask Garrison Keillor, I’m pretty sure he’s told many a story of the long-suffering Lutherans who would rather cut off an arm than admit someone is putting them out. I should know, it’s how I was raised, and I felt the spectre of those roots rise up recently when we invited some friends over for dinner, so they could enjoy the new screen porch my husband had recently finished building for us, better known as the “Tiki Hut”.

When we extended the invitation to them they immediately offered to bring the main course, and being the good Minnesotan that I am, my first instinct was to respond “oh you don’t need to do that, we’ll take care of everything”, but for some reason this time I didn’t. We’re trying to pinch expenses right now, and their offer was timely, however I immediately felt the pull of the automatic response wanting to come out. It was like there was a little “martyr Beth” on one shoulder, and a little “feisty Beth” on the other, and they’re both talking into an ear. “Just go with it, they want to do this” says one, and “tell them they don’t have to do that” says the other. You see, we’re just so conditioned to not stand up for ourselves or push back on anything, it’s absurd. Ask my mom or husband what my favorite phrase is, and they’ll probably tell you it’s “You can’t be a doormat unless you lay down”!

Somehow, I did it. I relinquished control of dinner to someone else, and guess what? The world didn’t end, dinner was wonderful and the evening was a success with less work for me. The very best part was that we got to enjoy all of it in the aforementioned Tiki Hut, which meant a night free from another M, the Minnesota mosquito, which are serious business around here. We live very close to two swamps, and right after we moved in here I was sitting in my living room one sunny day, and suddenly I heard the sound of a helicopter very close over my house. As in so close I felt the cavitation in my chest! Running outside, you can imagine my shock as I saw them basically doing a turn over our house before nearly doing a touch and go on the neighbor’s garage across the street and then plunging lower toward the swamp. After I pulled my heart out of my toes, where it had plunged, I realized they were dropping mosquito control pellets in the swamp, but for a moment, I seriously thought Radar O’Reilly was going to pop up yelling “incoming!”.  Our mosquitos are evil, vicious creatures. They’ll wait until you’re nearly asleep before buzzing your ears, bite you in a spot that you can’t possibly reach to scratch, or bite you when scratching would be really inconvenient (first dates, job interviews, you get the idea.) Of course, we also have our favorite mosquito jokes too. Have you heard about the nearsighted ones that drained a blood bank last week? I want to offer a big thanks to Gary Clark, for the use of his wonderful cartoon.

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Copyright Gary Clark. Cartoon used with permission. See more by subscribing to the free daily cartoon at:

What are you a martyr about? Come on, fess up! I’d love to hear what gets some of you out there.

There Ain’t Nothing Like a Plan

A while back I had promised my mother that my husband and I would replace her kitchen flooring for her. We had gotten as far as buying the laminate flooring, then tucked it away in her garage, and there it sat for the next couple of months, not quite forgotten, but repeatedly deferred behind other projects until one week when I finally took a few days off work and we committed to getting it done for her.

My mother  lives in a townhouse and her kitchen is an open floor plan with an island, but smallish, maybe 75 sq feet. We’ve installed laminate flooring before, so felt this was a job we could handle. I told her to bring it in the house to get it warmed up and humidified for her home, and arranged for her to to have her refridgerator emptied out so we could move that. Thursday we arrived at 9 am with our tools in hand, all set to remove the old floor and bang in the new one. We figured, somewhat optimistically as it turned out, how hard could this be? We had a plan which looked something like this:

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Not bad, right? About 30 minutes later we’re making our first run of the day to Menards, which if you aren’t from the area is a big box home repair store as we quickly discovered we hadn’t brought along a small trim puller to get the trim off the cupboards. Finally get that going, get the trim all off and start pulling up the old flooring. Some of it was glued, some not and of course the first piece was glued…12 feet wide! After all that was up, we decided to replace the underlaiment, as some of the old had gotten wet and was ruined. So, tear that up.

So we put down the new underlaiment, and pull out her staple gun to secure it, then found it didn’t work. We spent about 90 minutes trying to fix a $20 staple gun, because isn’t that what everyone does? We tore it completely apart, got it back together, never did figure it out. So off we went to Menards for our second trip of the day for a staple gun. Hubby spots one that looks just like something he picked up at a garage sale for $1, that one’s worked beautifully for us, so we bought it for my mom as a replacement. It’s simple to use, and easy to hold. We got back to her house, loaded it up, pressed the handle and…nuttin’. Say WHAT????  You guessed it. Defective unit. But of course we can’t just go back to Menards, we (meaning my darling spouse) wanted to try to fix it. After an hour of trying he was able to successfully reassemble it with no spare parts but never did get it to work, and we made our third trip of the day to Menards to replace it. By now of course, our simple plan was looking a lot less like “idea, plan, action” and a whole lot more like the flow chart at right.

Screen Shot 2017-07-25 at 11.19.55 PMFortunately he is very wise, and brought along a test board, so we could test it in the parking lot before we left. Once we had proof it worked, back to my mom’s we went.

We finally got the underlaiment down, and started putting in the actual flooring. In the meantime I sent my mom off to the big box stores to see if she could get reducer strips to put between the flooring and carpet, as her old one looked horrible, and of course she couldn’t get them. (Side note: We bought her flooring at a local builders overstock warehouse, that didn’t sell the reducers.) So even though her flooring is a discontinued color, I took a chance and called customer service at the manufacturer and asked if I could still get them to match. We totally lucked out (we could!!) – which partly made up for the 3 trips to Menards. So those were ordered and arrived a week later.

We managed to get about halfway across her floor, then realized we didn’t have the jigsaw that would be needed to cut the hole for the vent in the floor. By this time it was 10 PM!  So we called it a night, and went back for day 2.

The second day went smoother than the first, but still took more time than expected, and by the time the flooring was in place, the quarter round was put back in a few places and appliances returned to their original spots, it was nearly 5 pm. The remaining quarter round was held to be repainted. (My mom’s kitchen cabinets are white, and the quarter round had gotten some dings so it needed painting/touch up.) Later we found out we’d actually left a bit too much space on the edges for the floating  floor and ended up getting new quarter round that was wider, as hers was the absolute narrowest and cheapest that her builder could buy when they built the place. Fortunately her other son-in-law has the skills to install that, along with the threshold between the carpet and flooring.

You’d think this would have made me run screaming for the hills, wouldn’t you? Nope, not in the least. In fact, it’s strangely the opposite. We need to replace the flooring in our own home, so I’m looking at it as a test run: what should we do differently when we do ours. Yes, there is quite a list we’ve compiled, from check the staple gun to verify the width of the quarter round and the hell with how much the directions say to leave for the floating floor! But after it is all said and done, I’m still glad we did it. We saved a ton of money doing this for her, and about every 2 weeks in the first two months after we finished, she sent me an email telling me how much she loved her new kitchen floor. That made everything worth it. My only regret is that we can’t get any more of it to do her entry ways by her front and garage entrys, but there’s always Craig’s List.

Dear Mom—about your 50 year nursing career & Medicaid… Woman’s post PLOWS the GOP

So many of us have thoughts and opinions about Obamacare vs Trumpcare, Medicaid vs no Medicaid, rising premiums, subsidies, etc, and the list goes on and on. l stumbled across this letter from a woman named Betsy, written to her mother with dementia, and creatively cc’d to the GOP. It’s compelling and thought provoking and I wanted to share it here.

Source: Dear Mom—about your 50 year nursing career & Medicaid… Woman’s post PLOWS the GOP

The Involuntary Adventurer

For what I hope is short lived I have found myself with a bit more free time on my hands this summer, but while I do have that time my husband and I have decided we’re going to try very hard to do some of those things we’ve been saying we want to do. Yesterday we made good on our promise to each other, and set out on our first adventure to downtown Minneapolis and the Mill City Museum and Mill Ruins Park. The Mill City Museum is located on the Mississippi River on the east side of downtown, and tells the story of the history of when this beautiful city of lakes (and a very big river) was the capital of flour milling. From the late 1800’s into the mid 1900’s in the birthplace of General Mills and Pillsbury, the mills on the banks of the Mississippi produced the largest percentage of the worlds flour, and by 1915-16 was producing 20 million dry barrels annually. (Total geek that I am, today we measure flour production in cwts, which is a hundred weight, or 100 lb, and a barrel had about 196 lb of flour. That’s about 3920 million cwts annually. Minnesota’s production in the first quarter of 2017 was 6.86 million cwts, putting us 4th in the nation.)

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Mpls milling district from the Mississippi River, approx 1907. The Washburn A Mill is about in the center. The tall spire with the round clock looks like it’s part of it, but it’s actually behind it. Note the original Stone Arch Bridge on the right, and the railroad trestles in front of the mills. Some trestle remains exist in the ruins today. Photo from MN Historical Society

The city was knicknamed “The Mill City” and even had a professional basketball team for a time, the Minneapolis Millers for those of you old enough to remember them. (As a kid, I’d heard of the Millers, but always thought “what an odd name for a team, I wonder why they called them that?” I never thought to ask my parents. Now of course, 30 seconds on the internet and there’s your answer!) One of the things makes the museum and the park so interesting is that the old mill is the site of 2 fires, and the park has a portion of the mill ruins that were excavated.

The first Washburn A Mill, built in 1874, “was leveled by a flour dust explosion that claimed 18 lives. That explosion and the resulting fire destroyed much of the riverfront business area, cutting Minneapolis’ milling capacity in half.

The A Mill was rebuilt by 1880, with state-of-the-art machinery that permitted safer operations while producing higher quality flour. At the time it was the largest and most technologically advanced mill in the world, featuring new automatic steel rollers instead of traditional millstones.  During its heyday, it was said that the mill ground enough flour to make 12 million loaves of bread a day“. Mill City Museum History

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1991 Washburn A Mill Fire, Courtesy of MN Historical Society

As production shifted to other parts of the country, mills began to close and in 1965 all of the remaining mills in downtown Minneapolis were as well. The building sat empty, and in February 1991, fire broke out in the abandoned building nearly destroying it a second time. Since then efforts have been made to safeguard what remains, and excavate some of the ruins of the old original mill.


We had wanted to see it for quite some time and because much of it is outside, we waited until summer to go. In retrospect I have to say that was good only in terms of ease of walking around, however while the museum is good and has a ton of information, the ruins were rather disappointing. Take a look at the photos below; you’ll see what I mean.

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©2017 Beth Younker


The photo on the left is one I found from another blogger on a general Google search (I’ve provided a link to her blog so she gets credit!) taken 10/26/2010, and below is one I took 6/20/2017. You can see how much overgrowth of weeds has been allowed to happen at the site. It’s been virtually taken over by the weeds, trees, and foliage, to the point that there was so much of the ruins that I didn’t even realize existed until I found the other photograph online! For example there is some sort of large round object about halfway up and toward the right side in the left photo, and if I blow up mine and know where to look I can just barely find it.The three windows are nearly obscured, and just off the end of the walkway is a large slab of something. In her photo it’s clearly a piece of structure but in mine it’s almost not noticed. So our visit was interesting, but rather underwhelming, primarily because you just couldn’t see much at all. In addition, I’ve been trying to find information online that has diagrams showing me what it was I was seeing. Don’t get me wrong, there is some information on the small information stations located along the parkway in the area. Screen Shot 2017-06-21 at 5.30.03 PMBut the information isn’t as clear or informative as it could be. One example is where a sign stated that “the tailraces are visible” and it had a picture of tailraces that may have looked a little like this to the right:


Now honestly, does anyone know what a tailrace is? I sure didn’t! And I sure couldn’t figure it out just by looking at the picture. Was it the part sticking out? Was it the part going in? Was it the path over the whole thing? Well, here’s your vocabulary word for today. The tailrace is the place where the water comes out from the flume from the mill,  those little small canal-like areas. Here is how those same tailraces appeared yesterday noted by the yellow arrow, from a slightly different perspective.

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©2017 Mike Younker

I also mentioned earlier in the blog by that very first photo, that there were remnants of the train trestles still present. You can see them here. They are the bits of rusted iron that are sticking up just to the left of the walking path on the right side of the photo.
Trying to find online maps and diagrams has been fruitless, which is frustrating. I’m not sure why that wouldn’t be available, as it seems it should be relatively easy information to get and provide. Just figuring out what the railroad trestles were was almost impossible until I stumbled on something in someone else’s blog.

I’m not sure if funding for the park has been cut, or if it’s deemed to dangerous to try to get in and weed the ruins or what the issue is. I can say that it was a less than fulfilling experience, and I hope that the Minneapolis Park Board will take a hard look at this. I know in recent years their stance has been to let a lot of areas go back to natural, such as the area around Lake Nokomis, which may work for some areas. Near the ruins there was even a sign indicating that there is work to bring back some of the natural prairie grasses to the hillside. In this case, if in fact they are allowing the mill ruins to revert to their natural state, this certainly means a loss of our rich milling heritage as the ruins are swallowed up by nature and will soon be gone for good.

How Low Can Bad Videos Go?

I’d like to say it’s been a really bizarre week, but honestly, who am I kidding? It’s been a bizarre 5 months since our new President was sworn in. No one met with the Russians, well maybe they did, they can’t remember, oh you meant THOSE meetings?…the Russians didn’t hack the election, well maybe some Russian patriots did, who knows?…alternative facts…Spicey’s in, Spicey’s out, Spicey’s in the bushes, Spicey’s rolling through Manhattan – oh wait, that Melissa McCarthy doing a skit for SNL. Sorry…Screen Shot 2017-06-02 at 7.00.09 PM

And then there was covfefe. Yeah, I don’t even know what else to say about that one. Neither, apparently did Merriam-Webster, those wise and wonderful dictionary folks, who tweeted this out in response that morning. (If you aren’t following M-W on Twitter, now is a great time to start. Their social media manager, Lauren Naturale is hilarious. For that matter, why aren’t you following me, @MrsMike921 on Twitter as well? Just sayin’.)

So moving on.
The thing that really has made an impact on me this week, however, was the story about Kathy Griffin and the poor decision she made when she created a short video depicting a beheaded Trump with a crawl at the bottom of the screen “he had blood coming from his nose, his eyes, his whatever” (or close to that). Since it was posted it was supposed to have been taken down off YouTube, she issued an apology, has been fired from her New Years’ Eve gig with Anderson Cooper at CNN, lost multiple stand up gigs, lost endorsement deals, been harrassed by the Trump family, recieved death threats, and had a visit from the Secret Service. Then today there was a video from a press conference where she stated that the Trump family is ruining her, and they’ve “broken her, and she doesn’t believe she’ll have a career after this”, crying while making her statement.

First a couple of things to level set. I’m no fan of Donald Trump, but I’m also not overly fond of Kathy Griffin either and find her rather annoying and a bit of a bully. Having said that, I’m sure this is a difficult situation for her, and I don’t doubt her sincerity and that she is sorry for having made the video. No one, I repeat, no one, should ever get a death threat, it’s terrifying. As to the rest of it…I’m having trouble being more sympathetic, and here is why.

In her original statement, Griffin said “I crossed the line..I move the line and then I cross it. That’s what I do.” Guess what? If your job description includes “be provocative, push the envelope, push people’s buttons” that sort of thing, then it’s incumbent on you to also be responsible enough to know how far is too far and when to stop. If you don’t know, then for the love of God, get a trusted circle of advisors and bounce ideas off of them when you’re really pushing the edge of the envelope. We’ve all seen stories in the media about threats to past presidents that bought someone a visit from the guys in dark suits with no sense of humor, who talk into lapel pins. Some threats were pretty real, others were vague and non-descript. Internet chatter is monitored to pick up anything that might be a possible risk, guys flying in homemade gyrocopters that land too close to the White House suddenly find themselves with an arrest record. You’d have to have lived under a rock or in Siberia for the last 30 years to not know about these things. Griffin’s statement of “I crossed the line” is just too pat, and quite frankly, is a cop out.  If she gave it any thought at all, perhaps she figured as a celebrity she was exempt from consequences? I personally believe that Griffin simply didn’t think. At. All. Unfortunately for her she’s learning the hard way this is one time when her celebrity status doesn’t matter worth a hill of beans. Do I seriously think she was making a threat against the President? No, of course not, and the Secret Service probably didn’t either, but it’s not their job to guess. It’s their job to investigate, verify, and determine based on facts obtained from interviews.

If I do something in my job that my manager or my company disapproves of, there are consequences. Every year I am expected to review a corporate code of conduct, and sign off on that document indicating that I’ve read it, I understand it and will abide by it. If I don’t live up to it, I am subject to a number of potential forms of discipline  up to and including termination of employment. I can’t misrepresent my company, I can’t accept monetary gifts, I can’t share insider information, etc. I would expect there are similar rules in place for self-employed celebrities when they sign employment contracts with networks to do shows, such as  Griffin did with CNN for the New Years Eve show. While I’ve never seen that type of contract, some quick searching on Google did produce readily available information on morals clauses in contracts for the entertainment industry.  If her contracts had them, then her failure to understand terms and conditions lies squarely on her own shoulders.

I’d be a whole lot more impressed with her if she said “the mistake was mine, I didn’t stop to think. I was stupid and careless and can see how this could have been percieved as a  threat to the president. The Trump family has every right to be angry with me and I’m going to take some time away from my career to reconsider some things. I may or may not be back.” She is both pushing this onto someone else as well as whining about the Trump family bullying her. The former demonstrates the lack of insight on her part, which is unfortunate and the latter, well, that’s kind of “pot, meet kettle”. Bullying is wrong, no two ways about that, and both have done more than their share. I just find it a bit hypocritical that she’s now the one complaining about it.

I’m not saying she doesn’t have a right to push boundaries in her career as a comedianne, or even to cross lines, so before folks jump on their bandwagon I want to make sure I’m clear about that. I just don’t think she should have crossed THIS one.

Whoops, They Did It Again

Like many, lately I find myself waxing nostalgic for “the good old days”. With all of the chaos and uncertainly that is surrounding us with the economy, healthcare and politics, is it little wonder we want to slip back in time a bit, and we “Try to remember the kind of September, When life was slow and oh, so mellow.” (Many of you are far too young to remember that song from Tom Jones!) We’re so tired of the lackadaisical disregard that’s out in the world, and it’s really become so commonplace for us that we almost don’t see it for what it really is anymore: Customer Service EPIC FAIL.

I’ve said this before, but unless you are going to make sure your department does it’s job well (I’m talking to you, Best Buy) you really need to rename it Customer Dis-Service, so that in fairness to your customers, they truly know who they are working with. My husband and I were lucky enough to buy a new washer and dryer recently. Our old set was mismatched, here when we bought our house, and about 15 years old, so when the dryer went for the third time, that was all the reason I needed. I ordered what we wanted from Best Buy online and set up delivery. 16864721353_dc47ce9c27_zBefore it was all said and done, the tally was 2 trips from the installers, 1 from the plumber, 6 calls to different people in customer service, at least 2 hours combined hold and talk times with customer service, and over 2 weeks without a washer and dryer. Plus a whole lot of misinformation and frustration, all of which was completely avoidable.

You’d think I learned my lesson after that debacle, but since I’m a slow learner, I didn’t. I went back to Best Buy, this time to the store, as I was trying to buy some Bluetooth speakers for my mom’s computer for Mother’s Day. I really wanted to hear one particular brand, but couldn’t get the store display to work. I asked one of the staff about it and here was the response: “I’m sorry, that unit isn’t working, and hasn’t for a few weeks.” That was it. I said, “Can you try to fix it? Get a different one? I’d like to hear it, and I won’t buy something I can’t hear” and the response was “no, we can’t”, and he just stands there smiling and looking dumb.  Seriously?  That’s the best you can do?  So I left and went next door to Target and they had a couple of young kids working in stereo. (You know the kind, the type that have “rule bender” written all over them, and I immediately know this will work to my advantage!) I said to them, “OK, here’s the deal. Best Buy was less than helpful, and I’m really hoping you’ll be able to help me. I need to hear this thing, because I want it for my mom and she has a little trouble hearing so I want to make sure it isn’t too tinny and has good base sounds. Is there any way you can open the package for me so I can try connecting it to my phone, since you don’t have it as a display model?” and without even hesitating, they said “sure, we’ll give it a try”. Bless their hearts, they did, and I’m so grateful for it, because I really didn’t like the speaker at all! But I was able to find something I liked later with my husband’s input, and mom was thrilled with what we bought for her.

I guess I just don’t get it, why is customer service such a thing of the past, such an exception instead of a rule? Part of the problem where Best Buy is concerned, is that for those of us in the Twin Cities, they’re kind of the only game in town for some things. We no longer have Circuit City, and we don’t have stores like Frye’s or other electronics competitors, which is really unfortunate. I think it’s allowed Best Buy a degree of complacency and they’ve become really second rate. I do shop my dollars elsewhere when I can but sometimes they really are it.

On the other hand, our local hardware store (yep, I’ll name it, Pellici Ace Hardware, and they have several locations) consistently falls all over themselves being helpful, courteous, kind and downright awesome. I might have to pay a little more for things there, but it’s worth it. If I need something they don’t have, they will go into their online catalog with me and find it, but honestly that’s only happened one time. Generally speaking, if they don’t have it, you probably don’t need it. Everyone should run a business like Pellici.

Even Best Buy.

Just Because You Can…

Ninety nine red balloonsкрасные-воздушные-шарики-в-форме-сердечек-летят-к-солнцу
Floating in the summer sky
Panic bells, its red alert
There ‘s something here from somewhere else
The war machine springs to life
Opens up one eager eye
And focusing it on the sky
The ninety nine red balloons go by

Second verse of “99 Red Balloons” , lyrics by Kevin McAlea

I was watching the Minnesota Vikings losing… again… last fall when a commercial came on for TCF bank. The music accompanying the commercial was quite catchy, and somewhat familiar, and I stopped and listened and realized it was “99 Red Balloons”, a very upbeat, peppy pop tune from the early 1980’s recorded by Nena. (Many know it as “99 Luftballoons”, the German version of the song.) But here’s the thing…just because a tune is all peppy and catchy, doesn’t mean it’s best used for a commercial. I mean, should you use a song about war, the nuclear holocaust and the end of life as we know it to sell your banking products? Really? I know you can… but should you?

My husband has heard me utter that phrase so many times over the years, he’s probably sick of it. “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” He typically hears it when we see something that appears particularly visually egregious to us when we are out and about, however over the past year and a half since I started writing this blog, it’s started to mean something more. As social media becomes more prevalent and, along with that, invasive in our lives, it becomes necessary to recognize the criticality of our responsibility in that domain. No longer are we merely writing words, but we’re writing words with the power to hurt as well as heal, to destroy as well as develop. It’s become so easy to say whatever we want to, cloaked in the veil of protection afforded by not being face to face with people, and looking them in the eye. The upside of being face to face with someone and speaking to them of course, is that you hear nuance and tone, you see body language and you’re in the moment. You can respond immediately, defend and refute. With posts like Twitter, all of that is lost. Is it sincere or sarcasm, are they kidding around or cutting you down? In the space of time it takes you to figure it out, “pop goes the weasel” and the whole world has now seen the post. A reputation is ruined, someone is shamed, a war has begun.

Years ago I remember hearing “be really careful about what you put on social media with your activities, it could cost you a job.” Yet too often it seems that the long term impact of what is put on social media isn’t considered. It’s all about firing the first shot, not ensuring you tooks steps to make sure the last one is done. There was a story recently about a prank played on a young boy via social media, telling him that a girl he considered his girlfriend had committed suicide, so he killed himself. He was 11.  So many lives wrecked because of poor decisions.

Consider too, how quickly stories go viral. In the past several weeks we had Pepsi pull their commercial with Kendall Jenner due to racial insensitivity, United Airlines debacle dragging a customer off an airplane and Sean Spicer and his terribly inappropriate statements about Hitler and the Holocaust on Passover.  Within hours it seems the whole world was talking about each of these incidents in Twitter. I loved George Takei’s take on the whole thing, when he tweeted this out:

Screen Shot 2017-04-13 at 7.35.48 AM

I thought it was funny, but also a good reminder that it’s starting to feel like we’re playing “Whack-A-Mole” with all of the ridiculous “are you kidding me? [face palm]” events we read about on the internet and it’s getting harder and harder to keep it all straight!

So I’ll use these examples for myself as lessons, golden nuggets if you will, reminders of how fleeting moments are, that cyberspace is forever. The best way to ensure your sex tape is removed from the internet is to never make one in the first place, be kind and gentle with others, stand up for people when they can’t do it themselves, and ask yourself “just because I can, should I?”

You Don’t Know It’s There Until It’s Not

Eight little words that are pearls, words of wisdom from my mother regarding salt in cooking but applicable to so many things in life. As I was learning to cook when I was quite young, I had asked about salt in particular one day and I can still hear her voice so clearly saying to me, “you don’t know it’s there until it’s not”. That resonated with me then, and stayed with me all these years (and don’t ask me how many years that is, I shan’t tell you!)

The inverse is also true about encounters and experiences that we have, we often don’t realize something was missing until we’ve seen it, heard it or felt it. Where we live in the Twin Cities we got a new chain of Hy-Vee grocery stores last year that brought some much needed competition to our cities. From the incredible variety of types of produce, fresh artisan breads, cheeses, an incredible specialty bakery, to fresh, onsite fast food and a restaurant, shopping there is nothing less than an event. Going there one needs plenty of time, because you’ll want to browse and browse and browse…it keeps going on and on and it’s just plain fun.

I’m also fascinated by the attitudes there. First, the store motto is “there’s a smile in every aisle”, and while it’s a little corny, it’s also true. Every time I’ve been there, I’ve been greeted warmly and multiple times in the same visit, people always asking me if there is anything I need help finding or have questions about. The second thing was the one that really stood out for me, which was it almost felt like the team members were trained in the art of people pleasing, or anticipating needs. One day I was in line to buy groceries and noticed a bag that was designed to stand up in the trunk of the car. I asked the checker if it was designed to hold 2 grocery bags side by side when open. He didn’t know, nor did the young lady bagging my groceries (yes, they bag your groceries there!!) I went ahead and bought it anyway, and turned back to the register and ran my card through to pay for my groceries. Suddenly the young lady bagging them said “yep! It does!” I turned and she had opened up the bag and filled my paper sacks then put them both in the new trunk bag to make sure they easily fit in there, so I would know right then and there. She didn’t need to do that, but it was really nice that she did, and it really made me wonder, “do they teach ‘Never miss an opportunity to delight a customer and try to anticipate needs’ as part of new employee orientation? “ I’ve had other unexpected experiences at the store as well. When I haven’t been able to find something I’m looking for, they don’t tell me where to find it; they bring me to it (“Here, let me show you where that is.”)  If they don’t know where it is, the staff will look it up on the computer and then come back to where you are to update you (“If you wait here, I’ll go and look that up for you and I’ll be right back.”). I’ve never had such a complete and satisfying experience, and didn’t realize it until I actually experienced it. I figured that wasn’t happening by accident so a few days ago when I was there I stopped a manager and asked about it. He confirmed it for me and said that yes, they train all employees that way, to basically “fall all over themselves being helpful” (my words, not his, but the intent is the same) and that they have secret shoppers who actually come in watching for it. I told him it’s why I kept coming back, that I loved being treated like that and really appreciated the service. He thanked me, and his smile really said it all. 

I’ve decided I’m old enough and have paid my dues; I deserve to be treated well. I want to shop at places that treat me as if I’m special, even if I have to pay a little more. (I honestly don’t think I do pay more here, I’m just saying I’m willing to.) I’ll go to a nicer restaurant, go to better retail shops if I’m treated with more kindness, given a bit more help, a smile, or going the extra mile. What I won’t do, is shop at places that treat me like I don’t exist, which is what happened at Sur le table in Edina a few years back. I had shopped at one of their other stores in California in the past and really liked them, and was happy when a new store opened in Minnesota. I went there on a Saturday morning shortly after the store opened. It was quiet; I was maybe the third customer there. If you aren’t from here, you need this for your backstory: Edina is a ritzy, wealthy suburb and the local rumor has it that the letters stand for “Every Day I Need Attention”. While that isn’t really true, there certainly is plenty of attitude there to go around. So I walked in in jeans, a flannel shirt and baseball cap – and after 20 min not one sales person had greeted me, made eye contact with me or approached me in any way. So I walked out, walked a half block down the street to another kitchen store called Cooks of Crocus Hill (where they are MUCH nicer), was immediately greeted, spent a lot of my hard earned money and told them how much nicer they were. The saleswoman replies and said they heard that a lot. As I left it was all I could do not to walk back to Sur le table and walk in like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman “you know, I was in here a little bit ago and you wouldn’t help me, big mistake. HUGE.” But I figured I’d be the grown up and go home.

That’s the funny thing about customer service. We all recognize really lousy service when we experience it, because it unfortunately slaps us in the head and it makes us want to tell everyone about it. So-so customer or adequate customer service, that’s not so simple. Perhaps we’ve become complacent, or have adjusted, even lowered some standards a bit, but whatever the reason is we are no longer bothered by middle of the road because we didn’t realize it wasn’t there, until it something truly stellar comes along.