The death of customer service

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Yep! It’s gone the way of the dinosaurs.

Now listen, children, as we discuss a strange phenomenon that existed many years ago. It’s not exactly extinct, but it’s so rare today, most people haven’t ever experienced it, save for those of us who are…um…old.

I’m talking about “customer service” which, by definition, is the support a company offers their customers. Support both before, during, and after one purchases a product, which makes being a customer, well, nice.

Once upon a time, kind workers hurried to assist shoppers with their acquisitions and if you called on the phone an actual person – who was generally very sweet – would work hard to help a buyer overcome any problems or concerns.

But somewhere along the way, customer service went the way of the dinosaurs.

“Excuse me sir,” I said holding out a bill that I’d received from AT&T. “I was accidentally charged for two cellphones instead of one, so my bill is double what it should be.” I smiled sweetly.

A long time later, while I watched the gentleman poke his tablet, he threw up his arms. “I can’t help you.”

I then requested to see the manager.

“I’m very busy right now,” the young woman said in a huff. “I will get to your problem tonight after five. I’ll call you.”

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Think about it. When was the last time you felt like a company cared about your satisfaction?

Though my first thought was to mention that there seemed to be no unattended customers in the store, I acquiesced. That evening, I waited. No call. So, I returned the next day and the whole scenario replayed itself. I felt like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. I smiled. “You didn’t call me,” I said in my most honeyed voice.

“Yes, well…” she sputtered. “I’ll get to it later.”

I am loath to admit that the not-so-nice version of me began leaking out. “I think you should sit down and we can take care of it now.”

She stared around the room, as if looking for cover. Then, to my surprise, she sat. Still, the outcome was not what I expected. After fussing with her tablet, she called over the first guy I’d dealt with and insisted he would fix the problem. Then she promptly disappeared. I’m not sure what she thought had changed from his inability to help me the day before, still I found myself facing him again.

Finally, with my day slipping by, he stared at me. “You should call AT&T’s customer service line.”

download-1“I don’t want to wait on hold. Couldn’t you call for me?” I folded my hands and batted my eyes

He refused.

Now, I’m not the type to get loud or angry in public. After all, I was a sports official for 40 years and, in that capacity, I wasn’t allowed to lose my cool. Still, when I stood and followed him to a payment kiosk, he barked. “You stay six feet away from me!”

I squinted. I was doing my social-distancing due diligence. Did he think I – a little, 65-year-old woman – might kick his ass. (Yes, it occurred to me, but I promise you I did nothing untoward.)

Soon thereafter, my sweetie pie and I were searching the isles at Home Depot. He asked one of the employees for help and the man shouted, “I’m having a bad day!”  After which, he threw his clipboard and stalked away, leaving us to fend for ourselves. Then, one of our favorite restaurants, which we have patronized for years, gave us poorly done take-out and refused to replace it. And I can’t count the hours I spent on hold with Amazon and Social Security and Medicare and Cox Cable, often not connecting with a single human being and getting little or no satisfaction in regard to the issues I called about. “I’m sorry. I can’t help you. I’ll connect you with someone who can.” Then click, you’re disconnected after waiting on hold for half an hour and you’re forced to begin the whole dreary process again. 

Here’s the thing. All of this pretty much happened in the same couple of weeks.

So, the question is, why are we, the customers, being treated so badly? Companies are shunting their customer service responsibilities as they hide behind technology. “Please listen to this recording as our options have changed.” “Please go to our website.” “We are experiencing very long wait times, so call back later.”

Eieee!!!

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Imagine the joy if you got to speak with a real person who actually solved your problem in a reasonable amount of time.

What can we do? Not much probably, though it would be nice to see a website that listed corporations according to their customer-service amenities. Just think, wouldn’t it be lovely to be able to choose companies with which to do business according to their efforts on our behalf? Imagine the joy if a real person answered our call promptly, sincerely listened to our complaint, and kindly rectified the issue in a reasonable amount of time.

Bliss!

Sadly, that probably isn’t much more feasible than bringing the dinosaurs back to life.

Still, a girl can dream.

Wild Horses on the Salt Cover 2

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Try to Remember

“Try to remember the kind of September when life was slow and oh so mellow!”

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Don’t panic. It’s normal to forget things sometimes.

While I don’t remember a time like that, it sounds nice, doesn’t it? Though I enjoy that lovely old song from The Fantasticks, slow and mellow have eluded me most of my life. But it’s the remembering part I find most problematic. Sometimes, I leave a room with deliberation, walk into another, and promptly forget what I wanted to do.

I bet you do to.

But, don’t worry. You’re not losing your mind. It’s called the doorway effect. According to a story by the BBC, “The Doorway Effect occurs when our attention moves between levels, and it reflects the reliance of our memories – even memories for what we were about to do – on the environment we’re in.” The idea is that moving through a doorway to another room can create a mental block that resets in the next room and convinces us to move onto a new chapter. So, no worries there.

Still, as we mature, many of us are concerned about forgetfulness. But should we consider memory lapses a natural part of aging? Studies say no, so it appears many of us will grow old without significant memory loss. However, we should be concerned if forgetfulness is severe and it persistently affects everyday function.

It’s important to understand what can cause memory loss and what we can do to prevent it. Note that certain medications can be problematic, especially drugs that treat anxiety and pain. Depression, thyroid issues, and deficiencies of vitamin B12 can also cause memory loss, as can strokes and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

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Keep memory loss at bay by adding healthy foods like nuts and beans and fruits and vegetables your diet.

Simple life-style changes can help keep our memories strong. Exercise regularly. And no big-time sweating is required. Just go for a walk every day. Insert some cognitive activities into your day, like reading and playing games, dancing and music. Consider a diet low in saturated fats and add brain-healthy foods like nuts, berries, beans, fish, green leafy vegetables, whole grains and, my personal favorite, wine, but of course in moderation. Be social. Make new friends. A good way to do that is to volunteer or join groups of people with whom you share an interest. And travel, if you can. New experiences keep our brains active.

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Making new friends can keep your brain resilient.

The point is, we shouldn’t overly worry about that word we forgot how to spell, the appointment that slipped our mind, or the person’s name we can’t recall, because that’s just a normal part of living. And remember, most of us do have the power to keep our noggins healthy, with just a few changes.

So, take control, my friends.

Now, where did I leave my keys?

Wild Horses on the Salt Cover 2

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Silver Sneakers

I have worked out most of my life. I started ice skating at five. I skied and swam. When I was 24, I started officiating sports and called football, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, and basketball games, an avocation I practiced for 40 years. When I was 30, I got my first health club membership and I have had one ever since.

The Silver Sneakers program is designed to provide free gym access for people 65 and older.

So, I’m a long-time gym rat. I’ve lifted weights, utilized aerobics equipment, and practiced yoga, but I’m primarily a lap swimmer. I mention this because recently I turned the golden corner for those of us who spend time at the gym. The reason? Silver Sneakers.

For the uninformed, Silver Sneakers is a health and fitness program that provides gym access and fitness classes for older adults. It’s covered by some Medicare plans. That means I no longer have to shell out those monthly fees to the health club.

The idea, of course, is to keep old people moving so they’re less likely to succumb to problems like heart disease, broken bones from falls, high-blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and obesity. If people get exercise, chances are they won’t become ill or injured, which keeps those Medicare costs down.

I’ve been swimming laps regularly for 35 years, so I am pretty comfortable working out.

I was feeling pretty smug the day I walked into the club and asked to be moved to the Silver Sneakers rolls. I had just finished swimming a thousand meters – sadly, I used to swim two thousand, but as I’ve already intimated I’m old.

“Of course! I’d be happy to help,” a tall, twenty-something smiled down at me. “Sit right here. Just show me your ID and your membership card, Ms. Montgomery.”

I noted he was very solicitous.

After putting the important bits of information into the computer and handing me my new key fob, he placed both elbows on the desk. “Now, we can provide you with a free one-hour counseling session.”

“What for?”

He tilted his head. “To help you learn how to workout.”

I squinted. Did I look like I needed help finding my way around the gym? Did I look like I spent my days on the couch eating Ding Dongs? Did I look like I didn’t know a free weight from a foam roller?

Then, I had an I-glimpsed-myself-in-a-store-window moment. I know you’ve done it. You walk by a reflective surface and the person you see staring back is not the one you always imagined. I was forced to consider how this nice young man saw me. He smiled sweetly. I stared back, realizing I might now appear to be a little old lady.

I said I’d think about the offer. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to see if there’s anything I’ve been missing. I thanked him and left. Though I stared at the floor whenever I got close to a window.

Wild Horses on the Salt Cover 2

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

What’s for dinner?

The pandemic has changed many things in our daily lives, and one – which seemed minor at first – has taken on more importance, of late. I’m talking here about dinner.

Ryan loves to cook, but since the lockdown, having to come up with meals seven nights a week has been daunting.

It used to be that my sweetie pie cooked lovely evening meals on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, while I watched admiringly, sipping beer from a champagne flute. (One of my very few quirks.) We don’t live in the same home, though we’re only separated by eight houses. So, pre-pandemic we didn’t see each other often during the workweek, which is perhaps how we’ve managed to stay together for the last 28 years.

Ryan has the soul of a chef and delighted in planning, shopping, and producing our meals. He always made extra, so I could spend the rest of the week eating luscious leftovers. In case you’re wondering, yes, I’m quite capable of cooking. I just don’t love the process quite as much as he does, though if there’s chocolate and sugar involved I’m queen of the kitchen. But Ry is a man who binge watches Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and who would happily tattoo Guy Fieri’s face on his bicep.

Now, in the seventh month of our confinement, something has changed.

“What do you want for diner?” Ry asked with little enthusiasm.

“What’s the matter?” I squinted from my La-Z-Boy, then smiled sweetly. “I’ll be happy with whatever the cook wants to make.” When I got no response, I was instantly concerned.  

Then, he shrugged. “I’m not used to cooking. . . everyday.”

I flashed on my mother, who would come home from work and stand frozen before the refrigerator, while three bratty kids whined for dinner. When my dad got home, we’d all sit down – for those youngsters among you, we actually gathered at the table every night for dinner – and more times than not we’d complain that we didn’t like her cooking. And that would push her over the edge into scary-mom land.

I now realize what a pain in the butt it must have been for her to work all day – she was the only mom in the neighborhood who held a job – and then have to figure out what meal might make us all happy, a feat almost impossible to perform.

See this sweet, 1960’s mom cooking for her grateful family? Not my mom. Not my family.

“You don’t have to cook everyday, Ry. The kids and I can forage.”

But he looked sad, as if somehow, now that he’s retired, it’s his job to feed us, and that if he doesn’t work his culinary magic, we’ll all be disappointed.

A short time later, he snapped his tablet shut and rose with a smile on his face. At dinnertime, when he produced a huge, baking dish bubbling with lobster mac and cheese, there wasn’t an unhappy mouth in the house.

“Nice, honey! You outdid yourself,” I said, scraping the last bit of gooey goodness from my plate.

The thing about dinner though is there’s no finish line. Tomorrow he’ll have to rally his culinary skills again.

Good luck, sweetie pie. We’re all counting on you.

Wild Horses on the Salt Cover 2

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Waiting for a wireless world: the curse of cords

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I wish my desk looked like this, but it doesn’t.

Once upon a time, we were told computers would make our lives simpler. Seemed rational, though we were also told they would lead to a paperless society, which is clearly not the case and is a story for another time.

I’m not arguing that computers don’t give us options never before seen in the history of mankind, it’s just that they make certain things so damn hard.

I’m speaking specifically of cords. Lately, I’m afraid to look behind my desktop where a nest of cables snakes in a pile from my power strip. I have tried reordering the mess on multiple occasions but it always manages to morph back in a tangled heap.

The problem intensified recently when, following my retirement from teaching, I needed to purchase some new computers, as well as a cellphone, an item I was acquiring for the first time ever. (Stop snickering.)

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This isn’t really what the cables look like behind my desktop, it just feels that way.

All my new gadgets needed various types of cords, items unimaginatively name DVI cables, HDMI cables, PS/2 Cables, Ethernet cables, USB cables, etc. Though some of these cords came with my purchases, I had to buy others. I considered the cost of these additional wires and wondered why they weren’t included with my new devices. Made me wonder what my dad would have done in olden times had he toted that big square TV home and discovered there was no plug.

After utilizing power tools to pry my cords from their human-proof packaging, I plugged them in. There were so many, I had a brief panic attack. I need order to function, so I tried a bunch of twist ties, but the pile looked even worse.

Then I had to deal with the chargers. In addition to my desktop, I have a laptop, a Kindle, and a phone. But it gets better. I currently have two college-student kids pandemically stuck at home, each of whom also has multiple devices, as well as my sweetie pie who owns a tablet. Chargers sneak from sockets everywhere, though no one seems bothered by this but me. Nor do they struggle, as I do, with the question of which cord goes to which device.

The question arose: Why can’t the cords and their corresponding ports all be the same? I checked that out, figuring mankind had survived with just a few regional variations of the wall plug since the advent of electricity. I discovered there are three types of connectors: “twisted-pair connectors, coaxial cable connectors and fiber-optic connectors. Generally, cable connectors have a male component and a female component, except in the case of hermaphroditic connectors such as the IBM data connector.”

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Why so many different types of ports? I’m guessing the answer is simple: Money.

I won’t pretend to understand that. I’m a simple sort. So, when I looked up the different types of ports, I was similarly confused. “Many USB ports look the same, but there are different generations with different capabilities. Some are USB 2.0 and some are 3.0 – the 3.0 ones are blue while the 2.0 ones do not have a special color. 3.0 is much faster than 2.0, but the device you are connecting must support 3.0 to use the extra speed.”

As to the why there are so many variations, even I can figure that out: Money. The various tech companies want us to keep shelling out funds for all those cords. And each company insists on it’s own special varieties, so no mixing and matching allowed. You know they could make this easier on us, but money rules. And we have no choice, if we wish to participate in the technological world.

Now, if I could only figure out which plug goes where. Sadly, that sometimes involves me sheepishly asking one of the kids for help and hoping there will be no eye rolling, after which I sometimes expect a pat on the head and a smile that says, “Isn’t Mom cute!”

In the meantime, I await a truly wireless world, where my desk is neat and clean and orderly. Is that really too much to ask?

Wild Horses on the Salt Cover 2

WILD HORSES ON THE SALT

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

The real reason for sports

I don’t know when sports will return to normal. But I’m hoping they do and my rational might surprise you.

Life-long sports fans often look at the showy reasons we are willing to spend hours watching and reading about our favorite teams. As those of us who grew up in the 60s and 70s can attest, perhaps “the thrill of victory…the agony of defeat,” – the opening to ABCs Wide World of Sports – says it all.

But maybe there are better motives for having sports in our world. And I’m not talking about the various professional leagues, nor am I referring to big-time college sports. I’m talking about youth and school sports where the benefit of participating on the field or court is one of the most important activities for preparing young people for the business world.

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Ninety-six percent of big-time female executives played sports.

Don’t believe me? Well, consider this. According to Ernst & Young, a multi-national professional services network, 96% of women in C-suite positions played sports. (Note here that C-suite refers to the highest-ranking senior executives in an organization. The C stands for chief.)

I spent 20 years teaching journalism and communication skills in a Title I high school in Phoenix. I was fortunate enough to get to know my students well, as sometimes I had them four consecutive years. I mention this because I was able to see how much my charges grew from freshman year through graduation. The ones who seemed to mature the most were often those who participated in sports. The question is why.

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Young athletes learn the importance of perseverance, mental toughness, and teamwork.

Young people are often insecure. (Think back. Be honest.) They fear failure and ridicule and often keep to the shadows, worried about being laughed at. But an athlete can’t do that. When you step on a playing surface you are required to be resilient. After all, on occasion everyone drops a pass or strikes out or angers the coach. There’s no hiding then. Athletes must hone their mental toughness in the public sphere. They must learn to persevere even when the scoreboard says they’re losing 66-0.

It’s not easy to get up and go out for another pass. But young people who do are mastering some of the most important skills in the workplace. Athletes must deal with defeat and failure and not give up. They must be able to overcome frustration, be confident, and work with others toward a common goal. If you’ve ever spent one day in an office, you can see how important these life skills are.

Last Game Touchdown

I taught high school for 20 years and officiated amateur sports for four decades, so I’ve seen first hand how sports help young people grow.

I officiated amateur sports for 40 years, and I wish parents and fans understood the lessons their children are being offered when they decide to participate in sports. Sadly, some parents are often more interested in convincing their kids that they are sure to become Olympic or professional athletes someday, money and fame being their only enticement. I wish they’d remember that almost all high school athletes will never play again once they graduate and just 2% of NCAA athletes will ever turn pro.

But these statistics should not negate the importance of sports participation. The get back up and try again ethos is engrained in sports and those who can’t handle failure, those who quit and walk away, will perhaps continue that trend throughout their lives. While those who take a breath and give it another go will grow to be confident, secure, and resilient.

I’d hire them. Wouldn’t you?

Wild Horses on the Salt Cover 2

WILD HORSES ON THE SALT

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Table 1

Back when restaurants were still fully operational, many of us felt the joy of getting the perfect table, one with comfy seats and a view and attentive servers delivering delectable meals. But, during our lockdown, outings at restaurants have mostly been curtailed, so we can only wistfully recall those lovely times at the prefect table.

For me and my sweetie pie those thoughts are of Table 1.

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The first Table 1 appeared on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.

The inaugural Table 1 occurred in St. Lucia, when Ryan and I were on a scuba diving adventure on that lovely, mountainous island. As we often do on our dive trips, we’d rented a room with a small kitchen. Ryan is an excellent cook and we enjoy hitting local markets so we can eat what’s fresh and indigenous to the area.

Ryan had prepared a meal of spicy seafood gumbo, green salad, and crusty buttered bread. With the sun sinking on the Caribbean, we wanted to eat outside. Our room was situated near an open-air pavilion that sported stacks of tables and chairs and, on closer look, a bar and  large, well-stocked wine refrigerator. Though a sign pointed out that the restaurant was closed for the summer, we walked through the building and found a beautiful bayside perch, where seawater lapped gently on the rocks.

Ry and I looked at one another, then we pulled a table up to the edge of the deck. We arranged two chairs, and I went to the owner of the small hotel and was rewarded with a linen tablecloth, napkins, and a candle. Ryan gathered our plates and utensils, while I carried the wine.

We ate our dinner washed by gentle sea breezes and watched the lights glimmer on in the houses across the bay.

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Our inaugural Table 1 was situated on the edge of this St. Lucia bay. (At least, I think that’s the one.)

“Best table ever!” Ryan stared out over the water.

“Table 1.” I agreed.

Then, we were distracted from our revelry by the appearance of a middle-aged man. Ry and I flinched, wondering if we’d overstepped some private-property boundary line, but he approached us smiling and introduced himself as the restaurant owner. After a brief moment of awkwardness, I offered him a glass of wine, but he shook his head, saying he had to get back to his other restaurant which remained open in the summer. He didn’t seem the least bit concerned that we had appropriated his establishment and invited us to visit his other restaurant, if we had the time. We assured him that we would and on the next evening we had a lovely meal, this time cooked by him.

The thing about Table 1 is that it has become a permanent part of our travels. Everywhere we go, we seek beautiful vistas at which we can gaze while eating. We even have a small metal folding table – dubbed Table 1 – that we take on our road-trip travels. That little table has been positioned in many lovely places, mainly situated in Arizona which is one of the most glorious and diverse geographic locales on the planet.

Desert Blooming 3

Table 1 has been set all over Arizona’s glorious terrain.

We have faced a desert vibrant with wildflowers, a vast expanse of mighty saguaros, and skies filled with a dozen shades of gray as monstrous storms swirled in the distance. We’ve positioned ourselves in the tall pines in Arizona’s Rim country and on the edge of a flowing river backed by red mountains where wild horses roam free.

Perhaps, the answer to surviving our current state of lockdown is the recollection of the lovely times we’ve had before, memories that can sustain us, until we are once again free.

Maybe now you’ll understand why I reminisce about Table 1 and so look forward to my next opportunity to set that particular table.

 

Wild Horses on the Salt Cover 2

WILD HORSES ON THE SALT

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

 

 

 

 

Crocodiles, thunderstorms, and grenade launchers, oh my!

One of the worst things about being in lockdown this time of year is that during the summer many of us travel. We look forward to leaving our homes to visit friends and family, searching for adventure when vacationing in new locales, and participating in pastimes that are not always available where we live.

My sweetie pie and I generally find an ocean to leap into, since we’re avid scuba divers and can think of nothing better than a good swim with the fishes. But, alas, we’re now stuck at home with no trips on the horizon. And that makes us reminisce about travels we’ve taken in the past. Most of the time these excursions were glorious, but as travelers know sometimes vacation treks can be anything but easy.

Me wreck diving

My sweetie pie and I enjoy scuba diving, but the Covid-19 virus has us marooned in the desert.

I recall the time we boarded a tiny plane in Costa Rica that would take us to Drake Bay, a wee dot on the map with an airport to match. Actually, airport would give it much more credit than it deserved. Upon landing on the jungle airstrip, we were greeted by a single wooden bench.

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We crossed through deep water on a Costa Rican beach not realizing salt water crocs swam in at high tide.

An SUV appeared out of the woods and our gear was tossed on board. We bounced through a thick rainforest on a rutted road and approached a river, which had me scanning the area for a bridge. Turns out we didn’t need one. We sloshed through the water, wound through the jungle, and were deposited on a beach, where high tide surged up into the trees. Our driver pointed to the other side of the clearing, where a rustic building — our hotel — perched on a wooded rise. He showed us how to hoist our bags over our heads and disappeared.

Ryan and I stared at one another, then we lifted our gear and waded through the surf. Later, cold beer in hand, we sat with a few other folks staring at that flooded beach, which we were told would be clear by morning.

“Then, the crocodiles will go back out to sea,” one local explained.

“Crocodiles?” I squinted at the man who shrugged as if saying, “No big deal.”

On the trip back to the Costa Rican capital of San Juan, our small plane bounced in a set of thunderstorms, which precipitated a wide, looping flight pattern around the airport. The pilot announced it was too rough to land. Immediately thoughts of How much fuel do we have? and What happens if we’re struck by lightning? danced in our heads. Then, Ry pointed at the cabin door. Rain was pouring inside the plane. We held hands wondering if this might be the end. Of course, it was not. Our brilliant pilot landed us safely, albeit a bit damp.

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Ry and I enjoyed our trip to China, until we faced a serious problem at the airport.

Our scariest travel moment was on a trip to China. We stood in a group in Wuhan’s massive airport, amid our two-week excursion to the ancient country. A soldier appeared with a rifle slung over his back. He pointed at a suitcase which like all the others had gone through an x-ray machine. Our guide said, “Who owns this bag?” Immediately Ryan stepped forward. When I pointed out that the suitcase was mine, he shook his head, intimating that I should remain silent, which is something I rarely do. Still, I acquiesced and watched as he was led away.

Our group waited; some folks concerned that we might miss our flight. Our guide paced and fidgeted with our passports. We had no idea where Ryan was taken.

After forty-minutes passed, I learned what occurred.

“They took me to a small room. Three soldiers with assault rifles were pointing at the bag and speaking in Chinese, but I didn’t understand what they wanted me to do.” Ryan spread both hands. “One of them grabbed a cellphone and swiped through some photographs. Then he showed me the phone and pointed at the screen. There was a picture of a grenade launcher.”

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Somehow, Chinese soldiers mistook a cardboard tube and a hair dryer for a grenade launcher.

Ryan was told to open the bag and search through the contents while the soldiers watched. What did he find? A cardboard tube holding a watercolor painting of birds that I’d purchased. Turns out, my hairdryer was positioned right next to the cylinder. Humm?

I felt a surge of relief when we finally boarded our flight. There’s no telling where Ry might have ended up.

“I would have stayed, if they didn’t bring you back,” I assured him.

“No, you would get on the plane and go home.”

That didn’t seem quite right, but my sweetie pie was adamant, so for the second time in less than an hour I demurred. And I agreed that next time we’re accused of harboring a grenade launcher in our dirty laundry, I will do as instructed.

Despite our travel travails the road still beckons. We long to go somewhere soon.

Here’s hoping.

Wild Horses on the Salt Cover 2

Wild Horses on the Salt

A woman flees an abusive husband

and finds hope in the wilds of the Arizona desert.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Domestic violence: Leave or become a statistic

Dometic Violence deaths

Domestic violence has increased during our pandemic lockdown.

The headline was stark and disturbing: “Domestic Violence deaths up 140% in 2020 so far.”

The news that the city of Phoenix, where I have resided almost 30 years, has seen 24 deaths due to domestic violence – compared with ten this time last year – is frightening, but sadly not the least bit surprising. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced many people to stay at home. Imagine now that the person you are confined with is one intent on inflicting bodily harm.

Our current state of lockdown remains a struggle where people are exasperated by the sameness of every day. Add to that the anxiety over lost jobs, rent and mortgage payments, school closures, and a future that remains uncertain. Abusers need someone on whom to take out their frustrations, perhaps in an effort to regain control. In the best of times, these people harm those they are purported to love. These are not the best of times.

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With people stuck at home, abuse victims are going unnoticed by mandatory reporters.

Before the pandemic, processes were in place to identify people – primarily women and children – who might be suffering at the hands of a “loved one,” though I use that term loosely. As a teacher of 20 years, one of my responsibilities was to keep watch for children who might be suffering abuse at home. In fact, as an educator, like medical professionals, law enforcement officers, and social workers among others, my failure to report suspected abuse could land me a six-month stay in jail or a fine of $1,000 or both.

With children stuck at home and many people afraid to venture into doctors’ offices, mandated reporters are mostly out of the loop. That is until a 911 call when it’s often too late.

So, what can we do? If you’re being abused, know there is help. My new book, Wild Horses on the Salt, details the recovery of a woman fleeing domestic violence. While researching the protagonist, I learned the proper procedures required to escape. The National Domestic Violence Hotline says you should make a plan before leaving.

  • Keep any evidence of physical abuse, such as pictures of injuries.
  • Keep a journal of all violent incidences, noting dates, events and threats made, if possible. Keep your journal in a safe place.
  • Know where you can go to get help. Tell someone what is happening to you.
  • If you are injured, go to a doctor or an emergency room and report what happened to you. Ask that they document your visit.
  • Plan with your children and identify a safe place for them, like a room with a lock or a friend’s house where they can go for help. Reassure them that their job is to stay safe, not to protect you.
  • Contact your local shelter and find out about laws and other resources available to you before you have to use them during a crisis. WomensLaw.org has state by state legal information.
  • Acquire job skills or take courses at a community college.
  • Try to set money aside or ask friends or family members to hold money for you.
  • Before you leave, also make sure to have important legal papers, like medical records, driver’s license and car registration, insurance cards, emergency phone numbers, and financial information.

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Make a plan and leave your abuser while you still can.

In addition, it’s important to understand that just leaving an abuser doesn’t end the problem. Abuse leaves damage inside and out. Depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, guilt, and shame are just some of the conditions survivors face, so seeking mental-health therapy is often a necessary part of healing.

The bottom line is no one has to stay with abuser. If you don’t take a stand now, later you might not be able to walk away. And remember, if your children are watching the abuse, chances are they’ll grow up and repeat the cycle. So, do it for them. Make a plan and then make a call.

Your life may depend on it.

National Domestic Violence Hotline

1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

 

Wild Horses on the Salt Cover 2

Wild Horses on the Salt

A woman flees an abusive husband

and finds hope in the wilds of the Arizona desert.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

 

Today’s lesson is about sharing

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Today’s lesson is about the things we share on the Internet.

Though I have retired from the classroom, I’m going to put on my teacher’s cap so we can have a quick chat about the things we share on social media.

Dodododododeedo………There, it’s on.  Today’s lesson entails what we should do before we hit the share button. It’s not complicated stuff. In fact, it’s rather simple.

First, if you get what you think is a clever piece of writing from a friend and you have the sudden urge to spread it hither and yon on the Internet, pause for a moment. Then look to see who wrote the story. If there’s no writer/reporter identified, that’s a huge red flag. As a writer myself, I can tell you that I want my name on all my work. IN BIG FAT LETTERS! Writers live for that byline. So, if your post identifies no one who wants to claim it as their own, it’s fake.

Then, check the news source from which it came. No source. Hit delete and give it no further thought. If there’s a media outlet listed, google it. Check the About Us or FAQs links to see where they lie on the bias chart. Then use a fact-check site like https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/search/. This will tell you how reliable the source is and might explain why the outlet is sharing the story as written. No media source should be biased, though some clearly are. It’s your job, dear reader, to sort out whether an outlet is trying to make you believe something is true because it serves their agenda.

Next, locate the date the story occurred. Don’t be the one who shares a story from a decade ago as if it’s current news, unless there’s a good reason to do so. Ask yourself, “What is my motive for sharing this information today?”

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Are those interviewed in your story real experts?

A very sneaky way media outlets try to fool you is by utilizing questionable sources, meaning those “experts” they use to convince you they’re telling the truth. I read a story recently that quoted a doctor who seriously downplayed the corona virus. When I looked up the physician in question, I discovered he was an eye doctor. Now, I’m not saying an opthalmologist might not be competent in this regard — Yes, I know late Chinese eye doctor Ai Fen was one of the first to raise the alarm about the severity of Covid-19 which subsequerntly killed him — still, if I were writing the story, I’d seek out a virologist or an Emergency Room medical worker to interview.

Another thing to look at on your post is graphics. Does the presentation look professional or does it resemble your eight-year-old’s homework? Note the spelling and grammar and punctuation, as well. Poorly composed stories are most likely fake.

So, there you have it. Not too complicated. Now we need everyone to get on board.  If we don’t take the time to check what we share, someday, perhaps soon, we’ll lose the ability to discern what’s real and what’s not. How scary is that?

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Do your homework before hitting the share button.

And, one more thing, though this one’s tough. Please vary the media sources you consume. Don’t just stick with outlets with whom you agree. As a news consumer, it’s your job to ferret out the truth. The only way to do that is to open your mind and pay attention to all the competing voices.

Then, and only then, should you hit that share button.

 

 

Wild Horses on the Salt Cover 2

Wild Horses on the Salt

A woman flees an abusive husband

and finds hope in the wilds of the Arizona desert.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?