Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Have you hugged your rural mail carrier today?

Hugs are not necessary, but a little kindness can go a long way. In my other life, I'm a rural mail carrier. Seems like a great job, right? And for the most part it is. But, especially during the holidays and winter weather can make it stressful, not to mention dangerous. Instead of a hug, here are a few things you can do to make sure you get your mail and keep your carrier happy!

I love dogs, but can you guarantee 100% that your dog won't bite me? On average ten mail carriers per day are bitten. As an HCR Carrier, I don't get benefits, such as sick days, medical insurance or paid time off. I still had to meet the same standards as a federal employee, but without the perks.

I don't get paid by your tax dollars. Honestly. The post office is entirely self funded by stamp sales. 

As a rural carrier, I use my own vehicle and although I am reimbursed at the end of the month for gas, all repairs, oil, wipers, tires are all on my dime. My vehicle is my lively hood and without it, I don't work. When I leave a notice to please repair the approach to your box, it is so I can safely deliver the mail and keep working without destroying my vehicle. .

If you are expecting a package, have someone available to receive it or have it left at the post office to be picked up later. Packages in rural areas are a crime of opportunity.

If you are leaving for a few days, please notify your carrier or the post office. If your mail is piling up, I have no way of knowing if you are gone or need assistance. I worry about my customers and if I know you have gone on vacation, I'm not contacting the local police to check on you because you mail has piled up for a week.

In winter, please shovel out your boxes. If your box isn't shoveled properly I am not required to deliver, but I still try to if I can reach without exiting my vehicle. It makes my job harder to not deliver your mail, because then I need to bring it back to the post office and resort it.  If your box is located on a steep incline, a little sand would be a blessing. Please remember I must fully stop at each box and if it's ice, not only is it dangerous, it can cause my vehicle to slide and damage not only your mailbox but my vehicle as well. (I'd be financially responsible for both)

In the summer, please check your boxes for bees nests. A simple fix for bugs that love to hide in mailboxes is placing a bar of Irish Spring soap or cinnamon sticks in your mailbox. You can also seal up any holes/gaps in your box and if you rub a bar of soap on the top of the box it will prevent stinging insects from building a nest there. Neither you or I want to deal with biting or stinging bugs flying out of the box at us. 

Please do not allow your children to come up to my vehicle. I am concentrating on driving, watching for other vehicles, separating and sorting mail. It takes a split second for an accident to happen, so please have your children safely wave from a distance and wait to approach the mailbox after I have left.

If I seem in a hurry, it is because I am. I am required to deliver the mail in a designated time frame and I only get paid a set number of hours. When you see me working late, especially around the holidays, I'm not getting paid overtime, I am working for free, to make sure you get your cards and packages on time. I love my customers and want you to enjoy your holidays stress free.

I love my job and the little town I work for. I like getting to know each one of you. If you need your mail held or need a stamp, let me know, I am after all at your mailbox six days a week. These tips will help to make my job easier, but most importantly is your communicating with me.
I am, after all, here to serve.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Tragic accident claims life of 8 year old boy

Gardner, Mass is a small centrally located town just a short drive from my hometown and tonight, the entire community and the surrounding towns are in shock over the tragic death of 8 year old Colby O'Brien at the Elm St. Elementary School.  Apparently, the child was killed when a large tv and cart fell on him. The story was reported here:


I personally do not know this family, but they have been in my thoughts and prayers all day. The pain and heartbreak of losing a child is something I can't even begin to comprehend. I first learned of this when my daughter came to me upset after seeing a post on Facebook. It tore at my heart, an accident so unexpected and horrifying. My children are all older now, and I still worry about losing them, I don't think that changes no matter what age they are.

No parent should ever have to bury a child. 

My deepest sympathies go out to this family, the faculty at the school and  to the students and friends of this young man. I hope they can find healing and comfort in their community and each other. And just a reminder to everyone out there, you can never say "I love you" too often and there is no such thing as too many hugs. Life is short and can by chance be cut cruelly and unexpectedly short. Enjoy every moment and tell the people you love, how you feel every single day. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

What have we become?

 “If someone isn't what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.”
 ― Paulo Coelho

In my life, technology has rapidly advanced. It befuddles my children to think that I was alive before the Internet existed. While our lives today revolve around the web, I remember a simpler time, before the Internet, before hash tags and social media. I remember actually getting together with friends and visiting rather than hasty snap chats and a time when you kept your opinion  to yourself, unless it was something that truly needed to be said. While the web has improved our lives in many ways, sometimes I feel as though, we as a society have become jaded, cynical and just not very nice anymore. The ever ending stream of information seems to have changed who we are and perhaps not for the better.
I'm cable free. I wasn't always, but after 9/11, I just couldn't take television anymore. It was a traumatic day for our entire country, but over and over and over, the images were played and the news would play a horrifying musical piece to announce more bad news or to rehash the same story. I quit. I was never much of a TV person to begin with, although I enjoy some shows, I couldn't stand the constant advertising and consumerism being shoved down my throat every five minutes. I still, however kept my Internet. I prefer the Internet. I can pick and choose for the most part what I want to read or see, no commercials (if you ignore the ads) and no breaking news stories flashing across my screen interrupting my world. And for the record, YouTube, YES, I will always choose to "Skip this ad" .
That doesn't mean I don't come across things now and then that disturb me, outrage me or make me cry. I still read the news, but skip over the things that are not relevant to my life and skip the arguments and ignorant comments in the remarks section. I don't use Facebook personally. I do maintain a business page, only because everyone has Facebook, but I can't see their feeds or posts and I like it that way. It bothers me that our country is in such upheaval and we, the people can't seem to agree on anything. Gun control, welfare, abortion. Democrat vs. Republican. And it's all nonsense. We are human, we will disagree, but too many people are wrongly influenced by what they see or hear without even knowing what they are talking about and everyone has an opinion they want heard. It seems on the Internet, even the most outlandish opinions are thrown out there without hesitation and what really scares me is others see it and then believe it as well. We have become a nation of hateful and judgemental people. I sheepishly admit, I too, judge far too often. I don't consider myself a brilliant scholar but I do know right from wrong and I was raised with conservative values. I don't want to judge people, but I see moral decay everywhere I turn. Trust me, I'm no angel. I've done my share of sinning and I don't hold a penny between my knees while I sit in a Baptist church every Sunday morning. I was raised however, to not take anything you didn't earn, to respect my elders and to always do the right thing. I personally think what someone does to their body, in their home, their relationship, etc. should not be regulated and under the scrutiny of the government.

If it doesn't affect me, my family or my community personally,  it is none of my damn business. 

 “We judge others instantly by their clothes, their cars, their appearance, their race, their education, their social status. The list is endless. What gets me is that most people decide who another person is before they have even spoken to them. What's even worse is that these same people decide who someone else is, and don't even know who they are themselves.” ― Ashly Lorenzana

Don't like gay marriage?
Don't marry the same sex.
Don't like guns?
Then don't own one.
Don't like tattoos?
Don't get one.
Think your religion is best?
Pray to your God silently. 
Want to see change in the world?
Yes. I know the media has caused massive PTSD in our society with theatrical media stories, pointing finger and screaming conspiracy. We need to believe the facts not the dramatizations. Educate yourself. We live in a world of constant information and anyone with a bit of intelligence should be able to investigate and draw a logical conclusion from all the information available. Change begins with a small step in the right direction. We can't change every wrong in the world, we don't live in Utopia.
Shit happens.
People get killed, houses burn, cars get in accidents, but to expect the government to run around and put a band aid on the whole world with ineffective laws is not only futile, but a waste of time and tax payer money. Bad things will still happen and it doesn't matter if our government is primarily Democrat or Republican, things are still going to happen. We scream people are not compassionate but yet hysteria breaks out over cuts to social welfare programs. I remember a time when a disability was the inability to live and function independently. We now hand government checks to anyone who complains enough. Welfare abuse is down due to welfare reform but now we have horrific abuse in a social security disability programs. We continue to elect corrupt politicians and don't complain or remove them from office for frivolous spending. We continue to buy from corporations who have cut jobs and manipulated the system for financial gain.  We continue to lead a life of debt by falling into the trap of consumerism, believing what we own gives us some kind of status quo. We continue to bank and give our money to banks who have thrown our neighbors into the streets and let homes rot away to be condemned. Housing bubble or Big Business land grab? We have created half the messes we have in this country  ourselves and expect an inept government to fix it? Have we gone completely mad?  We throw names and petition for more laws to protect us from everything, but how is that working? We fight each other over everything and judge one another on our age, gender, sexual orientation, familial status, nationality, abilities, finances.. the list goes on and on.. We are so pitted against one another and the only way to fix it, is to come to a mutual agreement on the basic principles of what is right and wrong and work from there. Why is that so difficult? Opinions are great, but since when did the world have to live by the opinions of another? We can't even begin to agree to disagree and that worries me for any hope for the future.

 “How would your life be different if you stopped making negative judgmental assumptions about people you encounter? Let today be the day you look for the good in everyone you meet and respect their journey.” ― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Time to kick failure in the balls

I seem to be an expert in "what doesn't work". Anyone else feeling that? I could come up with a million excuses of why life just seems to hand me lemons all the time, who wants to read that? Lordy knows there are plenty of manically depressed teens writing about it every day. But, I'm an adult or supposed to be one at least. My son likes to joke with me that I've been passed down some kind of Irish curse, which my response is always is "Curses are meant to be broken".
I've been many things in life, worn many hats but few are what I would equate to success. As a mother to three kids who I raised entirely by myself, yes, I can say I was successful. Perfect, no, not by any means and made plenty of mistakes, but they survived, as did I and now as adults, our relationship has changed, but stronger than ever.College was a bust. I pursued a degree in law enforcement for all the wrong reasons. I wanted to help people back when I was still green behind the ears and helping people is for social workers, which after some experience in the field, I decided that was definitely NOT what I wanted to do.
In business, if success is to be measured by popularity, I could say, yes, I've been fairly successful. If it is to be measured monetarily, then.. I still haven't found what works. Through my life I have worked as a factory worker, advertising executive, clam digger, administrative assistant, nurses aide, concierge, housekeeper.. the list goes on. At one point I even filleted farm raised salmon for a living. I've never been too proud to take any job, which I suppose sets me apart from others and perhaps in hindsight, it was a mistake. I never went back to school after a lay off because my biggest concern was finding the next available job that would pay the bills. I have never thought any job was beneath me or didn't pay enough to make it "worth my while". Granted, many days I had to drag myself out of bed and hide my tears as I faced another day of back breaking labor or dealing with people who were rude, unkind and just plain mean to people they considered "the help". But going to work everyday and knowing I made an honest effort to make a living seemed like the right thing to do, what I was taught to do by my father growing up. I was never handed anything and never expected to be. All too often I found decent paying jobs out of reach and interviewing is not my strong point. I don't mind working hard, never have, but with the economy the way it is, nepotism is rampant in the work place, making it even harder to find opportunity or the chance to advance once you accept a position.
 I've never been much for schmoozing and although I give 110% at every job, I don't socialize around the water cooler, play golf or go for drinks after work. Perhaps that is my biggest downfall. Outstanding career opportunities are limited for introverts like me. I'm smart enough to know I'll never get rich working for someone else anyhow, I'm just making them rich. So what am I doing?? I'm over 40 and working in a ridiculous job, that by all means appears to be " a good job" but really, I spend more of my paycheck repairing my car that is required for the job and I don't get reimbursed for that. It does have it's perks, I work mostly alone and without someone breathing down my neck which I like, but for what? To continue to struggle financially? To be unable to tuck away any kind of savings or retirement money? I already assumed, like my father, I would probably work to the day I died, but I had hoped to do it out of choice, not necessity.  It is time to make some changes.

“No one is going to hand me success. I must go out & get it myself. That’s why I’m here. To dominate. To conquer. Both the world, and myself.” 

I'm writing and writing and writing. It is the one thing other than photography I am truly passionate about. Both are challenging. Both are hard work. But, I truly believe that I can be a success with my writing, I need to stop complaining, stop trying to sell and market my books and just write. Fortunately, technology has not yet come up with affordable equipment that can turn anyone with a couple hundred dollars to spare into a "writer". Of course, I'm going to pitch my books here, but more so, I'm making a commitment to myself to start writing every single day. I was a little lost with blogging. I admit it. I felt like I had to write about one subject or genre, but where did I get the idea there was rules for writing? There are no rules. If you, the readers like what you read, you'll come back. You'll want more. Maybe this blog won't interest you, maybe the next 30 blogs I write won't, but one day, you'll see something and go.. hmmm.. this looks interesting and perhaps you will tell a friend or share it online and it is then and only then that I may find my success as a writer. 
Perhaps I can start you off with a little selection of what I already have available on Kindle through Amazon,
you can order any of these titles directly from me on Amazon by clicking -->>HERE!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Dear Stress, I think it's time we broke up.

There are Five Rules for Life my Dad taught me. 
  • Money can't buy you happiness, but it's more comfortable to cry in a Mercedes than on the sidewalk. 
  • Forgive your enemy, but always remember the bastards name. 
  •  Help someone when they are in trouble, and they will remember you next time they are in trouble. 
  • Some people are alive only because it's illegal to shoot them. 
  • Alcohol does not solve problems, but neither does milk. 

Thank goodness I have a sense of humor, 
because this week was one I was truly thankful I had one.

Closing the store has been bittersweet. Amazingly we have had tons of business, but because everything is so discounted, it's only breaking even, but on the positive side, I'm not losing money, at least at the store. 
Last week, while not only dealing closing my business, I was also stuck with tying up the ends of my dealings with an unsavory business associate (who I can positively say, thought she was starring in her own real life, adult version of Mean Girls), AND THEN, my 15 year old car just died. No choking and sputtering, no bright orange flickering check engine light, it just DIED.. and coasted to a stop, conveniently in the middle of a snowstorm, in a place with no houses within walking distance or cell phone service for miles. I sat for over two hours until finally someone stopped.. and was able to request help from my blue, teeth chattering frozen lips. After getting warm, I was able to call my roadside assistance and get a tow to a mechanic station, but it was going to be hours as all service stations where backed up with the icy roads and multiple accidents. Thankfully, relying on the kindness of strangers worked that day and I was able to get a lift 35 miles to wait in the warmth and comfort of my home while I tried to make arrangements for another vehicle as, my life story is, no vehicle, no job, no pay-check, we don't eat. 
After eight days, the part my mechanic was 80% sure.. there was some hesitation and questioning about it, arrived and some $400 later, I have my money grubbing fifteen year old car back. Evidently, it just wasn't enough for her that I just put $300 of repairs in her last week and another $600 the month before. 
Of course, in my eight days of being without my car, my customers who are accustomed to seeing my white sedan every day, were curious as to why I was driving a multi-colored, late model jukebox on wheels. It seemed every day, someone would helpfully suggest that I just buy a new car. I smiled, thanked them for such a good idea and putted along on my way. It didn't seem to occur to them that if I could AFFORD a new car, I would be driving one. Between rent, student loans, insurance, food. there just isn't money for a car payment. I don't understand how people do it. I don't do anything but work, only window shop, admiring but not buying, I never eat out or buy those $5 coffees at all the trendy places. I bring lunch from home in my little vintage metal lunchbox and coffee comes from a Thermos that I fill every morning half awake while I wait for the car to get warm enough I don't literally freeze my butt to the seat. 
When I picked up my car from the mechanic, he too, suggested I get another car. Last I knew, dealerships don't accept a pretty smile and a hair toss as payment, especially when it comes from a woman who is obviously not twenty anymore.. or for that matter even thirty anymore. I've started car searching, for something used, yet reliable but not a fortune. Guess what? They are hard to find.   
I'm trying to breathe... deep breaths.. I am trying to not be cynical when I see a relative who has never worked, lives off SSI and food stamps, driving up the road in her brand new 2013 Dodge something or other. I'm trying not to be frustrated or feel sorry for myself. I'm trying not to shove my books down the throats of everyone who follows my blog, my twitter or my website, but in all reality, it is my talents that I feel will bring me greater success than working hard for someone else making them money. I had even debated about starting a fundraiser~ I mean, I see people start crowd funding goals for fake boobs. I'm not asking for some Double D's~ I just want a vehicle that runs and drives and allows me to go to work everyday.  So, if you are reading this~ order a book, download it to kindle or share it with someone who might be interested in one of my titles. It would help me and the only thing I can really promise is you would never have to read another blog post from me complaining about the money-hungry white monster sitting in my driveway awaiting to devour my next paycheck! 

I know it will all work out in the end and this is only temporary, but if your willing to listen to me vent, it helps~ And thank you!!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Fall down seven times; stand up eight.

 How many times have we told ourselves," if we only knew then what we know now"?  The same thought applies not only in our personal life, but in all aspects of life. In my recent decision to close the brick and mortar location of My Favorite Things, I've realized, this isn't the end, but opportunity for a new beginning. I made mistakes. Some, I probably could have avoided but some where beyond my control. When I first opened the business, I had anticipated purchasing the inventory of an already established business. I was under the understanding the business had done fairly well and didn't have money to hire an attorney so, we had just made an agreement. Had I known what I was in for, I would have never agreed to any of it. If you are considering purchasing a business, by all means, get yourself a lawyer, it will save a lot of headaches down the line. I was not prepared to deal with an underhanded person trying to take advantage of my naivety. I began the business with a complete name change and renovating the layout of the business to create a more enjoyable shopping experience. Our first mistake was overlooking the classic bait and switch. All high end inventory was gone and we were left with piles of unsellable goods, but false promises we would get the rest of it shortly.  I should have stopped and backed out then, but we persisted. We cleaned and cleaned, ran around like crazy adding new inventory and making homemade items to fill the store and when we were done, it smelled good, looked good, was nicely stocked with a good variety. It seemed like we were heading in the right decision. Then, the ball dropped. An onset of angry customers who felt cheated from the previous owner. It wasn't one or two customers but a steady parade of people demanding money or merchandise that the previous owner had failed to settle with them. I tried unsuccessfully to explain this was a new business, and although I purchased inventory from the former business I wasn't associated with them and they would need to take their concerns to the former business owner. Ten days into it I decided to just close temporarily, cancel my purchase agreement & contacted the owner of the inventory to come remove all the inventory and start from scratch. That has been a whole other can of worms that I am still dealing with and trying to sort out. After speaking with an attorney, the contract was never legal in the first place and I'm still tied up in small claims court dealing with the former owners nonsense and desperation for money. I knew after speaking with former customers I was going to be in for hell in trying to reasonably negotiate with the person I was dealing with. So, I learned a tough lesson the hard way.

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” - Denis Waitley

I'm not giving up entirely. At the moment, I am just closing the brick and mortar location. Had I known the situation, I would have never agreed to purchase anything from the other business. I actually, would not have chosen to open a business in that location, because even when we removed all the former inventory, had new signs installed and sent out press releases, people just assumed it was the same business and just had the name changed and new employees. Six months later and people still didn't get it. In a small town, the location was doomed from the beginning.  No matter how many times we explained to people, including putting a sign on the front door that we were not associated, people thought what they wanted. It was a harsh reality that our lack of traffic came from customers who had already been burned and vowed never to step foot inside our locale. At this time, we are just clearing out, officially closing on February 1st.

 We will continue to sell online. 

At some point in the future, perhaps we will attempt to re-brand and re-open in a new location, but for now, the stress and embarrassment of not fully investigating what kind of person I was trying to do business with is enough to deal with.  I won't give up, because I truly believe I can be successful and I have faith that everything in life is a blessing or a lesson, this time it just happened to be a little of both. 

 Learn from me, if you ever decide to purchase an already existing business, ask around, don't just speak with the owner or their favorite customers. Speak with everyone in your community, speak with the police and see if complaints had been filed. Fully document everything, in writing and never sign a contract without a lawyer reviewing and and being present. Never assume anything and always put everything in writing. Don't think purchasing an already existing business is going to be easier than starting from scratch. Either way is hard. Owning a business is never easy, but from scratch you don't inherit enemies of the former business and you don't have to clean up messes you didn't make. 

Lessons Learned.  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

End of small business for brick and mortar establishments

The last few weeks I've been trying to brainstorm any ideas that may save my small business. Unfortunately, in a small and impoverished town, I feel I am at the point where, it only makes sense to close. It is a heartbreaking decision, as my daughter and I have poured our blood, sweat and tears into building a wonderful little shop. We have a great group of loyal customers, but not enough to continue operating a business we are losing money each month. We will continue to sell online, but to continue paying overhead out of pocket, after not even drawing a paycheck, isn't what we set out to do.
While I have no regrets in the experience, it is time to say goodbye to that dream. Perhaps down the line if the economy improves we may try again, but at this time we are moving strictly online. Perhaps brick and mortar businesses are now a thing of the past, like an old memory. It seems more and more, the businesses I see succeeding are those online. Maybe it is time to join the 21st century and strictly sell through the Internet.
My biggest struggle was traffic. We selected an excellent location on a main road between two towns, with a hair salon and nail salon next door. Minutes from a small shopping mall and down the street from my arch enemy, Walmart. Clearly visible from the road, with plenty of parking, well lit, open flag flying and yet, some days we would be lucky to have three customers. Granted, customers who came bought, but the volume we needed to survive just wasn't there.  Many items we carried were upcycles, taking a green initiative, but alas, Walmart offers identical items, of course not upcycled and made in China, for the same or lower prices and frankly, people don't care. It does not matter if it was made in China. The mentality was, "Well, I can get it brand new (rather than upcycled) at Walmart for the same price." We strive to keep prices low, but Walmart, buying in massive bulk can sell items cheaper than I could even purchase them. It is the way of big business and how they drive the small, locally owned shops out of business all together.

I can accept that. Angrily, but I can accept it. Personally,  I make an effort to try and shop locally and shop green. I visit local restaurants and bakeries, instead the chain stores and I look for kitchsy little art places that have unique gifts or something so unusual I fall in love with it and have to bring it home with me.  I will begrudgingly admit, that I too, often shop online. Mostly, I started because I could purchase specific items that I could not find locally, and then I found even with shipping, the cost was significantly lower than I could purchase elsewhere. So, I understand the allure of online shopping. The added bonus is not dealing with ignorant and rude people, being subjected to the smells, behaviors or annoyance of the masses. I get it. There is no haggling online, which was one of the hardest things about running a small business. Even though a sign was clearly listed, stating, "This is not a yard sale, all prices are firm",  I don't believe I had one day of business where someone didn't try to undercut me by at least 50%. It is with sadness that I close the doors, but we will continue selling on our facebook page at My Favorite Things.   

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!
 I am also preparing for a new adventure and joining what I believe is the future, selling through Amazon.com I am a fan of Amazon, where I can easily find what I am looking for,  read reviews from other customers and usually find the best price out there. I already publish through Amazon, after a very poor experience with Publish America (that's a whole other story, one I will share in the future) and have always been quite satisfied with my experiences there. In addition, it helps to support the US Post Office, which of course is my day job, so I justify it that way. ;)  So, please, shop through my online store at Amazon, which I am learning how to sell my own products, as well as offering some of the best deals I find on there. You can find us at:

It's been a fun ride and a learning experience and I am glad I was fortunate enough to experience owning a brick and mortar business, before they truly become a thing of the past.