Janet's Jargon

Fun lifestyles, charitable acts, great fiction, author support, Patrick and Grace Mysteries, Keith clan trilogy,

Thursday, February 26, 2009

M-m good--That's what Campbell's Soup is

On a cold, blustery winter day, there is nothing that conjures up a feeling of warmth and security like a hot bowl of soup--Campbell's Soup, of course. It is just one of those "comfort foods" that make you feel warm from the inside out.

Since they were predicting a major storm for northern Wisconsin (and they were right), it seemed quite fitting that a newsletter I get on marketing started today's message with the following:
The question for me is how do we convert business into a
form of fun and sharing and stretching and fulfillment that
is as touchable as graduating summa cum laude? That's when
you get the buy in. That's when people say 'I'm going to do
incredible things.'

-- David Johnson, former CEO of Campbell Soup

"Show, don't tell." How many times have you heard that? OK, let me show you how to have a bit of fun.

Last evening I was just sitting down to eat my supper when the phone rang. It was a representative from my health insurance company. He said they needed some information for their files on my current health condition, and did I have a few minutes to answer his questions. I said I did, figuring I could chew in between the questions. He gave me enough information that I knew he was legitimate, not just a telemarketer.

As he began to ask me a few questions, he yawned several times. I commented on the fact that he sounded tired.
"You are my last call of the day," he admitted, "and it's been a very long day."
I told him I would try to be easy on him, and when he came to the question, "Do you have any hearing problems?" I laughed a bit and replied, "Huh? What did you say? Could you repeat that please? I didn't quite hear you."
He began to repeat the question, a little bit louder, and I laughed. Suddenly he caught on and he laughed too and he said, "You're pulling my leg, aren't you?" I told him that was sort of hard to do through the phone.

The whole feeling of the phone call changed at that moment. He began to ask me more questions, and I decided to have a little more fun with him, so when he asked me, "Do you have any indication of Alzheimer's or loss of memory?" I answered, "I don't think so, but I can't remember for sure." Again, he laughed.

"Are you always like this?" he asked.
"Like what?" I asked, sounding oh-so-innocent. Again, he laughed. I noticed that he wasn't yawning any more.

When we finished the question and answer session, he said, "Thank you. You really made this fun. I wish I could take your entertainment home with me."

"Oh, but you can!" I said quickly.


So, I asked him if he was sitting by his computer. He said that he was, and I asked him if he could get onto Amazon.com. He said he could, but why should he do that? I asked him if he trusted me to show him how to continue letting me entertain him. He said, "After this long, I guess I can trust you." He chuckled and said, "Besides, I see here that you are old enough to be my mother."

He pulled up Amazon and asked, "Now what?" I told him to do a search for Janet Elaine Smith. It pulled up all of my books (including a few that are from rotten old publishers that are out-of-print but that will probably still be on Amazon years after I'm dead and gone).

"Wow!" he exclaimed. "Did you really write all of these?"
I told him that I had, and he asked me which ones were the most fun. I told him my Patrick and Grace Mysteries have a wackly old couple of sleuths from New York City and the first one in the series is a great read for right now, with St. Patrick's Day just around the corner. He was silent for a few seconds, then he asked, "What's this Pampers one."
I laughed. "It's not a baby book," I explained. "Pampas is a region of Argentina and the book has a lot of intrigue and mystery and adventure, with a sort of out-of-place cowboy who is sort of like the sauce in the Pace Picante Sauce commercial." He asked me what I meant, and I said, "Well, he looked like any other Argentine cowboy--called a gaucho--but he was really from New Yawk City."
Again, he was laughing.
"OK," he said, "I had better get going or I'll be late and miss my dinner when I get home. My wife doesn't like to keep it waiting in the oven too long. I ordered all four of them. And thank you for making me laugh. What a great way to end a very long day."
I said, "You're welcome, and if you want to contact me in the future, my e-mail address is at the end of the books."
"I think I'll give the mysteries to my wife as a surprise for St. Patrick's Day." Again, he laughed. "She'll wonder what the deal is. I never gave her a St. Patrick's Day present before."
"Just tell her you are starting a new tradition," I suggested.
"Great idea. Again, thanks for the fun."

I think that's what the Campbell's Soup CEO was talking about.
Now, get out there and sell your books--and have fun while you work at it.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Happy Birthday, George Beverly Shea!

He is probably one of the best known gospel singers around. He has sung with Billy Graham at his crusades all around the world for many years. He wrote the music to the song I'd Rather Have Jesus. He made the hymn How Great Thou Art a household sound in many homes. And he recently celebrated his 100th birthday.

Today several people from our little church, Interfaith Bible Fellowship, in Amberg Wisconsin went to a nursing home in Crivitz, about a 20 mile drive. The activity director of the facility did a fantastic job of having everybody in the activity room waiting for us. I had been invited along to play the piano. Since I don't have my own piano anymore (read the blog on it a bit farther down), I enjoy it when I do get a chance to play. Dave Pompo, the minister, had asked me to pick out some oldtime familiar hymns the residents were apt to know. They enjoyed it so much we sang far more than we would have in our own regular church service. Old favorites like In the Garden, When the Roll is Called Up Yonder, Amazing Grace, The Old Rugged Cross, Jesus Loves Me, and as we finished singing How Great Thou Art we shared the fact with these elderly members of the community that it had recently been George Beverly Shea's 100th birthday, so we wished him a happy birthday. They all knew who he was, although one of them said, "I thought he was dead." It was a wonderful time of sharing, but that was just the end of an already good day.

When the minister and his wife began to make plans for the service, they called and asked if they could eat lunch at my house. It made perfect sense, because they live quite a ways in the opposite direction and there was not time for them to go home and then come back again. They made it a very gracious invitation by saying that the pastor would make his famous spaghetti and bring it, and his wife would make the salad. I said I would provide Texas garlic toast, jello and the beverage.

A little while later they called back and said that they were going to pick up a woman, Maureen, who has recently had her leg amputated. I have gotten to know her fairly well, as Ivan (my late husband) had his leg amputated in 1995, so while I haven't lived through that experience, I have lived with it. They wanted to know if it would be ok if she came to dinner too. I said "The more the merrier."

Again, about an hour later, the phone rang and they said that Pixie, a woman who had attended the church but who had moved away last fall, was going to try to make it to church and she wanted to go to the nursing home too, so would it be ok if she came to dinner too? Oh, and they didn't know for sure but she might be bringing the children she was taking care of with her. (They didn't end up coming, but Pixie did.)I figured that since they were furnishing most of the food, I had no problem with it.

So, everything was set. I would have somewhere between five to who-knew-how-many people for dinner, but I didn't have to cook it, so it was fine. I had plenty of dishes!

Pixie came to church, as did Maureen, and I rode home with our neighbors from across the road from me so I could go ahead and get the table set, the coffee made, the bread stuck in the oven, etc. As we pulled into the driveway, Margaret (my neighbor) said, "Whose car is that? It looks like Cathy's." Yup, it was my friend Cathy, who goes to a different church but who is often bored on Sundays. She had no idea of what was going on, so I waved to her to come into the house. She said she just brought me some magazines she had finished reading and they were in the doorway. I told her she might as well come in. When she got inside, I told her what was going on, so I invited her to join us. She did, and I wondered if anybody else would come. There was plenty of food if they did, but they didn't.

At any rate, we had a delightful dinner, and they even helped wash the dishes after we ate, so I came home to a nice neat house. Oh, and Maureen brought peanut butter cookies she and her grandchildren had made. It was the perfect finish to the meal.

Anyway, it was a wonderful day. Oh, and it was so cute at the nursing home. There were two women there named Irene, so Toni, the minister's wife, asked me if I could play Good Night Irene. I did, and we sang it. One of the Irene's apparently enjoyed it, but the other one was heard to remark, "I hate that song." When Toni asked her why, she said, "Because it has my name in it!" Well, you know what they say. You can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time.

The picture above is (Seated, left to right: Cathy, Janet, Pixie; Standing in the back row: Dave and Toni Pompo).

I hope your Sunday was as much fun as mine was. Now, go out there and make it a great week!

Friday, February 13, 2009

A true romance

Happy Valentine's Day!
Anybody who has ever been in love has a sweet story of their own to tell. The one I am about to tell you did not happen on Valentine's Day. It was on a hot summer day in Grand Forks, North Dakota. To me, it spells L-O-V-E in a way we seldom see it.

My late husband Ivan and I often went to a certain fast food restaurant in the summer, mainly because they had their air conditioning set lower than almost anybody else in town. We had a cup we had gotten from them a couple of years before this incident happened. We were cheap, but we did at least buy some little thing to eat along with the free refill of coffee we got when we bought our own mug in, which proudly bore their logo. The other reason we went was that it gave us a chance to get away from the hectic activities of running the HELP line at Mission Socorro, the charitable organization we ran. It helped keep burnout at bay.

There was another young couple that came in almost as often as we did. We were not sure if they were a brother and sister, good friends, or a real "couple." I am not sure exactly what the politically correct term is for such people now. Back a few years they were considered "somewhat retarded." I think now we are supposed to say they are "mentally challenged."

Grand Forks had a population of about 50,000 people, but it was still small enough that certain people had their routines so down-pat that everybody knew where certain people would be, and when. These two young people were able to hold down a job. They worked at two separate restaurants as dishwashers. We had heard that they never missed a day of work, were never late, and never complained about anything. We had speculated that they probably lived at a group home somewhere, but that was just a guess. They seldom took the bus unless it was extremely cold or raining really hard. They walked wherever they went.

When the servers at this restaurant would see them coming, they would run out to the counters by the coffee pot and quickly gather up all but about 4 of the little containers of cream and run them back to the kitchen. Why? This couple would go over and get a glass of water and empty as many of the creamers as there were out there into the water, would mix it up, then they would sit there for sometimes over an hour, drinking their "free milk."

This particular evening, when we went in, they were sitting in a corner booth, but oh my! How different they looked! She was dolled up ina formal that looked like it probably came from the "Playhouse" at the local thrift shop where they had old vintage clothes for theater productions, etc. She also sported a big floppy-brimmed hat. He had a suit jacket with mismatched pants--and his tennis shoes. Oh, and he had a very wide, loud necktie. They had broken down and ordered food--and they were drinking a soda.

We watched, wondering what was going on. We asked the servers and they had no idea, but they were chuckling at them. After a little while he reached out and took her hands in his. They were talking too softly for anybody to hear what they were saying.

Finally, my curiosity got the best of me. I went over and said, trying to sound interested but not just nosy, "It looks like it must be a special occasion. We have seen you in here so many times I feel like we almost know you. Can you tell me what you are celebrating?"

They both beamed. They welcomed the intrusion--or interest. Finally, he replied, "It is our anniversary. We were married five years ago today."

I congratulated them, wishing them many more years of happiness together. Then I went back and told Ivan what I had found out. We contemplated what we could do for them, then we came up with a plan. I went over and talked to the servers on duty. We called Hugo's, the Piggly Wiggly store across the street from the restaurant, and asked them if they had a cake they could decorate. They said they could, so we asked them to write "Happy Anniversary" on it. We had no idea what their names were, so we didn't have it personalized. One of the servers volunteered to go pick it up, so we gave him enough money for the cake--and a couple of candles so they could "dine by candlelight."

By the time he had come back with it, I had gone around to the few other people that were in the restaurant and quietly told them what was going on and we set our plan in motion. The servers came out with the cake and the candles. They set the candles on their table and lit them, then set the cake down and handed them a knife to cut it. They had a couple of styrofoam containers for them to put their cake in. Everybody in the restaurant gathered around them and we sang the heartiest "Happy Anniversary" you have ever heard in your life. It didn't matter how off key anybody was. We didn't pretend to be the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Our young couple had never glowed more in their life, other than perhaps the day they were married. The rest of us? There wasn't a dry eye in the place. When we finished singing, the bride spoke up and asked one of the servers if they could get some more of the styrofoam containers so they could share their cake--and their special day--with all of their friends.

It doesn't matter what shape or size or time love comes into our lives. It is the best thing we have this side of heaven! Happy Valentine's Day! Enjoy the one you love.

One tiny P.S. to the story. We noticed that the servers never went and removed the creamers after that when they saw the young couple come in.