Friday, February 28, 2014

Customer-Service Nightmare

All I am trying to do is get a deed for a piece of property I own! It’s a long distance from here so I called to get a copy. Thus began my “customer-service nightmare”!

Now, just in case there are any lovely customer-service agents reading this, let me assure you that I’ve had some wonderful experiences – just not this time.

I started off with the management company who sent me the property tax bills. After going through three menu selections and repeatedly hearing “your call is very important to us,” I finally reached live person. Sorry, he didn’t know a thing about deeds so I should call the broker company – whatever that is – who handled the paperwork. He kindly gave me the phone number and told me to have a nice day.

So…I dialed that number. A couple menus and a disconnect later, someone answered my very important call. No, they didn’t have the deed. They were sure they’d mailed a copy to me. Sorry, they don’t keep copies. Perhaps I should check with the management company…do you see the trend?

By then I was a bit frazzled so I decided to wait until the next day.

With renewed confidence, I gave it another try. I started off with the broker company. It rang and rang. Finally a recording told me it was searching for the party I was calling. Searching? More ringing, listening to some really bad music; I stood my ground. Another recording, only this time I had the privilege of leaving a message and someone would get back to me. I left a message, figuring I’d never hear from them again.

Well, miracle of miracles, my phone rang a couple hours later. A nice young man who sounded about twelve years old assured me that they’d sent me the deed. I explained that I’m a super organized person and, if they’d sent it, I’d have it. He got a bit testy and told me I should check with the management company because they’d received a copy, too. Hmmmm……

Back to the management company. After a song and dance or two, I got through. I asked for the person I’d talked to the day before and, when I was transferred to her, she remembered our conversation and politely reiterated that they didn’t have a copy of the deed. I remarked how that was strange because the broker company had a record of sending them one. A sputter or two later, she agreed to check again and – voila – there it was! Yes, she would happily put a copy in the mail; it would be no trouble at all. I sweetly thanked her and rejoiced when I received it two days later.

Can you relate? Put on hold, passed around between menus, and dealing with people who act like you’re irritating them by calling.

All of this made me think. My husband never treats me like a nuisance when I call – well, not very often. I have close friends who never put me on hold. Messages I leave are always returned.

And what about prayer? We don’t have to wait on hold, suffering through choir music or listen to a voice inform us that all the prayer-answering agents are busy but that our needs are very important to them.

Family, friends, the Lord. Nice to know someone loves to hear from us!

Sherry Carter is a retired engineer, slowly being reformed into a Bible-study author. She draws on over 30 years experience as a Bible teacher to give depth to her writing. Her first Bible study, Storms of Life, won the 2007 Award of Excellence at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer's Conference. It's available at,, or at local bookstores.

She's the grandmother of two perfect children and a sports fanatic (especially the Oklahoma Sooners). She and her husband of 42 years live in west Texas and are servants to their retired-racing greyhound.

Above all, she wants to grow closer to God and to learn from other believers as they travel down this path of faith. Journey along with her by following her blog, Sherry's Light Blog, her Facebook page, and her quarterly newsletter.

Friday, February 21, 2014


I never thought I’d want an e-reader.

I was one of those kids who always had her nose in a book.  One of the things I liked about those books was the variety in design—the heft of the Oz books, the slim elegance of Alice in Wonderland. I savored classic drawings by Tenniel and Shepard, end papers with exotic maps, and the occasional volume with deckle-edged pages.  All my life, I have loved the feel—and smell—of a book in my hands.

So why would I trade that for a tiny screen?

Economic necessity, for starters.  As an independent author, I network with other authors.  Many, like me, are not well known.  My local library doesn’t stock their books.  I wanted to read and discuss those books, but the cost of buying them all was prohibitive.  Enter the e-reader—and a world of freebies and low-cost promotions.

I chose an Amazon Kindle Paperwhite because it’s a well-established brand and touted as easiest on the eyes.  (No, Amazon didn’t ask me to say that!)  A friend recommended the Kindle Fire, but I wanted a dedicated reader, not another mini-computer that needs to be charged every night like my smartphone.  Amazon claims the Paperwhite can run eight weeks on a single charge.  That hasn’t been true for me—my usage is probably above average, and I keep Wi-Fi turned on to facilitate downloading.  But I still charge it weekly, not nightly.

I requested the Kindle as a gift for my sixty-sixth birthday.  My husband bought the reader, my son supplied the case, and I solicited gift certificates from others—to buy books, of course!

I love the convenience.  I can read in bed without another light source.  My reader slips into my purse for a solitary luncheon or a stint in my doctor’s waiting room, and I can’t wait to travel with it.  I have the Kindle app on my smartphone, and I switch between e-reader and phone.  The system “knows” how far I’ve read and takes me to the latest page.

I heartily recommend e-readers to my contemporaries.  Best-selling author Anne R. Allen wrote a blog post in December, Why Your Grandma Wants an E-Reader for the Holidays (Even Though She Doesn't Know It).  Ms. Allen cited three physical reasons why e-readers are ideal for older people:  adjustable font sizes, lighter weight, and the ability to download books instantly without traveling to the bookstore or library.  You can read her entire post at

Another thought:  For boomers who are downsizing their homes, an e-reader is an alternative to a library of bulky books.

One of the best parts is discovering a myriad of websites that provide links to free and discounted e-books.  Here are just a few:

In addition, I purchased an Amazon Prime subscription.  One of its many benefits is a free, not yet released, Kindle book every month.  I can borrow a second book monthly.

With minimal cost and maximum convenience, I’ve stacked up hundreds of books on my Kindle.  Some are efforts from newbie authors, each hoping I’ll review their book favorably on Amazon and Goodreads.  But others are classics and best-sellers.  I’ve downloaded Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, Stephen King’s The Shining and Doctor Sleep, and the Anne of Green Gables books I loved as a child.

The only problem now is finding time to cook, do laundry, or keep up with my own writing—anything but sneaking off to download and read books. This feels like an illicit love affair.

Have I changed your thinking about e-readers?


Linda Lange has never forgotten what it was like to be a teenager living in Green Bay, WI, during the Sixties when Vince Lombardi coached the Packers.  She shared her memories in Incomplete Passes:  Reflections on Life, Love, and Football. The memoir, Linda’s first book, was a finalist in the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.  
A graduate of Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, Linda worked in broadcasting stations and as a copywriter in the advertising sales promotion department of U.S. News & World Report magazine in Washington, DC.  After moving to Cincinnati, OH, in 1983, Linda took on free-lance writing assignments and served on the management team at Save the Animals Foundation, a no-kill shelter for dogs and cats.  She is currently working on a novel with a shelter setting.  Linda has been married since 1969 to Scott Lange, an announcer.
Learn more about Linda at

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Valentine's Day Twist

The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change."-- Carl Rogers,American psychologist

Many Baby Boomers consider themselves educated. A good thing—we’re in a season of life that requires learning and change. Fighting this exhausts us, so we may as well comply.

But complying is easier said than done—after all, we’ve been trained to remain the same.

How so? Often, the underlying core values we hold dear defy change—don’t rock the boat, keep a stiff upper lip, God helps those who help themselves . . . need I say more?

But I have a boomer friend whose vision encapsulates change and growth—and on this Valentine’s Day, I must add true love.

Her nursing career expanded into Parish Nursing, which melds professional and spiritual care. (Often a hospital and a church share the costs involved.)  A born teacher, she instructed parish nursing classes for seventeen years, and in retirement, has taken on even more taxing ventures.

At seventy-two, she reached out to Pakistani nurses in Pakistan. In 2012, she established a core Parish Nursing community. Now, picture yourself entering an unstable Middle-East society—flying there, making contacts, and creating a foundation for ongoing instruction and care.

What does this have to do with Valentine’s Day? Well, I think St. Valentine would approve—my friend’s effort is all about committed, sacrificial love that reaches out to meet both physical and spiritual needs, especially in impoverished areas.

What has my friend overcome in order to launch this exciting, dangerous project? A lot—her childhood upbringing did not qualify her to attempt such a feat, nor did her years as a victim/enabler married to an alcoholic.

But anyone who bears/rears six children possesses stamina—and that monumental work prepared her for further exploits later in life—as did finding her voice and starting a new life on her own. Al-Anon instructed her, along with her faith’s foundational tenets—but she faced vast changes.

She made them. Succeeded in her career, and initiated compassionate outreach to those on the outskirts of love. The Outskirts of Love—a great book title, eh?

This remarkable woman also has encouraged me in finding my own voice and following my writing passion. Read more about that at my website.

Happy Valentine’s Day—may yours be filled with what St. Valentine would have intended—far more than just flowers and chocolates!

After teaching English as a Second Language and expository writing, Gail Kittleson enjoys her family (married 35 years, two children and two delightful grandchildren) and writing. Her nonfiction (Catching Up With Daylight/WhiteFire Publishing, August 2013) and fiction (World War II era) share a consistent theme—empowerment. Find her book at Amazon and B&N

Friday, February 7, 2014

Remembering Japanese Kindergarten


On a white sheet of paper I take from my dad’s office, I draw a picture of a square brown home. The front door is created first—smack-dab in the middle—and on either side of it I draw two windows at the lower level and then two matching windows above those. A tree, resembling a stick of broccoli, is on the right side and a clump of three pink flowers sit in the grass to the left.

This is not at all what my house looks like. The house I live in with my parents and brother is creosol-black, rectangular, and one story. In the back yard, we have a mammoth-sized magnolia tree and a cherry tree which the caterpillars love in the spring, but neither of them look a thing like broccoli.

I also draw a picture of my mother. I don’t have to ask Dad for a sheet of paper this time because I’m at kindergarten and each student is handed a thick piece of paper by the teacher. The kindergarten is just a brisk walk from our house, in the opposite direction of the train station. Ogawa-san, our live-in maid, a short woman with short permed black hair and dark eyes, walks with me there each morning and comes to fetch me before lunch.

Days later, moms come to the school for a celebratory Mother’s Day program. Upon arrival, each mother receives a red carnation to pin to her clothing, and then is ushered into classrooms to view some of the best artwork southwest of Tokyo.

Wearing a floral dress, her carnation, and a hint of perfume, my mother enters my classroom, ready to find the portrait I’ve drawn of her.

Removing her sunglasses, she glances around the walls which are decorated with faces. She steps closer in, scanning the heavy oil-based pastel-colored creations. Then with an emphatic sigh, she looks at me. “Alice, where is your picture?”

Gingerly, I move toward the wall. Standing on tiptoes and raising my hand, I point to the motherly face I created in class when all of my Japanese classmates and I were told to draw pictures of our mothers.

Mom studies my artwork as I hold my breath. I’ve given her a nose, mouth, two eyes, hair and even a neck. She looks stunning. I even added a little curl to one of her locks of hair.

She takes another look at my picture and then turns to me—her daughter, her firstborn, her artist. “But, Alice, I don’t have black eyes or black hair!”

Well. Of course not; I know this. Seeing her every day, I know what she looks like. But did she think that I was going to use a brown crayon or blue one to draw her hair and eyes? Really? A whole room of kids seated right next to me did not reach for their blue or brown crayon. It was the black crayon that was popular, did my mother not know this? I’d given her a pair of eyes and hair to match my classmates’ work. She looked just like all of the other mamas on the wall.

Mothers with students in uniforms enter the classroom, mothers with folded sun parasols that kept the bright May sun off of their skin as they walked to the kindergarten for this celebration. One mother smiles at me and says to her son, a tiny boy with rosy cheeks, “Gaijin no ko segatakai desune?” (“The foreign child is tall, isn’t she?”)

My mother’s face tightens. I know this look; it is all too common to me. This is the expression she gives when she feels she has been wronged. It is usually followed by words which are spoken without restraint.

As I tug at the hem of my uniform, I pray. I pray that my Mama doesn’t respond to this woman. For she has been known to say things. Once when children pointed at us in the street and called us gaijin, she pointed back at them and called them gaijin.

But she simply turns her eyes toward me and says matter-of-factly, “I don’t know why you would make my hair black, Alice.”

Relief expands from my lungs. She might not be happy with the picture I have drawn of her but at least she hasn’t mimicked another mother for her rudeness.

There are always worse things that could happen.

I thank God for sparing us all.

The boy snorts and grimaces at me before he and his mother exit the room.

His reaction causes something vile to overcome me and that’s when I know I am back to being myself. As the two of them leave, quickly, I offer another prayer. God, you have my permission to zap him on his way down the steps.

Ready to leave the room, I take my mother’s hand and we follow the other parents and children to another room where we are served hot tea and seaweed crackers.

~ Alice J. Wisler grew up in Japan as a missionary kid. She now lives in North Carolina and writes southern novels (Rain Song and How Sweet It Is were Christy finalists) and teaches writing through grief workshops at conferences across the country. Visit her website here and her Carved By Heart shop where her husband is the artistic one.