Lessons Learned: One Simple Gesture Goes a Long Way

Last May, we went to the assisted living facility where my parents live to celebrate my dad’s birthday. I arrived with my husband and daughter. My sister met us there. In the apartment, we noticed that dad seemed confused. He was slow to respond, our words didn’t seem to register. His normal repeated word, “What?” seemed to multiply. We asked if he was okay, and he said that he felt a little run down, but fine. Our hope was that dinner and some nourishment would help.

He became worse at the dinner table. He just looked at his food. We had to keep him focused on the conversation. In the middle of dinner, which he didn’t eat, he had to use the bathroom. I helped him to the men’s room and waited at the door. When he finally came out, he was too weak to walk back to the dining room or to their apartment upstairs. My husband went up to get my mom’s walker that had a built-in seat. We wheeled him down the halls, up the elevator, and to the apartment. We tried transferring him from the walker to his chair. My dad could stand with assistance, but he didn’t know how to move his legs. We helped “walk” his legs. We also knew that it was time to call 911.

In the meantime, my mom fretted over my dad. She didn’t know what was going on, only that her Stan wasn’t himself. She wanted to help. She was always the caregiver in the family; but after her massive stroke, the tables turned and now she depended on him. He was her security.  She became scared and wanted to be near him. Unfortunately, she had no choice but to sit on the couch as everyone else hovered over dad. My sister and I answered questions asked by the first responder, while my husband directed the paramedics to the apartment.

We had an apartment full of people, yet my mom was alone. She sat silent and on the verge of tears. And then, my daughter reached out. She found her way across the crowded room to sit next to her grandma. She took mom’s hand and held tight. That one simple gesture helped my mom tremendously. She knew she wasn’t alone.

A touch of another human can be so powerful. In time of need, a simple gesture – holding a hand or giving a hug – can mean the world to someone in need. Just to assure them that they are not alone. I still remember the effect that it had on me, how my daughter saw the need and took action. The two of them probably don’t remember this simple act but I do. It’s one that I won’t forget.

I hope that I can have that type of effect on someone else as well. I know in the future, I will be mindful of how a simple gesture can really go a long way.


Lessons Learned: Editing Your Work

One of the frustrations as a writer is to publish a story or a document and then find out a few days later that a word is misspelled, used incorrectly, or added in error. What’s even more frustrating is when two or three people edit your work, and they miss the error as well. A few days ago, I found a mistake in one of my chapters that the copy editor missed. Of course when I read through it again, the misspelled word stuck out like a big, blinking neon sign across the page. Luckily I’m still in the editing stage and corrected the word immediately.

Errors are unfortunate, but they do occur. The material becomes too familiar, and you glaze over the words because you know what’s coming. You power read. Sometimes you spell it right, but your software autocorrects what you’ve typed. Or, you don’t catch the correction because the word sounds the same or similar to what you wanted. I’ve found that sometimes copy/paste can be a nightmare in disguise.

At work, we always had one other person plus an editor proof read the material. A couple of tricks that I learned may help you find those errors. A few of those tricks include:

*Line read – place a blank piece of paper (an envelope works great) under the line of the document that you’re reading. This covers the lines on the remaining page so you’re not distracted by what’s to come.

*Read each word in a paragraph or sentence backwards (E.g., edit the first paragraph in this blog as ‘immediately’, ‘word’, ‘the’, ‘corrected’, and so on).

* Increase the font size on a page, complete your proof reading, and then change the font back to the correct setting.

* Zoom out the page view to 200% so each word is super large.

And if you find an error after it’s published, fix it right away. Don’t stew about it. Don’t point out the error to your buddies and claim your embarrassment to the world. Just make the corection and forget about it. Most times this works. If not, apologize for the error and state it’s been corrected.

And remember, blogs, tweets (see now that could’ve been misspelled as twit), and text are less formal. You will find more errors in those because words and grammer doesn’t have to be perfect. Right? 🙂

Did you find my errors in this blog?

Lesson Learned: Never Assume – Always Verify

How frustrating when someone taps into your checking account by stealing your debit card number. Last month (actually July 31), I received a call from the bank that hosts my bank’s debit/charge cards. Someone had made a purchase at a New York retail store using my debit card. They asked me if I had made the purchase, or if I had given out my debit card number to a friend. I said that I was still perched in Wisconsin, I have never been to New York, and that I have never given out the number for someone else to use. I still had the card in my possession. They said they would reject the transaction and told me to call my bank in the morning.

I called the bank and explained what happened. The charge was still pending on my account. The banker stopped my card, reissued a new card to me, and then removed the amount from my account. I hung up, happy that everyone involved was pro-active and my account was safe. I didn’t think much of it until last night.

I printed off my bank statement for August and looked to see that the first transaction listed was the NY purchase. The bank had not removed the purchase, and I now had a small chunk of change taken from my account. I fumed. Of course, I had to wait until the morning before I could talk to the bank.

I called minutes after the bank opened, waited for five minutes on hold, and then explained to the person who answered that the purchase hadn’t been removed. She said, “You need to talk to one of our specialists.” She was going to transfer me; however, no one was available. She took my number and said that someone would call me back within two hours. I waited by my phone. No call. I had to leave for a doctor appointment. When I returned home, I called again. This time the banker said that it takes one to two business days before someone would be able to call me back. She did mark me as top priority since I’ve called a few times and the issue hasn’t been resolved.

In the meantime, I have to wait. Grrrrrrr.

Yes, I agree, that part of this is my fault for not verifying the next day or week that the purchase had been removed from my account. Normally I do check to make sure everything is good, but I was pretty confident that everyone had done their part. I didn’t think that I had to worry.

When I vented today to a co-worker, he suggested setting alerts on my account. This way if a large transaction goes through, the bank will notify me by email. Alerts saved him from a hefty bill when someone planned a vacation on his account (yes, pun intended).

The lesson I learned is always to follow through and never assume that the issue has been corrected. I will also take some precautions by setting up alerts.

Lesson Learned: Let Fate Work for You

I love it when events fall into place without effort. When this happens, I believe it’s meant to be.

For example, yesterday my family was able to go up to our friends’ cabin. We met our friends through scouting. Jeff was a leader, Sue handled the wreath fundraiser, and I was the treasurer. Our sons, the same age, became friends and received their Eagle Scout honor approximately one month apart. Today, we still get together to confirm the bond we built through the scouting program; however, it’s difficult to get together with our busy lifestyles. This year, on a fluke, Jeff called last week and invited us up to their cabin. With Hans, my son, being home for a visit, this worked out great. Brian, their son who works weekends, was able to go up as well. Hans was able to hang out with his friend and go boating (something he wanted to do while he was home). We had a great time.

On other occurrences, fate helps us make the right decision. This happened when my husband and I tried to sell our house. The market turned downward, along with prices. We had the house up for sale three times. The first time, we had a minimal amount of potential buyers. On the second round, we found a twin home that we liked, and it was in the same school district as the current house. We made an offer to buy and that deal fell through. On the third try, we finally got it right. The minute we walked into our current home, we knew it was meant to be. The builders accepted our offer, contingent on us selling. We put our house up for sale, and we sold within a few months. Everything came together – we just had to wait for all the pieces to fall into place. Five years later, we still love our house. We don’t think we would’ve been as happy in the twin home, the place where the deal fell through.

And then fate has to tell us we messed up with our choice and redirects us. For me, I took a job as a manager trainee for a large discount chain. Nothing went right from the interview on. I didn’t know which store I would work in until two days before I started (which I then found out wasn’t in the best of neighborhoods). I wasn’t told that I was required to work a minimum of 48 hours per week (they made it sound as if the extra time was overtime). And I found out later that I’d have to work every day from October to the end of December for the holiday season – no time off (which is not a good situation being a single parent). I was so overwhelmed and I didn’t know how to change it. One night after close, I was assaulted in the parking lot. A mugger stole my purse. The store wanted me to work the next day. Yes, they felt sorry for me, but they didn’t have anyone to work my shift. I worked. I also gave my two-week notice. I did not have another job planned out. I left it up to fate to guide me. Even though I wouldn’t want to go through that same situation again, I did learn. I took a temporary government job which turned into a permanent job for another agency. The job was better pay with benefits.

Some call fate as God, luck, the stars, angels. I can agree with all. But now I’m just saying that I let fate work for me and it’s never failed.

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