Tuesday, August 31, 2010

When God Guides You.....

Sometimes you are placed in the right place at the right time.

Last Thursday was just such a day.

The evening before, my grandmother, Betty Hans, called, quite upset with a catalogue company called Miles Kimball, whom she had ordered seven personalized porcelain bells with their 7 great-grandchildren's name on. The company had put the names on the bells, but not the year, and when she called to ask them why, they told her to find a red marker and do it herself. (There is lesson #1 - avoid crappy catalogue companies like Miles Kimball.) She needed her beloved granddaughter who has the most beautiful handwriting in the whole family despite being a southpaw - that would be me! - to fix this travesty for her. Which I was happy to do, but on my own time. I told her to take them to my mother's house and I would pick the box up after work that day.

Many obnoxious things happened that Thursday. Our front doorknob fell right off the door with no rhyme or reason. My husband picked a squabble with me regarding a sale on my etsy.com website and what I should do with the money from it. My ONLY appointment for that day cancelled on me without telling me - I just showed up and found out at the front desk that she had "gone home sick". The receptionist actually used the finger quotes in the air while rolling her eyes. (The company called me today to tell me they fired her, so I didn't need to come back out to actually write her insurance policy applications at all.) And I felt a strong urge to simply pray. My list was a mile long - and yet I just felt like praying. (Lesson #2 - when all things in life feel like they need to take the backseat, you should definitely listen.)

And then I felt like going to visit my grandparents, so I called them up and said I'd be there in 20 minutes, since the whole city of Mishawaka is being turned upside down by road construction and what would normally be a 5 minute drive now takes 20 minutes. I digress.

When I reached their little house on the St. Joseph River, I let myself in and Grandpa was coming out of the bathroom (he's on a new medicine for his prostate) and Grandma was in the bedroom, doing some ironing. She was very pleased about this because she hasn't been very healthy for the last couple years and wears out quickly. Any opportunity to do the chores she used to do with no difficulty makes her very happy. We all sat down at the kitchen table and started to talk about my work, and the other grandkids, and my uncle Tom who was promoted to full colonel in the Air Force this year, and all the usual family news. We had gotten onto the topic of Starbucks coffee when I saw all expression leave my grandma's face. It looked like she had fallen asleep, and she didn't say a word - which I assure you, is a clear sign of something wrong.

I leaned over to her and put my hand on her arm. "Grandma? Are you all right?" My grandpa got up from his chair, also realizing that something was very wrong. We asked her if she was overtired from the ironing, or if perhaps she had forgotten one of her pills that morning. She squeezed my hand and my arm and shook her head, but never opened her eyes or said anything. Her breathing sounded strange. (Lesson #3 - learn the signs of stroke. Recognizing the symptoms can save a life.)

I was already reaching for the phone when my grandpa said, "Call 911!" in a shaky, fear-stricken voice. I told the dispatcher that I knew she was having a stroke and needed an ambulance right away. She asked me if Grandma could smile at me - she could, but only the right side of her face could move. The dispatcher then asked if she could lift her arms - again, only the right side. The dispatcher wanted me to ask Grandma to say "The early bird catches the worm" but I replied, "She can't speak at all!"

The dispatcher told me to carry Grandma to a comfortable place and get all her medicines around. We were forbidden to give her any food or water, and to move everything around her in case she fell over or started vomiting.

We took her to her chair and continued to hold her hands and talk to her. She was definitely trying to communicate with us. She groaned and opened her mouth several times, but nothing came out. The paramedics arrived in a shorter time than I could have ever imagined, but they do live just a few blocks from the nearest fire station, so I'm sure that helped. They asked us a few questions, then lifted her up and carried her out the front door, where the gurney was waiting. Minutes later, they were driving away.

The next door neighbor came over in a panic, but she wasn't nearly as panicked as my Grandpa, whom I have never seen cry or show much emotion at all. Seeing him weep like he was nearly put me into meltdown mode. I tried to make phone calls. I tried to stay calm. I tried to know what to do, but all I could do was call my husband at work and ask him if he knew what to do. Fortunately he was able to give me the phone number for my mother's work and I was able to get ahold of her right away. The neighbor, Lori, began the horrible game of phone tag that occurs when trying to locate any of my father's siblings. Paul at Bosch, Jim at the auto shop, Tom on the Air Force base, June at her veterinary clinic and my dad, who happened to be in Chicago that day for classes. I'm glad someone else was doing that and not me.

I drove my grandpa to the emergency room and all he could say the whole way there was "Oh thank God you were here today. Oh thank God you came over today. I'm so glad you were here." And I was almost blinded by tears while trying to drive because I knew it WAS God's hand that I was there that day at all. I had never had any intention of going there that day. All my little annoyances now seemed like nothing because I HAD been there. Because I had prayed for guidance and wisdom about where to go that day, and instead of going to some business to pitch Aflac, I had decided to visit that little house on the river.

My mom met us at the emergency room. She gave me the "Mom Hug" - you know the kind. The ones that only mothers can give when they're providing comfort. It was there that I finally melted down and cried like a baby and shook like I was the one having the stroke.

It's now been five days and Grandma Betty checked out of the hospital last night. She suffered a massive stroke from a blood clot that lodged into her brain. But other than needing a speech therapist, she will make a full recovery. She has regained the ability to use the left side of her body, to move her eyes around and she can speak very slowly and make full sentances. The doctor said it was because we recognized the symptoms of stroke and acted so quickly.

I never want to experience that again, but I'm sure someday I will have to, perhaps with my husband's grandparents, or even our own parents. But I pray that I will be as attuned to the guidance of the Holy Spirit on that future day as I was last Thursday.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Short Delay

I've finally been working my 'real' job! Sorry about the absence of words. I have many stories to share soon.

Friday, August 6, 2010

99.5 Real World Answers

Alex recently noticed that when I take on a new passion, which I seem to do every six months or so, I immediately purchase books on the topic and read them cover to cover multiple times. My gardening library is immense. My cookbooks have outgrown the shelves and the microwave cart. I have more sewing and fashion books than could possibly ever be useful and most of them contradict each other.

But I didn't have very many books on business and sales, which, since that is my new job, seemed a little out of order.

I've tried too. I purchased a couple books about how to make successful cold calls, and it was hard to get through and my brain turned to mush. My trainer, Matt, suggested a great book called 'The Referral of a Lifetime' by Tim Templeton, which he assured me was an easy read and would be life-changing. Friends - I am a READER. I'm the girl that knocked out 7 Harry Potter books in a week! I couldn't read this small 100 page book. I just recently finished it, and I have to do it all again because I now realize that I don't remember any of it. I reach for my self-sufficiency guide and probe it's pages for tidbits of information regarding why my plants are shrivelling up before it ever occurs to me that I might need to be doing some work.

Alex purchased Jeff Gitomer's Little Red Book of Sales Answers for me a couple weeks ago. I carried it around the house, I carried it in my purse, I carried it to meetings....I didn't actually start reading it until a couple days ago and now I wonder why I was such a stubborn little child about it. This is a great book - not just for business, but for life in general!

I'm not goal-oriented. I never was. If I don't achieve my goals, I move on with life and hope for the best. Probably not the best way to be an insurance producer. And Aflac is very goal oriented! They lay out all kinds of goals for us to attempt! $5,500 in the first 5 weeks, $25,000 in the first 13 weeks, etc. With great rewards like free trips and great gear. But I'm not a salesperson.

Looking back, I think about when I was a young teenager in youth group and they would take us out on missions or outreaches. While other members of the group were shoving Jesus down people's throats, I was comforting crying babies, washing little faces, talking to single moms, and giving things to less fortunate folks. I don't think I ever once opened my mouth to spew religious jargon at someone. What reason do they have to listen to me? They don't know me. I think this is why people have such angst and hatred against 'Christians'! No one likes to be sold a line of crap. Someone can preach at you all day long about the great love of God, but in the end, when they walk away, what exactly have they done for you?

This is how I am with Aflac. I am so afraid to open my mouth and spew jargon at anyone I don't know, so I just don't do it. But when it comes to people who trust me, I want more than anything for them to know about this great product that can be lifesaving when it comes to your health.

Actions speak volumes louder than words do. Service builds trust and relationships that go a long way further than cold-calls and begging for a few minutes.

Last night, while reading my Little Red Book of Answers I came across a list titled 'How Do I Do My Best Everyday?'

There are 10.5 simples rules:
1. Wake up early. The early bird does not get the worm. The early bird makes the money while everyone else is asleep.

2. Love what you do. If you don't love it, you will never rise to the top. Love it, or leave it.

3. Dedicate yourself to being a life-long student. How many books did you read last year?

4. Convert anger to resolve. Anger is the biggest waste of energy on the planet. It blocks positive thought. It blocks creative thought.

5. Convert barriers to breakthrough. You may know it as objections. Or even rejections. Stick at it until you win, and you will gain personal, mental dominance.

6. Take every 'no' as a 'not yet'. You don't hear with your ears. You hear with your heart. The way you accept other's words will determine your fate. Gain an attitude of positive acceptance.

7. Watch little or no television. You'll never succeed watching television. Convert TV time to study time. Convert TV time to preparation time. Convert TV time to thinking time.

8. Read for 20 minutes every morning. Reading provides the opportunity for quiet insight. You can reflect on the ideas and thoughts of others, and immediately convert them to your own success formula. You best chance for success is reading. Learn to earn. Read to succeed.

9.Write for 20 minutes every morning. What should you write about? Anything you want! Begin to clarify your thoughts and ideas in writing.

10. Call the people you love and tell them you love them. Love is not motivation. Love is inspiration. To be your best, you must go beyond motivation to inspiration.

10.5. Tell yourself you're the best. Muhammad Ali said "I am the greatest of all time," thousands of times. Millions of people agree that he was the greatest of all time. He began that journey by telling himself first. So can you.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Something I Wish I Hadn't Come Across

If you don't want to read the whole article, I don't blame you, but I wanted to put it up anyway.
"Thrifty" shoppers are now being blamed for the stagnant economy. All you 'thrity' shoppers out there, stop sending our job overseas, causing inflation and spending tax money you don't have yet and go out and buy some useless junk! It's your patriotic duty to help the economy by purchasing some crap at full price!

Martin Crutsinger, AP Economics Writer, On Tuesday August 3, 2010, 4:56 pm EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- American shoppers are being careful about how much they spend, and that's making businesses cautious about hiring.

For the economic recovery to gain strength -- and the unemployment rate to come down in any meaningful way -- consumers will need to become less frugal. But a flurry of data released Tuesday suggests families are reluctant to increase their spending, even as they buy more stuff, including cars and consumer staples like razors and shampoo.
"Once the unemployment rate starts coming down in a significant way, consumers will feel more confident and start spending. But businesses are reluctant to step up hiring until they see stronger demand," said Chris G. Christopher, senior economist at IHS Global Insight. "It's a Catch-22 situation."
Unemployment stands at 9.5 percent. The government's next jobs report comes out Friday.
General Motors and Chrysler on Tuesday posted higher U.S. sales for July, a sign that Americans are still willing to buy big-ticket items. And Procter & Gamble, maker of Tide laundry soap and Pampers diapers, said its revenue grew 5 percent in the latest quarter.
But other industry and government data were more downbeat.
Factory orders dropped in June for the second consecutive month after nine straight months of gains, the Commerce Department said. And the number of buyers who signed contracts to purchase homes fell in June to the lowest level on records dating back to 2001, according to the National Association of Realtors.
One telling detail about consumers' habits these days came from the Commerce Dept.'s personal income and spending report for June: the annualized savings rate stood at 6.4 percent, the highest level in nearly a year -- and triple the rate in 2007, before the recession.
The savings rate hasn't dipped below 5 percent since October 2008.
Even the way people are paying for things shows a change in attitude about money. Consumers shied away from accumulating new debt during the second quarter, according to the latest reports from MasterCard Inc., and Visa Inc.
Overall card use rose 14 percent. But the growth came almost entirely from debit cards, which rose to $465 billion, from $408 billion a year ago. Credit card use edged up less than a percent to $345 billion from $342 billion last year.
Analysts believe consumers have now rebuilt savings and will be open to spending more in the coming months.
"We think most of the required increases in savings have already happened and that further increases in incomes will translate into consumer spending," said Peter Newland, an economist at Barclays Capital.
Consumer spending is important because it accounts for 70 percent of total economic activity.
Last week, the government said economic growth for the second quarter slowed to 2.4 percent. Many analysts believe it will dip further in the second half of the year because of high unemployment, shaky consumer confidence and weakness in home prices in many major metropolitan areas.
While personal income growth was flat in June, it rose in April and May. But households chose to save the extra money rather than spend it.
Longer term, that may not be such a bad thing, economists said, because the savings help households get control of their bills and make purchases they can afford.
"It is of some comfort that households now appear to have something of a cushion that can be used to pay down debt or support spending," said Paul Dales, U.S. economist at Capital Economics.
Make no mistake, Americans are spending money. But they want value for their purchases or a good deal. If they don't get either, many are passing on name brands and living with generic goods.
The automakers that posted higher U.S. sales in July did so through summer promotions and easier credit plans.
P&G executives said they've noticed shoppers shift to cheaper brands. In response, the company has cut its prices, offered discounts and created lower-priced versions of some brands to hold onto customers. This explains why net income for the quarter was down to $2.2 billion from nearly $2.5 billion a year prior.
"The economic recovery in the United States will be uneven," Bob McDonald, president, CEO and chairman, told investors. "I think we are seeing that already. We don't expect a double-dip recession ... but we have got to keep innovating and keep growing."
Saving more and budgeting for purchases may be good for families. But it worries retailers, who employs 14.4 million Americans, or about 11 percent of total employment.
Retailers stepped up hiring earlier this year after a solid winter holiday shopping season, then cut jobs in May and June as consumer spending slowed.
Craig Johnson, president of retail consulting firm Customer Growth Partners, says stores would prefer Americans saved in the 3 to 4 percent range. But he expects shoppers to keep squirreling money away at the higher rate even through the Christmas holiday season.
"This is a real sign that people are very cautious about spending," he said.
AP Business Writers Dan Sewell in Cincinnati, Anne D'Innocenzio and Eileen A.J. Connelly in New York, and Christopher S. Rugaber and Alan Zibel in Washington contributed to this report.

Because sometimes you just can't figure out where all the money is going...

I would like to take a couple moments to sing the praises of coupons, special offers and sale ads.
I would also like to give you my favorite bit of advice that I've ever received and it has been compiled through the wisdom of my girlfriends and the wonderful role models that I have found in my mother, grandmothers and aunts.

Step 1 - Plan Ahead

I start on Sunday - shopping day - and make a menu. And we stick to it, no matter what. We dig out the Kroger ad, check meijer.com and Martin's Supermarket for the sale ad that fits our budget and menu the best for that week and start making The List. The List is 6 days of meals made at home. The rules state that we have to use things already in the pantry, and don't buy anything that isn't on sale.

Step 2 - Anticipate

We've been in theatre production mode for 4 weeks now. Being at the theatre every night does NOT mean we eat out every night. The menu revolves around what can be made simply and quickly on nights when there isn't much time between work and the next place to be. Salad, hamburger helper, sandwiches, whatever. Also, make things on Sunday or Monday, that can be eaten again as leftovers later! Pork roast on Sunday after church can be pulled pork sandwiches on Monday evening. See, you just made 2 meals out of $12! Working late on Wednesday? That's why God gave us the crock pot! But you have to plan ahead!

Step 3 - Buy in bulk

Last week I bought 5 pounds of ground hamburger. Not because I was have guests, but because if I bought that much, it was $1.89 per pound instead of $3.59 per pound. The Menu was strategically made to include tacos, hamburgers, and pasta dishes that could be made with hamburger. I divided the giant package into 3 pieces and put them in freezer containers and then into the freezer and grabbed them as necessary.

Step 4 - Organize!

Get your pantry stocked with things you eat weekly! I make peanut butter and jelly for Alex at least 2 days a week, so peanut butter and white bread are always things that I keep on hand! I also keep a large supply of pasta shapes of all kinds, canned tomatoes, dried beans, boxed potatoes, pizza sauce, flour, sugar, cold and hot cereals, rice and pancake mix. Believe me, if a blizzard happens this winter, or the economy completely tanks and food prices become staggering, I don't plan to be caught unawares. My home usually has at least a week's supply of food ingredients in it at all times. I also try to can fresh and farm produce when it's in season. Roma tomatoes make the best sauces, and at 77 cents a pound right now, it would be rediculous to go buy pasta sauces at a couple bucks a jar.

Step 5 - Be Positive

Stop telling yourself that you're too busy, tired, overwhelmed and stupid to make this work. You're none of those things. It takes longer to drive to a restaurant, sit and wait and then eat than it does to cook dinner and it costs 5 times more. Don't have the strength to drag the kids to the store? Call Grandma, Aunt Sue or the neighbor's teenage daughter. Or go late at night. There are 24-hour superstores for just that reason. Discipline in key to success in anything. I didn't become a concert pianist because I smiled at the piano from across the room every day. You didn't get successful in your job by wishing things would happen. You have to committ and stick with it. And for crying out loud, stop telling yourself those negative things! You can do it!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Why We Do What We DO

In April, I decided to make an ENORMOUS career change. One that was so big and unusual for someone like me that I still question my sanity on the decision on a weekly basis.

When I made the decision to become a licensed insurance producer, especially coming from being a music teacher and all around free-spirit, I know I huge chunk of the people I know and love cringed. Oh no! I could imagine them thinking. Lindsey is going to want to sell insurance to us and we're going to feel obligated to buy it! How can we avoid it? Getting into the idea of being responsible for lives as well as consulting the stubborn, hard-headed people of the world was, and still is, daunting. My days are nervous, shaky and unfriendly. I frequently break down and cry because of silly little things like expectations diminished and hurt feelings.

But yesterday, I was reminded of WHY I do what I do every day.

Yesterday we had our fall quarterly state meeting. It was a full house, packed with little Aflac associates in white dress shirts. I was late. I had been pulled over by a state trooper on the way down to Indianapolis on State Rd 31. My GPS kept telling me to get off 465 on an exit that doesn't exist yet - it was still in the construction process. I got rerouted over and over and over. Being the first Monday of a new month, the trucking traffic on the roads was terrible. Somehow my name was missed in the nametag/seating chart so I didn't have a seat. When I did get a seat, it was directly under an air conditioning vent and I was freezing. The meeting was sports themed - specifically basketball and baseball. Barf. Uninteresting. If there is anything that makes my eyes glaze over, it's long winded speeches about the importance of teamwork highlighted with sports references. Gimme a break. My husband was giving me grief about not texting him when I arrived to tell him I had gotten there safely. I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry.

But then, the Carl Edwards video came on! Okay, racing is something I can get into! I enjoy racing. I was drawn in.

Aflac is Carl Edwards' 99 car sponsor. This year of 2010 he is the spokesman for our "Crew of Champions" or something like that. I figured it was probably something really hokey - definitely a PR stunt. Aflac was choosing people's stories about how Aflac has helped them, yadda yadda.

Our speaker was the third person who has been chosen for the 'Crew'. His name was Jerry Snyder and he hails from Lebabon, IN. He was honored last week at the Brickyard 400 race. His story made me cry.

In February of 2005, Jerry's wife, Sue, the trustee for the town of Lebanon, IN, signed up for a cancer policy from Aflac. She had cancer in her family history, and wanted to take some precautions against her odds of also being diagnosed with some form of cancer. The associate asked her if she wanted to include her husband on the policy and she made the decision to do so. Good thing she did. Jerry admitted that he had given her a hard time about it, telling her they couldn't afford it, telling her it was unnecessary and stupid.

8 weeks after Sue took out that cancer policy, Jerry wasn't feeling well. He had a sore throat and his tongue had been bothering him. He figured it was just a spring cold and they drove down to Florida for a vacation. During their vacation, he was in so much pain that they left early and he came home to the doctor, who promptly sent him to a specialist. The specialist gave him the dreaded diagnosis - cancer in his throat and tongue. Sue remembered their Aflac cancer policy and filed the claim. They received their 'initial diagnosis' benefit of $2000 within 4 days.

The doctor's scheduled 39 radiation treatments for Jerry, but they didn't realize that the medicine he was also taking for multiple sclerosis would intenisfy the radiation treatments threefold. Within 10 treatments, he had second and third-degree burns all around his neck and face. And Aflac kept sending them money. $300 for every radiation treatment. Benefits for experimental treatments the doctors tried. Payment after payment. They never missed a house payment or car payment or struggled to buy groceries during this time.

Jerry beat his cancer, but in 2007, it came back. This time it attacked his right lung. And Aflac started to send him benefits again. He beat that cancer too. But this year, in April, it came back a third time and he underwent surgery to have it removed. And Aflac is still providing him with cash every week to help his family meet their everyday needs and expenses during this time. He brought his wife on the stage and tearfully thanked her for thinking ahead enough to put him on that cancer policy and for everything she has had to endure for the last 5 years. He believes he'll beat this cancer too, and the next one and the next one - if, God forbid, that's what happens. Aflac literally kept this family out of the poorhouse and probably contributed to the survival of this man by alleviating the fear of bankruptcy and financial failure during his illnesses.

That was the reminder. That's why I do what I do. Because if there is just one person that Aflac provides security and peace of mind to during a serious illness or a bad accident, that is enough. It's all about service. It's about providing help during a time of need instead of sitting by and wondering what I could have done besides pray.