Business

Posts related to business, but not marketing.

Why Shoes?

Just one of the questions regarding this strange custom.

Grade school was a hard place for me. I was THAT girl. The one that everyone thought they could pick on when they felt the need to make themselves feel bigger by making someone else feel small.

There was Matt. The regular tormenter. It seemed every year the Principal’s office got together and placed the students for the next year into classes, and every year, I think they personally said, “If we put Laura and Matt into the same class again, maybe just maybe he will decide not to hit and kick her and call her ugly names just for sport. The fact that he has always done this, and never has stopped, no matter the threat, is irrelevant. She just needs more toughening up, and he just needs more chances to learn to be a person instead of a quarreling dog.” I don’t know how they planned it, but he was in EVERY CLASS from first to sixth grade.

It was not until Jr. High that I had any classes without him. Because in Jr. High you get separated by ability, and I had it, and he did not.

He was not the only one, he could always find someone, boy or girl, to join in, often the entire class.

Somewhere about 4th grade, Sherill and I landed in the same class, and became fast friends for three years (Jr. High school sent us different directions, and we stayed friends, but were not as close.). It was sheer self-preservation! She and I were both that kind of girl, who just always got picked on and insulted. Daily. Not just sometimes. All the time.

Now, I must take you into my confidence. You must understand the seriousness of what I am about to tell you, and that this MEANT something. Something so deep, I could NEVER confess it in Grade School, or even in Jr. High, or Highschool.

They wrote V.O.E. on their shoes, for US. For Sherill and I.

They didn’t just do it once in a while, they did it REGULARLY. They wrote it again in the same place almost EVERY DAY to make sure they warded off the cooties that we carried. Just to make sure WE KNEW we were that kind of unacceptable!

Now, nobody knew what it meant. V.O.E.? What the heck does that mean? I mean, yeah, you can reason out that it means you are NOT POPULAR. But seriously, nobody knows what it actually means.

But they do it anyway. They do it very determinedly and seriously. Because it is V.O.E..

They also called us the Terrible Twosome. Not because we were mean or bad, but because we stank. They said so. Even if we smelled good, we stank. Because this was Grade School. SOMEBODY had to stink.

Today, this is hysterical. Then, it was just part of the human struggle to grow up and actually live through it. Academically, Grade School was just a slide. It was easy stuff. But socially, it was brutal.

Sherill and I did it too. We wrote it on our shoes. Just to be sure, you know, that if there was anything lower than us, that it could not damage us. We also secretly did it to ward off THEM… The ones who were doing it to us. But you couldn’t say THAT.

Dozens of pairs of tennis shoes with V.O.E. inscribed on the edge of the soles, that I threw down to the dump when I wore them out. Thousands of them in the landfills. You know those canvas deck shoes? Those. Plenty of room to write it. Always on the instep. Because that is where you can reach at recess, and your mother doesn’t notice it as soon. In ink pen. Just so you know it will last until you can do it at recess the next day, all over again.

We asked if anybody knew what it meant, and there was never a satisfactory answer. You could not even MAKE UP your own, with letters like that!

Morrie says he knows what it means. He says it means, “Vox On Everyone.”.

Well, that’s what they said it meant in third grade. But nobody ever believes THAT one!

He says, “Vox means Plague.” I’m not sure if he has any credibility or not!

If it does mean that, I can’t see why writing in on your shoes gives it any particular mystic power!

My father finally confesses that he knows what it means. It is “Vermin”. Still makes no more sense.

My uncle Gerry says, “No, it is ‘Vengeance’.”. We still aren’t getting anywhere.

My father’s friend Ed says, “Vermouth. Pickle them straight up!”.

His wife says, “Pick a word that starts with V, and go for it! It still won’t explain why you write it on your shoes if you hate someone in particular!”.

Kelly says they did it in California. There were kids in California, she insists, who wrote it on their shoes, solely because she persisted in going to school every day. They didn’t know what it meant either!

Boyd says they did it in Seattle, where all the cool kids lived in the state of Washington. He says kids who were not cool were not allowed to live in Seattle, so he doesn’t know what it was they were warding off, and they could never tell him what it actually meant either! But it was trendy. So they had to do it!

Donald says it swept Iowa every year, but only in the third grade. First graders and second graders didn’t do it, even the more precocious of them. But then, in Iowa that is mostly because first graders hadn’t learned their alphabet well enough to get to V yet, and second graders could not yet spell well enough to write V.O.E., so by third grade, they were poxing and plaguing on their shoes. By fourth grade they had to work on writing longer words, so they were writing other things on their shoes.

Ted says his kids are homeschooled, so they don’t pick up things like this. All the really cool and nasty trends seem to pass them by. One of his girls stays overnight with a friend. This friend goes to public school. She comes home with V.O.E. on her shoes. This is about 10 years ago. She doesn’t know what it means, it is just a thing you do when you dislike someone, she says. And it is the brother of her friend, who likes to spit on people’s things, and wipe boogers on them. She is now in college, and this is one of the things in her social coping toolbox that she has taken to college with her. She reports that she’s not weird or anything, she finds shoes everywhere with this on it. Of course, this is an Eastern College, and kids are kinda behind here.

Phil says it is old, and from the time they had schools in Hawaii, they did this in Hawaii. He assures me that Morrie’s translation is correct… For English. It comes out somewhat different in Hawaiian. More like “Look Above the Bugs”. He says, “Whatever, it works either way.” He looks down. “Some days, you run into THOSE people, and you just want a pair of tennis shoes and an ink pen.”

Tracy was one of the popular girls. She doesn’t think it is any big deal to have that written on shoes because of you, personally. She says, her sisters did that to her! I suppose then, she HAD to do it to other people! She became a ringleader, with very much power. In High School, she was a cheerleader. All because of V.O.E., I’m sure.

Another girl from my grade school said she gets home from school one day, and there is her mother, writing V.O.E on the bottom of her father’s shoes. The girl confronts her mother, and asks why she is doing this. “The mill is laying off. I thought it couldn’t hurt.” her mother confesses. Her father is laid off the next day. But in a fortuitous stroke of good luck, they have laid off too many, and they hire him back the following day. The girl finds her mother in the kitchen singing, “Then I saw his shoes… Now I’m a believer!”. (And this is probably why it just won’t go away!)

I hear it does not work well in Utah schools. Mormons just don’t go in for that kind of cursing of their fellow man. They just shun them, and if they were going to write anything on their shoes, it would be, “God does not approve.”. That is the curse they level at anyone who steps out of the finely crafted box of Mormon acceptability, which is a good deal smaller than God ever intended THAT to be (and some of them would write it on OTHER people’s shoes). (No, I don’t mean transgenderism, or abortion, I mean things that have NOTHING to do with whether you are righteous or not, like homeschooling, herbal medicine, personal revelation, home business, and other things that God certainly DOES inspire people to do, but which Mormons, especially Utah Mormons, despise and criticize for.)

It apparently does not get far in Idaho either, but that is because of Potatoes. Every mother knows that if you cut off a piece of potato, and scrub the shoe with the potato, it will remove the ink, no matter what kind of ink. Sometimes you have to use other things with the potato, but the potato always works if you scrub it hard enough. Kid puts V.O.E. on their shoes, and they spend two hours that night scrubbing the shoes with a potato. (It is on account of Potatoes, incidentally, that my father never wrote V.O.E. on HIS shoes more than once, and he didn’t even live in Idaho!)

There is an exception to the Utah Mormon thing, and it is BYU. They credit this to the unhealthy influence of Mormon students who come from states that are less refined Mormonically than Utah. It makes the round on BYU campuses every 20 years or so, frequently when a batch of teachers retires, and a group of younger teachers are hired. Administration reports that V.O.E. never gets a foothold on campus unless there are immature teachers involved in fomenting it. BYU Admin is certain though, that they hold the record for most creative use of V.O.E., in part due to the sarcastic response of the more responsible members of the student body. For a short time in the 1940s, V.O.E. was a popular Halloween Costume, and when a Performing Arts Event was particularly bad, someone would write V.O.E. on the advertising posters around the campus. When the water failed a water test in the middle of summer, someone wrote it on the water tower, in letters 3 ft high. In actual John Deere Green. It also made the rounds in Valentine’s Bouquets for about a decade in the 50s to 60s. Valentines On Everyone. Bet that never occurred to you either!

And then, when George Albert Smith was President of the LDS Church, a member of the DUP became very angry with him. She was responsible for writing educational pamphlets regarding Mormon and Utah history. She had borrowed several items of his mother’s, to photograph and document. He asked for them back, and she said they had been stolen. When he visited her home, he found his mother’s items in her livingroom, and her husband threw him out before he could collect more than a few. He looked them over good, to be sure they were his mother’s (which had been marked), and found that the woman had painted V.O.E. in red fingernail polish over his mother’s initials. She was removed from the DUP, sued for the rest of the belongings (all similarly marked). He got them back, and sent her a note with a single word on it. “Victory.”

The Catholic Church (this is the Vatican) is reputed to claim credit for V.O.E.. They joke that it originally meant “Vatican On Everyone”, but of course, it was in Latin, not in English. In truth, there are those in the Catholic church who say that the curse originated in the Abbeys and Monasteries, and the designation of “everyone” applied to those outside the Cloisters. They also say it was not “everyone” at all, but “enemy”. It was a curse they sent OUT, not a curse they delivered in person, hence, writing it on your shoes meant it applied when you were GOING somewhere. I can’t say I buy into this, but it is as plausible as anything else regarding V.O.E.. (For the record, the Vatican has always spoken Italian and English as base languages, with French as the backup, and German only when forced to.) Cursing was a big deal in the Middle Ages, and the Catholic Church did teach how to do so, and how to give “blessings”. So if V.O.E. really did start with them, one wonders what other treasures of malice have been lost to the ages.

Long ago, someone started V.O.E. in Subway. When Admin would send out Company Bulletins, some of the Store Owners and Consultants would send back venomous or outraged replies, and they’d sign their name, and put V.O.E. below it. (It never occurred to me to use it as part of my sig line. I’ve been an Online Business Consultant and Webmaster for more than 20 years, and it never crossed my mind that I’ve cheated my clients and followers out of a powerful tool for conquering an online domain!) One of the owners of Subway got tired of it, and emailed all the people who had done that, and she put V.O.E. at the bottom of hers as a joke. Fully half of them wrote back, saying something to the effect of, “We thought you were more mature than that.”. “You can’t do that to me.” was another popular reply.

A publisher I know tells of an author who submitted a manuscript for a book. It was not readable, the writing skills of the author were not up to the task of conveying a story that was interesting or actually WENT anywhere, not to mention actually READABLE (too many spelling and grammar errors). The publisher sent it back, with a curt letter explaining that if your spelling and grammar are so bad it gives the editor a headache to try to figure out what you are saying, you aren’t going to get published. She then writes, “I do give you full marks for spelling V.O.E. correctly on 2/3 of the pages that you wrote it on the bottom of. The other third, I’m not sure it WAS actually V.O.E..” (This publisher is NOT overly picky, she also says, “Dangling participles happen. I came to terms with that half a century ago, I’m sure you can too.”)

I have heard that it is alive and well on some Army Bases. Beverly reports that there were girls in her class in Basic, who wrote this on their shoes, in black ink. Black ink, on black shoes, just impressed in. Their drill Sergeant had to get really mean about it, but they still would not quit, like this was third grade. So Beverly used white roller ball paint pens to write it on the soles of their shoes when they were sleeping.

Mary Kay had this sweep through just after the turn of the 21st Century. It began in Corporate just below the level of the illustrious head of the company, and swept through the distributorships, so hard and maliciously that she had to release a Corporate Bulletin to disconnect the writing of curses on shoes with the image of Mary Kay products. Not less than 143 women, with no pattern for age of the woman, had distributorships revoked, and 13 fully grown women, and 12 older men were fired from Corporate Employment. Apparently there were several versions of vile phrases running around, but V.O.E. was once again the champion.

Sometimes it reputedly makes its way into the halls of lesser Congresses, and this state or that one will have entire issues decided over which party writes V.O.E on their shoes the most vigorously. Speed limits have been reduced, school lunches revised, and medical care for children has been obliterated and then restored again, entirely on the presence or absence of V.O.E.. One U.S. Congresswoman says, “Don’t assume it happens only at the state level. Immaturity knows no bounds when it comes to the political arena.”. She suspects that V.O.E. makes it so high in the ranks in part because it doesn’t mean anything sensible, and if you use it, maybe you are smart enough to know what it means, giving you an additional layer of superiority over those whom you are cursing. “Poop on you” just can’t equal the mystery and power of V.O.E..

My mother says there is just something really vengefully powerful about writing things like that, that gives you that surge of satisfaction when you are really angry. She says they did that when she was in school. It didn’t fade out until you were a Senior in High School. I had completely forgotten it by the time I was in the Eighth grade (because in 7th grade, at the Jr. High School, V.O.E. does not even EXIST anymore), but she still had it going on in the 11th grade, so by the time she married and had children, it was still fresh enough to have some power, apparently.

She was very mad one day at Ruth, because Ruth had said something inconsiderate, that was so true, my mother had no defenses. She had four small children at home, and one in school, who had been coming home with that on her shoes (She was only in first grade, proving that Longview schools outshone Iowa). So my mother sits down, takes off her shoe, and uses a black pen to write V.O.E. on the bottom of her shoe where nobody will see it. “There! That for Ruth!” she declared, and put the shoe back on, and stomped off to finish her chores, especially hard on THAT foot, confident that nobody need ever know.

(Could it possibly mean “Venom”?)

That evening, she sits in her recliner, and my father walks past, and happens to see the bottom of her shoe. Brown sole with black felt pen on it. He looks at it, and looks at her, and says, “Now, Ellie!”.

She replies, “Sometimes, you just have to do it!”. He laughs, and says, “Well, if that’s what it takes!”.

The next day, Ruth has a stomach ache all day, and can barely keep from throwing up. But so did my mother, and quite a few other ladies in the Ward. Tainted potato salad at a Relief Society Luncheon.

Vox. Who knew? I wonder if it still has a use?

Update: I have been told that 4 hours after publishing my blog, V.O.E. reared it’s head on 4 military bases that had been otherwise peaceful up until that moment. I guess it took V.O.E. to give me the power to influence the world.

This has never been a thing at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii. This is just not how Islanders levy curses – their shoes (if they wear them) don’t accommodate this kind of venomous writing well either. A short 24 hours after this blog was published, V.O.E appeared written on the side of a serving table, right where the suckling pig was supposed to be served. Investigation shows that there are native men on campus there, with V.O.E. written on their FEET. The more abashed of them have it on their soles. The more daring wear it on the instep, or sometimes on the outside edge of their feet. One has written it on his toenails. The first three. He said he wanted to go every other toe with a period in between, but he could not fit the E on the little toenail, and the V would not go either. He has blacked them out, tacit proof of his claim. Three of the women have it written on their kneecaps, and one on the back of her knees. Apparently she did it using a mirror, it is kind of backward. Within another two days it is everywhere, seen and unseen. They brag about having it where you cannot see it. (Take THAT!) On the fourth day, they served up a pig that had not been fully cooked (someone forgot to put it in on time), and it spread intestinal MERSA through the staff and guests. (This will usually give you a yucky stomach ache, but rarely makes you throw up. It just makes you lightly miserable for about six weeks unless you get a good antibiotic or Calendula tea.) A fight broke out the next day, the cook is blaming four other people on campus for the disaster, who have never been near the food. He insists that if they had not written V.O.E. on pictures of a pig, that it would not have happened.

On day 4, Longview once again blew up with V.O.E. It started in the faculty and spread to the Admin building, where not less than 3 secretaries were found at the end of the day with V.O.E. written on their shoes. When asked, they all went sullen, and silent. Finally one sulked, “They did it first.”.

U.S Steel has only about 12% female workers. The rest are male, of all ages. They recently cleaned house, and fired 50% of their unproductive workers, and did NOT rehire. They simply told the rest that the quota was what it was, and they were required to meet it. They did. And 20% of the remaining workers were still found taking standing breaks and talking on their cell phones. They were fired, and things got even MORE productive (now that they were not distracting the actual workers). The day after this blog was published, the General Manager reports that there’s a rumble going down on the casting floor just before lunch time. He goes to investigate, and finds two women down wrestling over a shoe. It is a child’s shoe, and it has been decorated, with flowers, and swirlies, all woven in around multiple instances of V.O.E. It takes a loaded firearm to persuade them to get up and act like adults. One of them has created this for her daughter, multiple pairs, and they are trendy at the grade school, and even in Jr. High in a nearby district. One of the women has tucked it into her pocket to carry with her today, as a potent talisman against we know not what. The other has seen it, and accused the first of having stolen it from HER daughter. Turns out the second one is the one who decorates the shoes, and the first one’s daughter has stolen the shoe from the second one’s daughter. More than 1/3 of the kids at the grade school have this on their shoes, decorated with other things around it, in either felt pen, or raised acrylic paint. It is very popular on the heel. The Manager takes the shoe, and puts it in his office. They are not happy, but they go back to work. At lunch hour, they come to the office and accuse HIM of stealing the shoe. He laughs and says he does not need a child’s shoe. Both of them insist he did it so he would be protected. “Against what? Grade school children with mass insanity? Psychotic Barbie Dolls? Transformers with deadly computers?”. They look at each other, and one shakes her head like you do when someone is about to give away the secret. One takes the shoe, and they walk out of the office. The other one leans over and whispers to the first, “You can’t trust him. He doesn’t get it.”. The Manager follows them, and hands them each a firing notice. The sad thing is, these are people who are now considered to be BETTER workers than average.

Two days after publishing V.O.E. here, Subway has another rash of it going around in emails, and being whispered behind hands behind the counter. Never mind spitting in the sandwich to get revenge on someone, you can just write V.O.E. on the sandwich with the mustard and your triumph is complete.

One Fortune 500 business woman says, “If you knew what V.O.E. really meant, you would not write it on your shoes.”. We aren’t sure if she just means intelligent people don’t do that because it does not make sense, or if we should be really worried.

 

The List…. Just so you can be really worried:

Vox; No, we still don’t know what that means, but everyone says it.

Vengeance: Sounds pretty reasonable.

Venom: Because really mean responses are too much work.

Vascillation: So your enemies can be caught in a state of perpetual indecision.

Vituperation: Just a really cool word meaning something like retaliation.

Vicks: That’s one way to get even!

Vexation: Same to you but more of it.

Vileness:  Since you can’t smear boogers on them.

Varmint: Cats, and rats and elephants, and sure as you’re born… Oh, but elephants aren’t really Varmints.

Varnish: When the whole thing needs a good cover up.

Vacation: Well, that’s one way to get them to go away.

Vittles: Trust me, Vittles ARE a curse for the gourmand.

Vespers: When you pray that they’ll leave by nightfall.

Violence: May the mills of the Gods grind on…

Violets: Overpower them with fluffiness.

Violins: From the bows of beginners…

Volcanoes: Sacrificing your enemies to the wrath of churning bowels.

Vocations: Maybe they can take up something more productive.

Villainy: Perhaps they already have that one!

Vagabonds: Beggars plucking endlessly at their sleeves.

Vegetables: It works for two-year olds!

Vestibules: Cursed to always be confined to the entryway of everything.

Ventriloquists: Bad ones. Whose lips move.

Volumes: The Neverending Story part 20.

They Must Not Have Liked Ruffles

If you put “Latin for ruffles” into Google, you get some interesting options:

Horrifico
Agito
Turbo

Me thinks they do not like ruffles!

So I gathered…

The Collapse Of Google’s Business Model

In case you have not noticed, Google is no longer a Search Engine.

They have become a full on, Paid Directory.

This means they NEVER give you the search results you are looking for. They give you the results from their paid advertisers, with about 3 higher ranked unpaid results (they may give you more if it is a nearly vacated search term).

They made their reputation on SERPs. They no longer have them in any way that matters. (That’s Search Engine Rank Position in case you are not an SEO guru.)

They have consistently DESTROYED their reputation in the last 10 years.

So we know what to do about that, right?

Don’t use them.

Only problem is, Google is now the only game in town, and they SET IT UP like that. Yahoo, Bing, DogPile, DuckDuckGo, and everyone else, PAYS Google for the search engine listings (only a few, do NOT pay… Google still needs them on board). And when they had EVERY OTHER SEARCH ENGINE paying THEM to supply the search results, they moved in for the kill.

And kill they did.

They are responsible for the deaths of countless small businesses, who rely on Organic Search to keep afloat.

Google does not OWE them anything. Google makes money BECAUSE businesses DON’T pay for listings. That brings the WORLD into Google Search Results, and THAT is what made their PPC so valuable.

It is like a Mall. You don’t go to a Mall to buy anything unless the Mall has LOTS of shops. When it is empty, you don’t even go there for a specialty item. So Search Engine Users don’t go when the results are limited.

Google is losing traffic by the freeway full. ‘Cause they’re STOOOPID.

So now, the only way you can get USABLE Google referrals is by paying for them,.. Theoretically, anyway.

Don’t pay for them.

Google cheats you.

In fact, every PPC system I’ve ever used cheated people. When you have 100 clicks coming into your site, and EVERY ONE OF THEM is a BOUNCE, you know you are being cheated. At least 4% or more should LOOK AROUND a little.

But I know that Google cheats the advertisers, because they cheat the publishers. If they’ll cheat on AdSense, they’ll cheat on AdWords.

There are statistical averages in the web world. According to PPC “experts”, Pay Per Click advertising is as good in quality as Organic Search results.

I have never been able to prove that PPC was effective in ANY WAY AT ALL. But I COULD prove that 1 in 200 visitors coming in from other sources (including Organic Search) would make a purchase in the average small business. In a high end (high trust or high dollar) industry, 1 in 400 would make a purchase.

PPC landed a resounding ZERO for results.

And that was when it was actually higher quality, and it is far less now.

Big companies have very low accountability for their advertising budgets. As long as people are still buying, they’ll pour out money on things that don’t work, because they think they have it to spend. And in a way, they do.

If you have a marketing budget that is 0.01% of your non-budgeted revenue, you may have $3 to spend on advertising.

A large company may have $300, or $3,000. They have momentum going for them already. They may or may not feel the need to track the results of that $3,000, or $30,000.

Just how the money shakes out.

But Google is smarter than to just let them pay endlessly for PPC. After all, they HAVE to have “Organic” results as well. So if you PAY for PPC, they will ALSO put you higher in the SERPs. Ever notice that the first 3 pages of Google are filled with the SAME links and brands as the Advertisements? Think that is coincidence?

Of course, they will also put AdSense websites higher in the SERPs, but only a little. If they cannot get those ads SEEN, they cannot CHARGE people for the clicks on them. (This in no way suggests that Google wants to help you make money – it just means that THEY need your site to get a little traffic.)

There are things that tell you that Google is not doing its job.

  1. Traffic that never grows in spite of SEO PLUS backlinks, PLUS growing quality content, PLUS viral marketing, PLUS high quality blog linking, and other known effective methods. You DO THE WORK, and what worked 10 years ago falls flat.
  2. Traffic that is made up of ALL foreign traffic, none from your own country.
  3. Search terms in your stats, that are NOWHERE in your site. You never have RELEVANT search terms reported in your Stats.
  4. Kittens on the Keys search terms in your stats. This means you’ve been Google Bit, and they are no longer sending you any kind of relevant traffic. (Google Bit means they are actively PUNISHING you, and it is NEVER for bad SEO. This is more malicious, because your site is not BANNED, your results are just Quirked.)

Google no longer has a Workable Business Model. Because “Squeeze ‘Em Harder, Pancks!” is NOT EVER an effective business model. It ALWAYS burns out.

Can you smell the smoke and hear the screaming engines yet?

They may be the only game in town for search, but people use them less and less, and the value for advertisers is lower and lower, AND THEY KNOW IT.

And Bing, and Yahoo have hitched their wagons to a falling star. They are HARMED by Google’s skewed SERPs. They are too Corporatized to realize that once you give away your OWN production, and rely on someone else to create the product for you, you enslave yourself. You leave yourself open to being utterly SHUT DOWN by someone else’s choices.

So there’s no use going to them, they are just props to the death machine.

Shame on you, Bing, and you too Yahoo. Shame on all of you who think that you can pay a corrupt competitor to do your fundamental work!

I think Google could pull out. I think they COULD go back to being the best. But I don’t see signs of ANY progress now, only a worsening. It’s like gangrene. If you’d just clean up, and administer some good medicine, you could clear it up before the stink and festering drives you to having to cut off body parts as the infection swarms through the body. (Then again, I think there are parts Google SHOULD cut off, because they’ll never be anything BUT a corrupt and festering stench.)

People used to talk up Google. Now they roll their eyes.

And we don’t even want to get INTO the security issues of All Things Google that are not Google Search.

Another Note About Bing And Yahoo: If a search company has to buy their search results from another company, they DO NOT have an original business model. They don’t have anything to offer that Google does not. All they are, is a faked alternative for Google haters. They don’t offer anything that differentiates them, and in the business world, that is the chimes of death.

At one time, Bing had a successful business model. They were simply an open directory without as much restrictive algorithm as Google. Their search results were NOT AS GOOD in one respect, and that is, they were LESS focused on ORIGINAL content. They would LET the SEO Scammers through.

But on the other hand, when you NEEDED results that were DIFFERENT than Google (and that IS the only reason for needing more than one search engine), Bing had it.  Until they started to buy Google SERPs. They faked originality by a minor reshuffling, and by placing their OWN paid ads above Google’s. But purchasing Google SERPs was the death throes.

Yahoo failed as a paid directory, and they failed as a free directory. They succeeded wildly as a broad spectrum publishing platform with their paid ads distributed through it. As that crashed, they passed through the balance of free directory and free search engine, with paid ads and paid placements in the directory. They HAD a successful business model until Google tanked them by freaking them out and making them react badly in the wrong direction. And then they began to buy Google SERPs, and everything Yahoo declined from that day.

The day you hire someone who says, “We don’t need to make this. We can just resell that.” is the day you let thieves and rogues take over your company. Because the person who says that does not understand business. They understand laziness. They make a living off laziness, and false information. They’ll also make a living off fraud, and let others do that off your business. Your employees will cart your business and profits off, piece by piece.

And you asked for it.

Business Cards? Who Uses Business Cards?

Business cards are still a useful business tool. We don’t care WHAT Millennials tell us about marketing, just because they are disconnected, doesn’t mean the entire business world marches to their whims.

Business cards are still a standard, and good for so many things.

  1. Carry them on you, and hand them out when you get into a conversation that leads toward what you do. I’ve handed them out in the checkout line at the grocery store.
  2. Any time you set up a display for your business, carry them, and make sure they are available. If you bring other promos, let the Lookie Lous have the business cards. Hand out the more costly promos ONLY to those who seem like good prospects, if you get into a good conversation with someone. Don’t let the kids come buy and take them all, that doesn’t do you any good.
  3. If you beat the streets hunting work, a business card is essential, but that’s not the only thing we use them for.
  4. You can write a note on the back, when you get a question from someone, so they have the answer on a business card.
  5. Use them to share your phone number when the person does not have a phone – Yeah, there ARE people who don’t!
  6. Use them with a discount code on them, and write “pass this to a friend”. Drop them into every package you mail.
  7. Instead of printing a brochure or catalog, put a reference to it on your business card so they can access your website or a download link for a catalog.
  8. You can even set up a PDF of a sheet of your pass along discount card for your prospects to download and print.
  9. There are novel business card types, and various types of items you can sub for business cards to get attention, but be warned, they are ALL EXPENSIVE.

Business cards are not dead at all. They are still one of the FIRST Things you can create to promote your business, even if you have an online business.

If your business needs a boost, it just might be worth downloading a free copy of Serif Page Plus SE to whip out some snazzy new cards.

I’m Still Hot Stuff, I’ve Just Been On The Back Burner

All of our associates and clients knew when we scaled our business down. We kept only a few select clients, and we rerouted our efforts into other lines, Fermenta Cap being the most notable. I’ve also written and published more than twenty books including web and business instructions, small farm and garden instructions, pickling instructions, short stories, fairy tales, and novels.

In that time, I’m still building websites. I’m still maintaining them. I’m still troubleshooting them. Just not as much.

Our Web Services site is live again, and I have all kinds of associates who used to use us for troubleshooting, and who referred people to us now and again, but who won’t anymore. We are no longer on their radar.

Same with prospective clients. Even if they find us, they wonder if we’ve still got it. I guess they’ll have to work that one out for themselves.

I tried to list the things I have the skills to do. I could not list them all.

I could not list all the web software I know how to install, configure, use, and troubleshoot.

I could not list all the desktop software I can competently use, not even the ones I know expert tips for.

I keep coming up with more things. And I can’t begin to describe them in terms that even my associates grasp, let alone ones that my prospective clients will comprehend.

Coming back is harder than starting out ever was.

The web is older, and it is not as friendly.

Marketing is harder. Exponentially harder. All the good venues are gone, and we are left trying to pretend that Facebook actually helps us in our business.

People are different. They don’t want to network, and they don’t want to learn badly enough to try to search for resources in the way they used to. They really want even the hardest answers to fit into a text on their phone.

I’m not just indulging in a grumble, just observing, in case anyone else is also here, that the playing field has changed, and there are now rocks and holes where it used to be grassy or sandy.

But I’m still bubbling. I’ve added water, and scraped off a few scorched bits.

Time to give it a good hard stir, and turn up the heat, I guess.

Are Web Designers REALLY This DUMB? (What Happened to Website Functionality?)

I put my website back together. I was ready to go back to work. Unfortunately, I do not have the images I need for it. So it looks kinda unfinished.

Understand. When you offer certain types of services, it is HARD HARD HARD to find “speaking” images. When you offer training, it is nearly impossible to find anything that conveys the process of learning or teaching. So the lack of images is not incompetency on my part, and I cannot just go get them at BigStockPhoto either. They don’t HAVE them.

I did what all good business people do. I went to see what the competition had, to see if I might be able to fake it like they do!

Their sites are worse than mine!

Oh, they HAVE images. Not good ones, but they HAVE them. They just have BIG images.

In fact, that is ALL they have!

They are VERY contemporary. And really STOOOPID.

The prevalent design seems to be totally dysfunctional.

One big image.

Three words.

One button.

For some, that is ALL THEY HAVE.

Perhaps, in a few, some indecipherably small menu links across the top. Not more than 5. Filled with teeny tiny text that blurs together it is so small. I don’t have the best eyesight right now (stopped wearing glasses when my eyesight was worse WITH them than without), and it wasn’t that! NOBODY could read them!

The one big image does not tell me what they do.

The three words tell me what they want me to want from them. But not NEARLY enough to tell me whether they HAVE what I want.

The one button gives me TWO choices only. One is to “START HERE”. The other is to LEAVE.

Why do I want to START HERE?

Start WHAT?

You have not let me get READY to START HERE. I am not ready to start something I have not CHOSEN to do with YOU. And you have not LET me investigate. You have, in fact, SHUT DOWN every opportunity to investigate!

So I click START HERE. I have no other choice if I want to know whether I can see WHAT THEY OFFER.

I then am presented with another ACT OR LEAVE choice. Not a good idea when you just met someone!

The page shows a SIGNUP FORM.

I don’t even know if I WANT what you offer, and I have to SIGN UP in order to find out if you offer something I even want to INVESTIGATE.

I’m in INVESTIGATIVE MODE, and you force me to COMMIT!

I don’t know WHAT YOU WANT ME TO COMMIT TO! Or what it will COST me!

So I exercise the only other option they give me.

I leave.

If I am not going to sign up with a store just to see whether I MIGHT want to buy from them, I am not going to sign up with YOU just to see what you offer. You are just another Zulilly and I’m no sucker.

Under the teeny tiny menu links of another almost IDENTICAL site, I discover a page of product listings. Each product listing has a list of features, and a price. NO IMAGES!!!

Ok, so I don’t mind that so much, but so far they’ve not shown me ONE SINGLE EXAMPLE of the nifty thing they said they could do for me, and now they are expecting me to click the BUY button! A fairly EXPENSIVE buy button at that!

They do not let me SEE what I might be able to buy. They only offer me the choice of BUY, or go away!

I went away.

Another similar site HAS IMAGES!!! They have a Flash Rotator.

Aparently they LOVE their Flash Rotator.

They have 12 of them.

All in rows.

You cannot see all of the rows at once. There are TWO rotators PER ROW, and they scroll down, down, down.

I can see TWO ROWS at a time.

That is FOUR images that keep changing. Fairly rapidly. ALL AT ONCE!

After 10 seconds my eyeballs want to fall out of my head and keep on bouncing. Everything is moving.

It is like having to document every move of 12 toddlers. ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

It didn’t matter anyway.

EVERY SINGLE IMAGE WAS THE SAME!

They just had different pictures behind them. Other than that, they were identical. They were all just as dysfunctional as the website they were displayed on.

Honestly folks, a SINGLE ROTATOR would have done! Heck, a SINGLE IMAGE would have done, they are all the same thing!

I sighed. This stuff is just so dumb.

And I’m still stuck with a site that looks half finished.

I know just ONE THING.

I am NOT going to finish it like those websites!

It Isn’t Worth It, Google

Every time I login to my Google AdSense account, I am greeted by dire warnings that if I don’t put an ads.txt file in every one of my AdSense sites, that my earnings will be at risk.

At risk of what, Google?

Going down?

You already did that!

You already did that so hard that nobody makes more than a few dollars where they used to make a hundred. Or a thousand.

You already annihilated the income of literally millions of small business owners who partnered with you, to make YOU rich, and to make them financially stable.

They kept their part of the bargain. Why didn’t you?

I don’t see how my earnings could be more at risk than they already are! You’ll punish me whether I put the thing in or not.

And then there’s the robots.txt file that Google notoriously ignores. This tells us that if we DO put one in, and you ever give us a reason to actually want to use the thing, that you’ll ignore it also. (‘Cause the reason you give me to put one in is really silly, and a waste of my time, since if someone DOES rogue my ads, they aren’t going to be stopped by THAT, any more than YOU are stopped by a robots.txt file.)

Not worth the effort, really.

Someone suggested to me that Google may penalize my account for having written this.

Seriously?

Would I honestly NOTICE?

‘Cause Google has just about run out of leverage when it comes to withdrawing any benefit to the browser, the publisher, or the advertiser.

And we won’t even get into the two-way usage terms which WE have to abide by, but which THEY will not!

And Then I Lost My Appetite

Shared with me today:

The girl behind the counter was wearing a mask. This being a restaurant, I asked if she was sick. She said not really, but she had a runny nose, from the heat and her allergies, and her boss said she had to mask and glove up. I wondered immediately if she needed to perform surgery on my sandwich.

I told her, helpfully, “Sucks to be you!”. She sighed, and looked discouraged, and said, “Why does everybody keep saying that to me?”.

I can always find something positive in a situation, so I told her, “At least it keeps your nose from dripping in the food.” She looked up and replied, “Well, yes, but sometimes I have to lift my mask.” She turned her back to me and did just that. She lifted the mask, wiped her dripping nose with her gloved hand, and went back to the cash register with an expectant look. Surely I was ready to order NOW!

This restaurant had two cash registers, on opposite sides of the dining room, one for one popular brand, one for the other, along with two kitchens, one for each brand.

The large “Eat Safely” sign persuaded me that a psychotic was probably running this chain, because it instructed customers to maintain a 6 ft distance, wear a mask if they were sick, and to never accept food from someone who appeared sick. But this masked and gloved girl was rendered safe to serve food by a paper mask and a pair of gloves with a hole in one finger. The manager in the back is assembling food, periodically coughing, no gloves, no mask, and the occasional scratch to his nose. He also had to stop periodically to pull his pants up in back, with the hand he was using to assemble the food. I am a practicing physician, and I am not afraid of the common cold, no matter how many lies some of my colleagues tell about it to milk the government cash cow, but this was beyond believable in an eating establishment.

I looked hard at her and said, “I’ll just order from the other side.” I left the counter, and walked to the other order counter in the nearly deserted restaurant. She left her cash register, and walked around behind and came over to the cash register I now stood in front of. “Can I help you?” she asked, just as the cook with the sagging pants walked around from the kitchen he was working in, to the other. I already knew my quest for food here was probably hopeless.

“Do you always wear a mask?” I asked. She sighed again and said, “Why do people always keep asking me that? I mean, like, aren’t you afraid you’ll get sick?”.

“Yes. I think I really am.” I said, and turned and left the restaurant, just as she said to the man behind me, “YES! I always wear a mask!”, and he replied, “Sucks to be you!”.

We are still looking for a place, two hours later, who will just SERVE US A MEAL, without contaminating it in the process with their novel “COVID-19 Response Policies”.

Pity the Orange and Purple

If a person is yellow
He may be a good fellow
If someone is red
They can still earn their bread
If a child is green
They may be scrubbed clean
If a friend is blue
They may still love you
If a cousin is pink
They may still learn to think
But pity the man who is orange
Or the woman who is purple

 

This is a joke. Some people will not get it.

Stouffer’s, Did You Pee In My Chicken?

I run a family safe blog, so my deepest apologies to those people who did not need to hear the “P” word here today. There was just no other way to say it.

We loved Stouffer’s Chicken Alfredo meal. We had watched the quality of their lasagna decline until I could not really eat it anymore (No meat, no cheese, just noodles and sauce.), but we bought a few other dishes every few weeks to alternate with other once or twice a week shortcut meals. The Chicken Alfredo was actually good.

A few months ago we brought home a large size Chicken Alfredo (and yes, it WAS Stouffer’s, the stores we shop at don’t carry any other brand of Chicken Alfredo). A few days later I opened it up and flipped it onto a cookie sheet, and then flipped it again into a metal baking dish – we don’t do plastic and paper in the oven here I’m too allergic to plastic – and I popped it into the oven, and we went off to do livestock chores (this is a pompous way of saying “feeding the chickens”).

When we came in, I pulled the Alfredo out of the oven, and noticed it smelled different. Not strongly so, but THERE. I dished it up anyway, and we sat down to eat. The first bite of chicken and I KNEW something was REALLY WRONG. It tasted so foul that I could not eat any of the chicken… I picked it out and got some of the noodles down, but could not even eat much more of that. We ended up tossing out most of the dish, which should have lasted more than one meal.

We have never bought it again.

It was a day or so after that disaster that I realized the smell in the dish was Ammonia.

The Tyson Chicken we put in the oven a few weeks later was simpler to identify. When the oven door opened at the timer beep, a cloud of urine smell rose from the chicken to assault my nose. If you overcook it, the smell dies down enough that you can gag it down, but you find yourself NOT wanting to eat any leftovers, or cook any more of it!

A short time before the Chicken Alfredo went off, I stopped buying Hillshire Farms Smoked Sausage. The flavor was so disgusting I could not finish a hotdog sized sausage.

NOTE: Somewhere around the beginning of 2021 I took a risk and bought a large 3 pack of the big loop sausages – Hillshire Farms Smoked Beef Sausage. I cook them well, and they are ok again. They seem a little lacking in salt and flavor, but they do not gross me out or make me sick. I do not know about the smaller ones, I’ve not tried them again, yet.

How can you eat food like that? How can manufacturers SELL food like that?

The problem with all of these foods is Ammonia. This is a LOT MORE than just using ammonia on the processing line, they have so much you know they PUT IT INTO THE FOOD.

Now, let me make this absolutely clear…

There is NO JUSTIFIABLE REASON to put AMMONIA into food! If you do, it is not FOOD anymore! It is POISON.

Ammonia is difficult for kidneys and liver to clear from your system. And excess ammonia in the body is known to be neurotoxic, and to cause a form of degenerative dementia (resembling Alzheimer’s in many cases), and a condition that is similar to dopamine resistant Parkinson’s, as well as neurotransmitter deficient seizures, an increased risk of several types of cancers, and various forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Ammonia in food is deadly.

Short term, or long term, it kills.

So watch out, folks. There’s a distinct YUCKY flavor to this stuff, and much of it smells of urine, which is the smell of Ammonia. Many kinds of processed meats not mentioned here have this in it, as do many processed meals.

There are a number of other products I have to warn you about, and they maye Ammonia or some other contaminant in them, I can only GUESS what they’ve done, by flavor, and tendency to vomit after consumption.

The first blew us away when we discovered that Nesquik had changed their recipe in the bottled chocolate milk.

It was readily apparent that whatever it was flavored with, it WAS NOT CHOCOLATE. It tasted more like a blend of burnt soybeans and burnt carob. NASTY. It was also apparent that whatever was flavored with the Not-Chocolate, was NOT MILK! The underlying flavor of soy, and the thin and watery consistency of it clearly indicated that a cow had nothing to do with the new recipe – I admit I may actually be wrong here, they COULD have thrown in a miniscule amount of powdered milk, but if they did, they held out enough that you can’t actually say they did! There is a chemically sweet unnatural flavor that is so scary to find in food that we are pretty certain that it is contaminated with other nasty things. We can TASTE that the ingredients listed on the label (which did not change), are NOT ACTUALLY IN the end product! Finishing the 16 oz bottle was NOT possible!

Watch out… It DOES cause stomach upset. Some people vomit from it. Too bad Wal-Mart stopped carrying Promised Land Chocolate Milk. That stuff is the ultimate in chocolate milk, and my husband’s life long love affair with Nesquik was utterly shattered by Promised Land Midnight Chocolate Milk. No more bottled Nesquik for him, but he’s aching for a pre-mixed option that he can get locally now that Nesquik is undrinkable.

Red Button Triple Chocolate Chunk ice cream (which says “Old Fashioned Creamery” on the label) also gets panned here, it has the SAME flavor as the new bottled Nesquik, and by the time you get into the second scoop, you just know you will never want another bowl of whatever THAT was! Ice cream hides the nastiness better, because of the chill, but it does not hide the belly-ache that follows. Somehow I suspect that if any old fashioned creameries made anything like this, they were not on the end of town where one goes to buy the good stuff.

The next one disappointed us also, and is a bit of a tragedy for my husband, who used to love Chef Boyardee Ravioli for a quick lunch. His enjoyment had lessened, year by year, as they pronounced meat to be outdated, and extolled the virtues of soy, one of which they apparently believe is that you will never be able to tell they put it in instead of real meat!

We noticed. The fact that it was on sale did not entice us to purchase more.

The latest change though, like Nesquik, is so major that their label should have changed to reflect a change of ingredients, and it did not. I do not even know how to describe the changes.

The ravioli are stiff and the pasta is almost toughly crumbly, and does not have a clean pasta flavor – the color is dark and dirty looking. You WILL notice if you attempt to eat them. You can’t really finish a can of them, or even a half can, if you have any sense of TASTE at all!

The sauce is thin, and the flavor is off. That kind of nauseating “off” that makes you wonder whether the can was properly sealed, or whether it came in contact with animal waste products prior to distribution. Very yucky!

I don’t know if it is Ammonia in the token bit of meat they may still be putting in, or melamine in the flour, or some other nasty thing. What I can say unequivocally is, that SOMETHING IN THEM IS NOT FOOD.

The next major issue I had was that the last box of anything Hostess that I purchased almost a year ago was inedible also. The Zingers, which should have tasted of chocolate and that mysterious white greasy sweet stuff they put in the middle, tasted instead of Chocolate Engine Oil. And I’m pretty sure that is a product that is NOT made for use in food! It as such a strong flavor that you could not mistake it, and I was not able to eat them. Engine Oil is not a smell or taste you should find in FOOD!

Food Club brand Orange Juice is something I bought ONE TIME. The carton. The flavor is sorta scary sweet, washed out, and weirdly wrong. You don’t figure out there is really something wrong for a couple of days if you have one glass a day. But this orange juice toxed me in the same way heavy air fresheners do (you know, the neurotoxic kind that gives you insomnia and microseizures?). Something in this is a thing that should NEVER be consumed as a beverage, let alone a healthful one! That thing that happens when you take a drink and say, “Well… I suppose it does have some orange flavor… but how odd… is that sweet natural?”. That thing. That is the only warning you get with this one. Three days in, you start to get sick, and you don’t get better until the orange juice goes away.

I also have to add in Simply Orange Juice, purchased at Arby’s some two years after the writing of this original post. It had SOMETHING in it that WAS NOT FOOD. I took a swig, and swallowed, and my mouth was filled with cologne. Seriously! A chemical astringent base with PERFUME over the top. You could still taste the orange juice, but whatever else was in there just rose up as soon as you swallowed, and overpowered the orange. It was so bad I could not drink any more, and threw away a nearly full bottle. How can a company known for good juice sink so low?

I absolutely LOVE Santa Cruz Organic Apple Juice (can’t vouch for whether it is still as good as it was or not, they are not the one that messed me up). I cannot get it anymore, but I loved the stuff. One day I could not get it, and Knudsen’s Organic Apple Juice was there instead. The three quart bottle. Both are a pressed cider type product, not a steamed juice type product, which is what I wanted.

I bought it. I regretted it.

I opened the bottle, and I could smell the chlorine in it – it produces a distinct chemical smell, that takes a bit to identify because of how it interacts with the apple juice, but it is identifiable because it is SO strong. I could not drink it. Chlorine overload gives me raging headaches and causes a flare of IBS (and if I am not careful, will lead to Crohn’s again), and if I ignore that set of symptoms (or cannot avoid the chlorine), it will precipitate an allergic crisis which ends in anaphylactic shock. Not somewhere I can go.

Shame on you, Knudsen’s, for adding chlorine to a pressed apple cider type product! There was NO CAUSE to add water to it, and NO CAUSE to have chlorine in the product at all! This seriously disappointed me, and their brand instantly became one that I cannot trust.

They just keep coming, and I find I am needing to add to the list now and again.

Marie Calendar, how could you? So much for home cooked goodness. The breaded chicken in your freezer dinners is only edible if you have a craving for textured soy imitation meat. EYOOO. The Orange Chicken was hard to think of as chicken. It tasted like about half Chicken TVP. Not what I wanted to find in one of the more expensive meals! Even Banquet does better than this!

The Homestyle Breaded Chicken Breast Tenders are so obviously stamped out in a chicken molding machine that I have not been able to even contemplate microwaving the package to see if maybe they forgot and put some real chicken in them.

I don’t know about you, but I do NOT make breaded chicken tenders at home by chopping up the leftovers of the butchered chicken, adding soy flour, and pressing them into a pseudo-chicken tender shape! You should at least change the name of them if you intend to go on passing this substance off as chicken!

Huge Disappointment, for sure. But also a dangerous thing. I am a recovered Crohn’s patient, and I am still sensitive to the things that gave it to me in the first place. Soy is one of those things. Kids with peanut allergies also have a high rate of soy allergy reactions, and individuals with acquired metabolic damage (this is a damaging world we live in, this is a large percentage of the population) cannot digest soy (or other beans, tuna, peanuts, eggs, and several other types of proteins and partial proteins). You just can’t put that stuff in there and call it “meat”, there are too many people with problems with it!

Stewart’s Sodas have also gone rogue. I had a Key Lime Soda yesterday, and it was ok. It was not wonderful. Stewart’s Key Lime is WONDERFUL soda. Stewart’s Sodas are PREMIUM sodas. The expensive stuff. And you know it when you drink it. The Key Lime is mellow, the Orange Cream is rich, and the Cream Soda is sweetly gentle. And this was not. But it WAS ok. The Cream Soda was NOT OK at ALL. I’m not sure what they flavored that with, but I can tell you it was NOT Vanilla! An added bonus is that it leaves an artificial flavor lingering on your palate, to warn you not to take that next sip too soon. I could not finish the bottle. I kept thinking maybe I could, but by the third sip, it was clear that I was NOT going to be able to trick myself into believing that it was Cream Soda, nor any other drinkable soft drink. I wasn’t even thinking ENJOYABLE, just SWALLOWABLE. And this is not.

Now I know what was wrong with the Key Lime. The vanilla flavor was NOT vanilla. How dumb do you have to be to substitute something for vanillin? I mean, vanillin is a substitute for vanilla. We can deal with that. Vanillin is CHEAP. And you use VERY LITTLE of it. How much, really, could you save by subbing something else that MIGHT be a few pennies cheaper per pound? It doesn’t even change the price of the soda! This is how corporations commit suicide. By COLLOSSALLY DUMB decisions that compromise their entire product appeal.

This is not just soda, it is EXPENSIVE soda. It was on sale. I got lots. Now I know why it was on sale. (Gotta watch that, it is a new trend. Thing goes on sale, it is a new recipe nobody liked. Can’t trust anything on sale anymore!)

Shame on you, Stewart’s. We will miss you.

Colossally disgusting. Completely inedible. Dangerously contaminated.

Call it what you will, these companies deserve to go under. They deserve to have America (and anywhere else where these products are sold) turn away and refuse to buy. They deserve to be held accountable.

I sincerely hope that somewhere in here there is a fluke. Just a single time error on the line. Because the food was entirely inedible, and I no longer trust any of these companies, and cannot buy ANYTHING that they produce.

NOTE: These were my honest experiences with these foods. If these companies wish to refute, they will have to do so with edible food that replaces the products that are inedible. I sincerely hope others have had better experiences, but I did not.

Rumpled Skin and the Queen’s Stilts, A Historic Fairy Tale With Sarcasm

Once upon a time, in a land we hope does not actually exist, there lived a King. It is always a King, it has to be… Occasionally a Prince, but we know he HAS to grow up to be a King. Otherwise it would not be a fairy tale.

This King, like all Kings, needed clothing. And the clothing MUST be fine! If it were not fine, he would cease to be King, and look like all the other sad relics in his oppressed Kingdom. (Of course they were oppressed! He’s a King after all!)

 

And so begins the fairy tale… I’ve taken down the entire story, and left only the very beginning.

You really CAN spin straw into gold.

Watch for the eBook on Amazon, for Kindle, or in our bookstore, at http://firelightheritagefarm.com

When Hearts Fail

I don’t know if I can ever publish this (note: apparently I can). But I’ll try to write it.

I don’t talk anymore. My kids have their lives, and call to see if we are ok. And I have nothing to say. I want to. But it is not there. A combination of lack of interesting things in my life, and deeply private processing of thoughts and circumstances that one only shares fully with God.

The last eight years have been the most brutal of my entire life. Family, work, health. All exquisitely painful so much of the time that there were days I could barely breathe with the hurt of it.

I knew absolutely before this that I wanted a long life. I wanted another 50 years. I wanted more of the work, the laughter, and I’d endure the discomforts and disruptions to get it.

When I got it, it was not anything like a continuation of life. It was a slow descent into the borders of Hell that left me feeling like Remi standing in front of the hardware store, crying, “You’re telling me life can only be more of THIS???”. Crying to Heavenly Father that if it were 50 more years of the last several, it really wasn’t what I’d asked for more of.

Other than the obvious that our close friends know about, the worst has been the uselessness. Purposelessness. I live. I do things. I write about them. I have a husband who loves me, and he is often my motivation to keep going. But there is so little meaningful activity in my life at times that I look ahead toward the stretching years, thinking that if they contain nothing but this, that they are bleak beyond enduring. Trapped in every way, and unable to make the changes we knew we SHOULD have been able to, but lacking the resources to even plan a way out. All I could do, and all I can do now, is strive to determine what God wants of me, and to try to do it, even when I cannot. It keeps me breathing, and once in a while, it hands me something to do that puts a little spark of interest back into my life again.

But it still isn’t the kind of thing you can talk about.

I learned to forage for wild mushrooms, and gathered a collection of around 100 edible types, and dried enough that I can have pretty much any kind I want whenever I want them. Not being a great mushroom eater, I still cannot explain to anyone why I am so fascinated by mycology, but it is certain that the bin of mushrooms that I collected will probably last us a decade or two (they are dehydrated).

I learned to can some things I had not known how to can, and I discovered that if you had the right pressure canner that it did not have to be a terrible sentence to have to babysit it, because it did not require constant vigilance, simply being able to HEAR it.

You see? How many people in the world really get excited because you discovered that you could actually can your own pork and beans that tasted pretty close to actual pork and beans? The average person, their eyes glaze over… And my family and friends are no exception!

I bought some plants, and explored some possibilities with container gardening, grew some herbs, learned to use them effectively. And I wrote about it. This took two whole years. The rest of the world remained largely oblivious to my efforts, and likely will stay that way, even if I do get the pictures to finish the book about it. No conversation starters there.

This winter, in a series of events that were so discouraging and personally grieving, our living circumstances changed. The events involved several other individuals, and little good would come from detailing who did what to whom, but they were the catalyst for another set of challenges, with obstacles we simply cannot overcome in spite of doing all the right things to do so.

When the commotion subsided, I found myself with a bag of Mohair. I’ve told the story elsewhere, and intend this to be quite a bit shorter, because I’m not taking this account in the same direction.

A kind friend gave me a drop spindle. I wanted to skippy-do right there, but my feet don’t move that nimbly right now. So I inadequately expressed my thanks, and went home to fret. It was Sunday, and I had not yet realized spinning is actually a good Sunday activity. I took it up on Monday, and my life changed in a way so small that the onlooker would not comprehend the significance.

There are events in your life that you know saved it. I don’t mean saved me from suicide, I’m not the type. I don’t mean saved me from physical decline, I was actually getting better. I mean, saved me by giving me something interesting to do.

I never thought SPINNING would be interesting. It has been far more than that. It has been educational, thought provoking, metaphorical, peaceful, comforting, and physically easier than I thought it would be. It has also evolved, from “how you are supposed to do this”, to “how you can do this better”.

I made all my equipment except that first gifted drop spindle, and a wire dog brush that I got to use as a flick carder.

I also learned old ways of doing the whole wool to yarn process, that do not require so many tools, and which are far simpler than what I’d been taught. I was taught that many things were NECESSARY that were not, and that some things were NOT necessary that ARE the majority of the time. I LEARNED rules for when they are and are not necessary, and the process of spinning is so simple compared to what I was told it had to be.

I learned that it need not be painful, though sometimes my hands or arm does get sore from working at it a lot during a single day.

When I say I made most of the equipment, I don’t mean that I looked on Pinterest, or Googled Spinning Wheel designs and went to the shop to craft an heirloom.

I mean that I went into the back yard where the elms and wild cherry were turning into thickets, and pruned branches, and made spindles, yarn blockers, a nostepinne, and a loom, from small branches.  Doing that lead to learning a way to spin with a drop spindle that did not hurt my back.

I now have a REALLY neat collection of sticks. They work for this or that in the process of getting fiber to a ball of 2-ply yarn. But they are really just a bunch of sticks. People just don’t get what I’m even talking about!

Spinning has surprised me. It is that easy thing to do, that does not require much thought, that keeps the hands busy, while your mind is engaged elsewhere. It is the thing you can do when you HAVE to sit down, but feel guilty if you are not working.

I didn’t expect to love it. I didn’t expect to learn so much about fibers and history. I have not yet persuaded Kevin to take up the Kingly art, but it feels like one of those skills you learn, and that you keep, because there is a PLACE for it

I like that it is part of a chain of activities, from raising an animal, to creating a knitted, crocheted, or woven item. It seems to complete other skills that I have already. It also involves a series of skills with itself that have been interesting to learn.

But this is still not something I can talk about. “I learned to spin.”. “Oh… that’s… Nice?” You see?

It gives time to think, and I’ve been able to process many of the events that have been so hard to understand. The personal revelations are so mind expanding, and sacredly private, that words are not adequate, even if I did have the need to share it.

I still have nothing to say that is not so difficult that other people turn away. And I cannot bear that either.

But if I have something to do… ANYTHING honorable that I CAN do, it makes things bearable, even when things are so difficult in other ways.

And I CAN spin. I can spin sheep wool, Alpaca, Mohair, and silk. Silk is my favorite, it just FEELS more fun to spin. Eventually I’ll try flax and Cotton. I just want to KNOW.

I’m also learning to weave.

And it’s no great conversation starter.

Grow a Garden!

Gardening doesn't have to be that hard! No matter where you live, no matter how difficult your circumstances, you CAN grow a successful garden.

Life from the Garden: Grow Your Own Food Anywhere Practical and low cost options for container gardening, sprouting, small yards, edible landscaping, winter gardening, shady yards, and help for people who are getting started too late. Plenty of tips to simplify, save on work and expense.