Black Friday Blues

f93e6108_Bearcostume-blackfridayI love my wife. I love her for so many reasons. But one particular reason I love her so much is for her sarcastic-charged logic.

She’s gotten frustrated over the dozen or so Facebook posts about boycotting retail stores that are open on Thanksgiving. So she says to me, “The next time I see a post like that I’m going to respond by saying, ‘If you’re going to not go shopping for that reason, then you need to not use your computer or phone and not watch your TV all day on Thanksgiving.'”

She’s right because I work in the cable/internet industry as my day job until I become a best-selling author, and I’m having to work today on Thanksgiving so that I can ensure people continue to get their cable and internet.

So basically, if you’re going to boycott anything, don’t go halvsies – go all the way and don’t use any of your services.

I’m talking full-on Sabbath Day Pharisee-style.

Don’t even think about watching the Macey’s Day Parade, because those 3,000+ parade-people are technically working by promoting their shows or businesses or causes.

And football? Forget about it! Even though I don’t consider athletes as citizens contributing to society, they’re also working for their paychecks. So if you’re going to boycott retail stores, stay home by all means, but don’t turn that TV on!

And heck, don’t even drive the car because that means highway patrolmen have to be stationed on the road to check your speed.

And for the turkey’s sake, don’t go to any grocery store – even if you had committed the unforgivable sin of forgetting the potatoes or Egg Nog. That’s right – you’re stuck with no mashed potatoes for your Thanksgiving table and your family is going to taunt you about it for the rest of your life and spit on your grave. (“That’s for Thanksgiving ’14! Patooey!”)

So basically, don’t feel bad for the people working on Thanksgiving – we’ve got 364 other nights of the year to have turkey and mashed potatoes. Personally, I’m glad for the extra pay so I can spoil my little girl that much more for Christmas.

But if you do decide not to go to Target on Thanksgiving night, thank you, in advance. That’s one less person I’ll have to stand in line behind when I get off from work to buy all my DVDs for dirt cheap.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

And help me quit my day job and become a best-selling author by buying my book here!

Click here for proper customer etiquette to practice this Black Friday

Customer Etiquette


I wrote this back when I worked in retail. Start your Thanksgiving holiday off with a good laugh, and remember, retail workers are people, too!

Customer Etiquette: 10 Tips on How to Be a Good Customer

As you gear up for your holiday shopping spree, keep in mind that as soon as you step foot inside a store you cease to be an average law-abiding citizen and you instantly become a dreaded customer who is the cause of raised blood pressures amongst retail workers everywhere.

But you don’t have to be a loathsome customer. You can make the decision right now to be a customer who takes retail workers by surprise and actually walks in and out of the store with little or no lasting consequence to anyone. Below are ten tips to help you be that most coveted, invisible customer. Remember, it’s not because retail workers don’t like you as a person, they just don’t want to deal with you as a customer!

1. If someone is wearing a nametag, don’t ask if they work there.

Do you ask Will Ferrell if he’s an actor? Do you ask a monkey if he’s an exhibit at the zoo?

2. Look for your product, not for a worker.

Sure, you might be in a hurry, but you’d be surprised how easy things are to find in many stores.  In fact, positions are held at corporate levels specifically designed to determine in-store placement of every product to help make your shopping experience as quick and easy as possible.

3. If you have to ask, at least know what you’re asking for.

Retail workers don’t want to shop with you and you shouldn’t expect them to. Don’t ask their opinion on what toy Johnny would like best. They’ve never seen Johnny, and they don’t care what you get him as long as you buy something. If you’re looking for a book, know the title and – equally important – the author. If you simply give the description of the cover, then know that when you’re laughing with somebody at your Christmas party, someone’s laughing at you at theirs.

Helpful hint: If you can’t read your child’s wish list, don’t expect anyone else to be able to. Confirm items in question with your child or just get them a spelling workbook for their stocking.

4. Don’t interrupt someone’s work to ask a question.

If a worker’s arms are full while balancing on the top step of a ladder, be considerate; don’t bother them with your question. Instead, if you find yourself approaching that dutiful worker, stop and ask yourself three things: 1) Will I look like a jerk for interrupting this person’s work? 2) Is there anyone else I can ask? 3) Have I exercised tip 3 on this list?

5. Be patient. Retail workers understand you have to shop. Please understand that they have to help everybody else.

Yes, yes, I know you’re a customer, but still, the world does not revolve around you, and despite that old slogan, you’re not always right. No one wants to see your impression of Scrooge. If you’re going to be pushy, impatient, or irreverent, then stay home and don’t come out until you can at show some Christmas cheer.

Helpful hint: If you’re showing signs of aggression or odious behavior, a cunning retail worker will recognize this and deliberately take their time with the customer ahead of you. Yes, just to tick you off even more.

6. Just because someone is wearing a nametag does not give you permission to call them by their name.

Retail workers do not choose to have their name displayed on their shirt; it’s company policy. Do not, I repeat, do not repeatedly use their name in a conversation or to get their attention lest they think you’re going to stalk them on Facebook. Despite what you’ve heard from so-called experts, it’s really the creepiest thing in the world and you will be resented for it. Only if the worker offers you their name are you permitted to address them by such.

7. Open your eyes. Read the signs. Follow the directions.

If you’re standing in the checkout line waiting to ask the cashier a customer service question, you are sorely misusing your time. But do the world of retail (and the customers behind you) a favor while you’re standing there. Look at all the large-print signs they put up just for you and consider for the next few minutes whether you should really yield to their directions. When the cashier doesn’t leave her register unattended to lead you to where you want to go, don’t throw a fit. Instead, reflect on the valuable lesson you learned about time management.

8. Cell phone usage… where do I start?

Other than advising customers to use their inside voice (no one wants to hear about your digestive disorders or how your boyfriend hates your cats), I’m just going to address one overlooked issue out of the plethora of misuses with this devise. You might be able to afford that fancy phone you’re showing off, but that retail worker you’re refusing to hang the phone up for is likely struggling through college or has been affected by the economy (hence, they’re working in retail). You don’t need to show your fancy gadgets off to them. Hang up the phone and speak to them as an equal human being.

Helpful Hint: Bluetooths make you look like you’re talking to yourself. Sensible people will mock you.

9. Put things back where you found them!

Retail workers are not maids. They have enough to do without cleaning up your messes (really, they do). Throw your trash away. If you can’t remember where you found an item, return to the general area, stare at the shelf and match the picture of the item in your hand with the item on the shelf. Don’t place it next to, or on top of it. Instead, place the product directly in front of the matching item. If you don’t know how to match pictures and put things back where you found them, then find a time machine, go back in time and repeat kindergarten.

10. If someone wishes you a Merry Christmas, don’t take them to court.

No one celebrates every holiday observed in December, so “happy holidays” is not an applicable greeting for anyone (plus, it just sounds like some sappy Hallmark special). If someone wishes you a happy Hanukkah and you don’t observe Hanukkah, don’t take offense – just feel free to wish them merriment and joy in the name of the particular festivity you represent.

Merry Christmas!

Want a free ebook? Here you go! My gift to you.

Stressed about dealing with your family this holiday season? Read this helpful post by Dr. Russell Moore. 

Cherish this Holiday Season

It seems every year Thanksgiving and Christmas come faster and faster. I think the older we get, the more used to the length of a year we become. Kind of like the return drive on a long trip often seems shorter than the initial drive. Our minds tell us that the trip was so long, and being creatures of pessimism, we anticipate the return trip to be longer than it really is.

Such as with life. How often, students, do you put off that paper because you have an entire week to get it done? Or husbands, how many months go by before we actually fix the furnace? Just look at how big your kids are, if you want me to get to the point.

I recently read a little play by Thornton Wilder called Our Town. It is a very haunting account of this very discussion. The Pulitzer prize winning play is simple enough on the surface, but if one is really paying attention, one will be almost terrified of what Wilder is trying to tell us in his play.

And that is simply: Life is fleeting. Enjoy it now while you can.

One needs also to read through Lamentations or almost any other wisdom book of the Bible to get a clue that this is no joke. Time flies, and may I add: whether you’re having fun or not.

So as you gather around the Thanksgiving table with your family – whether you like them or not – I want to challenge you to really take the time to relax, breathe, and live a little in the life you’ve been given. Enjoy your families, regardless of the circumstances. One day Uncle Fred or Grandma or Dad aren’t going to be sitting at that seat, and you’ll miss them.

If you feel that the holiday season has become mundane, soak it in anyway, because one day, you’ll look back on it all and miss it. And if you do this, your attitude will change.

I dreaded taking the dogs out to do their business four to five times a day. But after reading Our Town, I stopped and reflected on the fact that one day they’ll be too old to go down the stairs by themselves and I’ll have to carry them, recalling these days – these days – of their mobile youth. So I stopped pestering them to “Go potty!” and just let them take their time and allow them to enjoy the cool air and bark at the squirrels.

If you’re like me and hate shopping, go with your spouse anyway this Christmas season, and have fun. Don’t throw a fit, or pout, because one day, you’ll regret soiling would-be sweet memories. Take in every moment – the good and mundane – fix the bad ones, and don’t continue to leave behind regrets of lost memories.

I’ll leave you now with a chilling passage from the third and final act of Our Town. Emily, the young, hopeful bride from the preceding act has died and is in the grave observing a very dull day in her early life as Scrooge does in his own harrowing visions.

Emily – I can’t. I can’t go on. It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another.

She breaks down sobbing…

Emily (cont.) – I didn’t realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed. Take me back – up the hill – to my grave. But first: Wait! One more look. Good-by, Good-by, world. Good-by, Grover’s Corners… Mama and Papa. Good-by to the clocks ticking… and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths… and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you.

She looks toward the stage manager and asks abruptly, through her tears:

Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? – every, every minute?

Stage Manager – No.


How to Deal with Holiday Family Tensions

Christmas Wish List for the Book Lovers in your life.

Customer Etiquette: 10 Tips on How to be a Good Customer

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Christmas Wish List Part 3

I wish you all a wonderful, and delightful Thanksgiving as you gather with friends and family tomorrow.

And now the conclusion of the best books I’ve read in the last 18 months.

For theology readers

How Christianity Changed the World, by Alvin J. Schmidt – This is sort of a mixture of world history and Christian theology. A great read explaining how, indeed, Christianity changed the world.

Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis – You’d think every Christian would have read this by now, but I had only read it about a year ago. How I bypassed it all these years is beyond me. Completely mind-blowing.

For fiction lovers

The Hunger Games series, by Suzanne Collins – Great suspense, drama and action. These books are sure to go down as modern literature’s finest. No one’s too old to get into this series. Frequent violence involving teens.

The Price of Freedom, by A.C. Crispin – The prequel to Pirates of the Caribbean. Chronicles the life of young Jack Sparrow and how he chose the life of a pirate. Frequent, but mild sensuality.

The Man in the Boxby Andrew Toy – Prepare for extreme suspense, adventure, and a bit of fantasy. Great for anyone second-guessing their current life situation and seeking a way out. Released November 30th. Violence.

For history buffs

The Forgotten 500, by Gregory Freeman – Classified for over half a century, this flawless, nail-biting book depicts the OSS setting out to recover more than 500 downed airmen trapped behind enemy lines during WWII.

The Devil in the White City by Eric Larson – The subtitle says it all: “Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America.” A couple of very brief depictions of disturbing murders.

Manhunt, by James L. Swanson – A second-by-second account of Lincoln’s murder and the after-effects. Incredibly difficult to put down. Very graphic descriptions of violence and its after-effects.

For biography addicts

Born Again, by Charles Colson – The life and conversion of Nixon’s right-hand man, accused and punished for heading the Watergate Scandal.

Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson – Fascinating business techniques can be learned in this book. But don’t expect any life-giving wisdom from this curious man who changed the Western world as we once knew it. Language.

For sports fans

Bottom of the 33rd, by Dan Barry – Quite simply one of my all-time favorite books, hands down. It sounds like a dry read, but the author’s brilliant use of words draws you into such a beautiful and simple story. I felt like I was sitting in the cold bleachers during all 33 innings.

The Rookie, by Jim Morris – The wonderful Disney movie is actually only based off of one or two chapters of this great auto-biography of the world’s oldest professional ballplayer.

Alright, that’s more than 20 books (rest of the list in the links below). Enjoy, and happy Thanksgiving! And happy shopping.

For Part 1 of this list, click here.

For Part 2 of this list, click here.

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Last Minute Jitters [or] What Will You Be Writing?

Last week I posted about NaNo. I said I was going to do it, and I will. But as you can see by the duel title of this message, I am growing very skeptical – or undecided – about what my subject matter should be.

I had it all figured out until last night. I was going to write a Christmas story that I’ve had planned for the last seven years, but I realized I’m just not ready for it yet. It’s a precious story to me that I don’t want to be rushed.

Then I started thinking about what people have been saying about my book The Man in the Box (coming out Nov. 30th). And it seems I’ve established myself as a suspense/adventure writer. Now granted, my next book is nowhere near said genre (Scroll down here for synopsis), but I wouldn’t want to disappoint fans of the book by deviating from suspense for too long – hence, keeping people in suspense…

Anyway, all that to say, I thought I had my book for this NaNo writer’s contest all figured out. But clearly, I don’t. I’m writing this as an encouragement to those of you who find themselves in the same boat as me. You’re not alone. And (I hope) I’m not alone.

When it comes to stories and books, I don’t want to just wing it. I want to deliver the best plot, the best characters, I possibly can. And I hope you’re the same way. I hope there aren’t many people entering this contest just to write a book, without having any concept of what they want to write. (How many times have you seen an awful movie and wondered, “Did they just make this because they were bored?”) No, I hope you go into November with a clear reason as to why you’re writing a book, and with some concept of what it will be about.

Because if you just start writing something without having any idea where it’s going or why you’re writing it, then it’s very likely you’re going to give up, and you’ll kick yourself and eat a lot of ice cream and you won’t be in any shape to eat a hearty Thanksgiving dinner… hmmm, I think I see why this contest is held in November…

I’m not there yet. But I have four days to get there. And so do you. And remember (as soon as I figure out how) I’m going to have a link somewhere on this blog for you to post your developing stories for all to see. So, stay encouraged, get prepared, and be ready to write the best book you possibly can. NaNo starts November 1st.

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