Category Archives: Motivational

NICKEL AND DIMED

For years, I have had a checking account into which I deposit the money I earn from selling articles I write.

The account seldom has more than a few hundred dollars in it. (Writing, for me, is not a lucrative venture.)

But I enjoy having this account. I use the money to buy gifts for people, to donate to good causes, and occasionally to treat myself.

Dan never looks at this account.

He manages our major bank account, out of which he pays bills, makes charitable contributions, and runs our household. This account is with a different bank.

A few months ago I noticed a “fee” of $6 on my little bank account.

I printed the statement, took it to the bank, and asked why the fee was there.

“You didn’t use your debit card enough last month,” said the bank person.

“What?” I asked.

“You are required to use your debit card a minimum of 30 times a month in order to avoid paying a fee,” she said.

“The fee for having your debit card is $9 a month, but every time you use your card, the fee decreases. You used your card enough times last month to decrease the fee to $6. Use your card more times this month, and you can decrease the fee to zero.”

I am not a banker or a businessperson of any kind, but this sounded crazy to me.

“That doesn’t make sense,” I said, avoiding the use of the word crazy.

“Well, the next time you use your debit card to shop, at Walmart, for example, pay for items individually. Use your card several times on the same visit to the store.”

“Do you mean I should use my debit card to pay for my crackers, get my receipt, and then use my debit card to pay for my waxed paper, get my receipt, and then use my debit card again to pay for my ink cartridge, and so on?” I asked.

“You could do that,” she said. “You need to use your debit card at least 30 times a month.”

I must have looked as dumbfounded as I felt.

“You can change to a different kind of checking account that doesn’t require you to use your debit card 30 times a month, if you want to do that,” she said.

“I want to do that,” I said.

I went into an office, signed some papers, and went on my way.

The next month I had a fee of $5 on my bank statement.

I printed the statement and again went to the bank.

“Why do I have a fee of $5 on my bank statement?” I asked the bank person.

She looked at my account information on her computer screen and said, “Oh, I see you used this account to buy something online.”

“Yes,” I said.

“With the type of checking account you have, you are charged $5 a month to make online purchases.”

“I’ve made online purchases many times without being charged a fee,” I said.

“Did you recently change the type of account you have?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“The account you have carries a $5 monthly fee for making online purchases. You can change to a different kind of checking account that doesn’t charge you for making online purchases, if you want to do that,” she said.

“Not today,” I said.

With the next account I chose, the bank would probably have charged me for using their ATM, or for writing checks for less than $50, or for some other incidental reason I cannot anticipate.

Nickel and dimed is how I feel.

Before Christmas, I wanted to buy a Menard’s gift card. I drove to several nearby stores that have gift card kiosks, but I didn’t find a Menard’s card.

At one kiosk, I had a short conversation with another shopper.

“You probably won’t find a Menard’s card,” she said. “Just get a Visa or MasterCard. Those cards can be used at Menard’s.”

Great idea, I thought.

 I chose a Visa card for $50 and headed toward the cash register.

Then I noticed small print on the card packet informing me I would be charged money in order to activate the card. I believe it was $4.50.

I returned to the kiosk and put the card back in its place.

Nickel and dimed.

 

Yesterday, Dan and I took two of our granddaughters to see a movie. Before we left the house, I got online to buy tickets.

Two tickets for the girls cost a total of $14. Two tickets for senior citizens cost a total of $14.

My total cost, instead of being $28, was $32. A convenience fee of $1 per ticket would be charged for purchasing the tickets online.

Nickel and dimed.

The bank, the credit card company, and the movie theater have the right to charge fees.

They are in business to make money.

I can choose either to pay the fees or not use the services.

Businesses can wring me dry, if they choose to do so, and if I let them.

I, myself, am not a business. Neither are you.

We are individuals, but if we aren’t careful, we can adopt the nickel-and-dime attitude.

The aim of individuals with nickel-and-dime attitudes is to gain benefits for themselves at the expense of other people.

They don’t give over parking spots or hold doors open for people. They don’t let drivers pull into traffic ahead of them.

They don’t tip appropriately or volunteer to help.

Nickel and dimers buy fancy outfits, wear them to special events, and then return the outfits for full refunds.

They occupy four parking spaces with one vehicle.

They leave their empty shopping carts in the middle of the lot instead of returning them to the cart-return area.

They demand to watch TV shows no one else in the room wants to watch.

They use passive-aggressive behaviors to get their way, causing family members and coworkers to tiptoe around them in fear.

They feel and act as if they are entitled.

Such people wring other people dry.

Don’t nickel and dime people.

Instead, value them as equals. Look for ways to serve them. Treat them the way you want to be treated.

PLUMB GIVE OUT

I grew up hearing women say, “I’m plumb give out.”

Their grammar was flawed, but their meaning was clear.

These women were tired.

Mostly, they were tired from giving, so “give out” was an appropriate description of how they felt.

The women in my young world gave a lot.

They gave shampoos and birthday parties.

They gave advice. They gave benefit suppers and bridal showers.

They gave spankings and pats on the back.

They gave medicine to kids who pasted both hands over their mouths and planted their faces in couch cushions.

They gave spit baths to kids heading off to school.

They gave a care and a flying flip. They gave a hoot.

They gave manicures and pedicures to kids who curled their fingers and wrinkled their toes.

They gave lectures and shoelace-tying lessons.

They gave answers to endless questions.

They gave birth.

Women gave their word and never went back on it.

They gave instructions that were often ignored.

They gave stern looks and warm smiles.

They gave homework help and hot breakfasts.

They gave rides and gave permission.

Women gave hugs and kisses and warm hand squeezes.

They gave comfort, confidence, and courage.

They gave in, but they never gave up.

From the time they woke up to the time they went to sleep, they were called upon to give.

Is it any wonder they were plumb give out?

Women in today’s world still give.

And their giving involves more than the use of their heads and their hands. It engages their hearts.

In every act of giving, a woman gives away part of herself.

The tiredness that results is more than physical exhaustion. It is soul-deep and felt with every breath.

I can’t speak for every woman.

But I speak for many.

If you have a giving woman in your life, offer her these things: rest, aloneness, some time when no demands are made on her.

Give her a chance to be herself by herself.

Allow her to commune with God and become whole again.

Giving is her life, but she can’t give if she is plumb give out.

Watch Out! It’ll Get You!

A Christian writer was asked to speak at a large conference of believers.

Later, he wrote this about that experience.

He said that on his drive home from the conference, he thought, I’m an excellent public speaker. I captivated my audience today.

He realized then what an arrogant thought that was. He was ashamed of being prideful.

So, he uttered a prayer in which he confessed his prideful attitude and asked God to help him be humble.

Immediately after he said “amen,” he thought, That was a great prayer I just said.

I appreciate that writer’s honesty, because I struggle against the sin of pride.

The Bible is strong in its condemnation of pride.

The book of Proverbs warns that disgrace, destruction, and strife await the prideful person.

James 4:6 reads, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

Most Christians are familiar with the parable of the prideful Pharisee and the humble tax collector found in Luke 18:9-14.

Not one of us wants to be guilty of the sin of pride. But pride, also called hubris, can be hard to identify in oneself.

How can I know if I am prideful?

I can start by asking myself some hard, soul-searching questions.

  • Do I use my abilities to bless or to impress?
  • Am I happy with my accomplishments, even if no one knows about them?
  • How important to me is my level of attractiveness?
  • How much thought and effort do I put into self-promoting?

You may think the movie Amadeus is about the famous composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

It is not.

Amadeus is the story of a lesser known composer, Antonio Salieri.

Salieri, a pious composer, prays for greatness but recognizes true genius has come to a vulgar, distasteful man in the person of Mozart.

At every turn, Salieri’s efforts at composing are bested by Mozart’s work.

Talented though he is, Salieri cannot overcome his hatred of Mozart. He demands that God tell him (Salieri) why Mozart, and not himself, has been gifted with genius.

Salieri lives a miserable life of disappointment that culminates in his killing Mozart out of envy.

As I said, I struggle against the sin of pride.

I want to be a kind, generous person. I want to be a good grandmother. I want to write well.

Having those goals is not sinful.

But if I accomplish those goals, I will likely receive recognition.

It is in that recognition that the devil can get a foothold.

Satan will tempt me to cherish the recognition so that:

  • Instead of wanting to be a kind, generous person, I crave applause for my kindness and generosity. 
  • Instead of wanting to be a good grandmother, I seek recognition as Grandmother of the Year.  
  • Instead of wanting to use my gift of writing to glorify God, I focus on receiving more “likes” on Facebook, more “reposts” of my blogs, and more gold stars than my contemporaries.

Satan tempts me to make everything in my world about me. And my fallen nature sometimes sucks me into doing that.

Life, for me, is a continual effort to fall out of love with myself and to fall in love with Jesus.

And my biggest obstacle to doing that is pride.

What Is That in Your Hand?

When we had our other house, the house where the kids grew up and where we lived for over 30 years, I grew African violets.

This house had a south window, and my violets thrived there.

Purple Flowers

In our current house, I have no south window. I have no north window, for that matter. I have tried to grow violets everywhere in this house, but they will not thrive.

So, I resorted to having a philodendron plant, the one plant no one can kill. It grows despite placement in a disagreeable location and even neglect by its owner.

 

And I do neglect my philodendron.

We had to move it when we put up the Christmas tree.

A poor, pitiful thing it was.

Dead, brown leaves; crooked, misshapen vines; and a rootbound under-life, I’m sure.

When we moved the plant, pangs of guilt attacked me, for it was as dry as a rock bed.

So I watered it.

I went to the kitchen and counted the steps needed to carry water from the sink to the plant stand.

Eighteen steps.

I let weeks go by, months maybe, between waterings of that plant, and why?

It wasn’t because I didn’t have the water it needed. It wasn’t because I was unable to walk the 18 steps from the kitchen to the plant stand.

It was because of apathy. I didn’t care enough about that plant to ensure its survival.

My attitude and actions said to the plant, “Go ahead. Die.”

I wonder how many other things/people/situations exist toward which I feel apathy.

I have what they need, but I withhold it from them.

Do you remember when God met with Moses at the burning bush?

After Moses was well into his discourse against doing the thing God commissioned him to do, God asked Moses a question.

“What is that in your hand?” (Genesis 4:2)

You know it was a staff. Moses threw it on the ground, and, in a frightening display of power, God turned the staff into a snake.

The story of Jesus feeding 5000+ people with a boy’s lunch of five small loaves of bread and two little fish is recorded in all four Gospels. (Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9, John 6)

This story is familiar to you. Great hungry crowds surround Jesus.

The disciples want to feed them.

Jesus asks (paraphrase), “What have you got?”

You know the rest of the story.

God can use you to accomplish wonders with things you’ve already got.

Let’s take an inventory.

What have you got?

A warm smile? A hug? A stash of encouraging, unaddressed greeting cards?

Clothes, shoes, dishes, furniture, toys, machines you don’t need or rarely use?

Excess money you can’t take with you when you leave earth?

The ability to change a headlight, babysit a child, oversee a funeral meal, provide transportation to a doctor appointment, or do yardwork?

God put those things in your hands for you to use. If you need them for yourself, okay.

If you don’t need them, rest assured someone else does.

Maybe, like Moses, all you have is a stick and a stuttering tongue.

Or, similar to the disciples, all you have are two frozen Banquet pot pies.

Not much in your hands.

But in God’s hands?

WOW!

What is that in your hand?

If you have it, aren’t using it, and someone else needs it, your apathetic attitude may be saying to them, “Go ahead. Do without.”

And, by the way, you are not expressing that attitude just to the people who need what you have. You are expressing that attitude to the One who gave those gifts to you.

Of course, the best thing you can give anyone is an introduction to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

OPENING MY HAND WITH OFFERS TO YOU

  1. I can edit. God put that ability into my hands.

If you need a document edited, send it to me. I promise either to edit and return it to you, or to respond telling you why I am unable to edit it.

Send me your family Christmas letter to enclose with your Christmas cards. Send me an apology or thank-you letter you want to send to someone but are uncertain about its grammar and punctuation. Send me your letter to Santa.

Please do not send me:

  1. A doctorate dissertation.
  2. An angry rant.
  3. Sensual, steamy scenes from a romance novel you’re writing.
  4. Your child’s homework.
  5. Scientific data containing crazy symbols I don’t recognize.

Send your document, up to two, double-spaced pages, to dscales24@yahoo.com, and I will edit it and return it to you.

2. I can teach. God put that ability into my hands.

I will give your child (or you) two free tutoring sessions in any of the language arts subjects (reading, writing, spelling, vocabulary, etc.) or math, up through pre-algebra.

You will need to provide transportation and textbooks, worksheets, etc. If the subject is upper elementary math, I may need the textbook to prepare ahead of the tutoring session.

Email me at dscales24@yahoo.com or call me at 812.350.8122 to set up a tutoring session.

What is that in your hand?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PLAYING SECOND FIDDLE

A reporter once asked the celebrated orchestra conductor, Leonard Bernstein, to name the most difficult instrument to play.

Bernstein replied, “Second fiddle! I can always get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm . . .  now that’s a problem. And yet if no one plays second, we have no harmony.”

People with a passionate desire to master an instrument, an art, or a sport want to be best.

But the word best, by its very definition, is limiting.

Think of well-known characters who played second to a best:

  • Ed McMahon to Johnny Carson
  • Vicki Lawrence to Carol Burnett
  • B. J. Hunnicutt to Hawkeye Pierce
  • John Watson to Sherlock Holmes

Carson, Burnett, Pierce, and Holmes might never have achieved “first place” in their fields without the help of their sidekicks, their so-called “second bananas.”

But let’s look at these duos in a different way.

Maybe McMahon, Lawrence, Hunnicutt, and Watson were playing first in what they did.

Not everyone could have played their roles. They were the best at what they did.

People sometimes yearn to be best in something when they have no chance of even being good in that area.

How ridiculous would it be if I set as my goal, at age 67, to become an award-winning LPGA player or a world renowned chess champion?

The sooner I recognize my abilities and opportunities and work toward being best in those areas, the higher are my chances of success.

I won’t lie to you.

I would love to be the next Erma Bombeck.

In the field of writing homebased humor, she was the best.

I would even like to be the next Max Lucado.

But why stop there? What if I could be the next C. S. Lewis?

The truth is this: I will never be the next anybody.

I am the first and only me. (Grammar purists, forgive me.)

I must not make it my goal to achieve other people’s successes.

Their successes do not diminish my success.

God’s Word instructs me to strive for excellence in whatever I pursue.

It is up to me to decide what I will pursue.

This is an area in my life to which I must apply the truth laid out in God’s Word.

1 Peter 4:10 (TLB) reads: God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God’s many kinds of blessings.

Though I sometimes fight against accepting this truth, I preach it to my grandchildren. I even found a graphic I intend to include in their scrapbooks.

 

 

But my grandchildren are not the only ones who need this reminder.

I have printed this and posted it near my laptop, where I do my writing. When I read it, I substitute the words “person and people” for the words “kid and kids.”

I have been a Christian for over 50 years, but Satan still attacks me. He knows where I am vulnerable. He targets my soft spots.

He targets your soft spots too.

Print and post this wherever you feel a temptation to outdo, outshine, outachieve, outcook, outdrive, outclass, outwrite, or out-whatever other people.

Life isn’t a competition.

You have been given an instrument and a position in life’s symphony.

Play well and in harmony with others.

———-

(The Bryan Skavnak quote “Some Kids Are Smarter Than You” message can be purchased as a wall plaque, canvas hanging, or desk sign at www.etsy.com.)