Archive for September, 2013

3 Lessons in Saying No

SalesmanIf you’ve ever taken a tropical-type vacation, odds are you have seen something like this picture.  Local people take their wares from resort to resort along the beach looking for sales.  I’m sure it seems harmless enough, and it looks like a pretty physical occupation, but if you’ve ever encountered this you know they are fairly adept in their sales tactics.

Now, if you’re on the beach in this scenario and are not interested in what they’re selling, it’s easy enough to just close your eyes and pretend to be asleep until they pass.  Saying no back in the real world requires more than just not making eye contact.  Sometimes it means taking a hard line and standing your ground, but it can be done with respect.

When I was in operations in the hotel business, my staff was great at screening my visitors.  “No appointment?  Nope, she’s out.”  There, done.  The sales person went along his way and (unaware to me) I stayed on the in limbo list because I never gave him a real no.  This meant he would continue to attempt to reach me.  I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by turning them away, but here’s what I learned as the shoe went on the other foot:

  • I was afraid that if I said no the salesman would come back with a counter and browbeat me into submission, finally getting a yes out of me.
    • Truth—If I just would’ve said no, they most likely would have left me alone and moved on, saving us both precious time and frustration.
  • You’re saying no to the product, not the person.
    • Truth—Do not feel guilty telling your friend that you don’t need yet another candle, lipstick, kitchen apparatus, etc.  They are offering you an option.  If you’re not in the market for it, politely tell them no.  Don’t avoid them and make things awkward, trust me.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re offered a product or service you don’t really understand.
    • Truth—Just because you want more clarity doesn’t mean the sales professional will pounce on you!  If someone is offering you something, they believe it will help you in some way.  If you don’t see the benefit to you (or your business), tell them so.  They may have more information that makes things clearer.  If you listen to this and still are not convinced, tell them your issues and just say no.
    • Truth—If this is a start-up business, you may be helping them work out a few kinks in their product or in the promotion of it.  If multiple people are arriving at similar outcomes it could signal a fatal flaw.  The earlier they catch this the better.

I hope I’ve helped you become more comfortable saying no.  Do it for yourself.  Do it for your time management.  Do it for the sanity of the sales professionals.  They’ll thank you for your sincerity, take you off their list, and you won’t even have to pretend to be asleep.


Loving Life as a Cable-Cutter

RokuI wrote in a previous post that we were cutting the cable, as in the cable TV package.  I thought I’d give you an update on how that’s been going.  When we first started discussing it last spring, we asked a lot of questions.  My friend Chuck over at the newspaper told me about Roku, a streaming option.  My IT guy (the Hub) checked it out and we bought one.  WE LOVE ROKU!!

One thing that was fun about this new adventure is that no one tells you what channels you have to have.  We get to go through the list of literally hundreds and pick out what we want to have as our channel lineup.  Many of them are free, but we did purchase a subscription to Netflix and use that quite a bit to watch old favorites like Kids in the Hall and Fawlty Towers.  They also have many newer series that we like and great documentaries.  We tried Hulu Plus but didn’t really want to watch anything there that wasn’t already on Netflix so we canceled it before the two week free trial was even up.

Another favorite channel is Slacker Radio.  We’ve been using Slacker on our phones and computers for a long time so I was ecstatic to see it on Roku.  I am able to sync with my computer account, pick favorite songs and artists, and even listen by genre.  Since we have the TV hooked up to the surround sound, who needs a stereo anymore?

A longshot that we have come to love is the Mullet channel.  It’s made up of 80’s and 90’s era concerts.  I think we watched the AC/DC Let There Be Rock concert dozens of times before they switched it out to a newer one.  I’m crossing my fingers they don’t take away my new fave, Fleetwood Mac’s Mirage concert from 1982.  Until they do, I’ll be the one in the rocking chair singing away!

In addition to the streaming options, our antenna picks up ABC, CBS, NBC and we’re lucky to have four local channels of public broadcasting.  We’ve watched numerous documentaries and some really amazing shows.  One channel specializes in cooking and various crafts and another in legislative issues of Minnesota.  We also get The CW, Fox, and a channel called Memorable Entertainment that features great old shows like Gilligan’s Island, The Brady Bunch, Emergency, Bonanza, etc.  So about six or seven more channels than I had growing up!

We canceled our cable on May tenth.  Without wasting time staring at the TV, searching for something I wanted to watch, I find myself reading and writing more, and getting a lot of other things done that I’d been putting off.  Do I regret severing the ties?  Nope.  I’m loving life as a cable-cutter!


Small Autumn Fixes for Big Rewards


I love that the weather is getting cooler and we are seeing the temperatures drop into the thirties.  That means it’s time to do a little fall maintenance around the house to prepare for the long winter.  Even if you don’t live “Up North”, these small fixes can make for a much more relaxing winter and spring.

  • Spring and summer can be tough on flooring.  Now is the perfect time to have your carpets cleaned for quick drying.
  • Check and repair any issues that have occurred over the summer with your roof or rain gutters.  No one wants to have someone on the roof in January.  Well, not in Minnesota anyway!  Remove leaves and debris from the gutters and check downspouts.
  • Weatherize your windows and doors by applying or re-applying weather stripping to keep the heat in this winter.
  • Touch-up any paint that is in need of help inside or out.  Now is the time to spruce up stale colors inside.  For a small amount of money you can get a great return on your investment.  And with cooler temps and lower humidity, you can open up windows to hasten the drying process.


  • Make sure to rake up the leaves and aerate your yard before the snow flies.  If you have a garden, turn that over and winterize that as well to save a little time and effort in the spring.  Double check shrubs and bushes for last minute trimmings before their winter sleep.
  • Have your furnace checked and cleaned.  This should be done by a professional, and it’s worth it.  If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, now is the time to install one.  This can be a DIY project, or inquire with your furnace guy.
  • It used to be a nightmare, but nowadays many ovens are self-cleaning.  Give yourself a break and clean your oven while you can still air out your kitchen!  Scrub up the stovetop and hood also.  If you’re really feeling adventurous, tackle the fridge and freezer.  You will be very thankful come holiday time.
  • Pick a rainy day and clean out closets and dressers.  Kids are notorious for packing away stuff.  This is a great time to teach them about philanthropy by making a big donation when you’re done.  This is also the best way to prepare and store summer clothing for next year and make room for heavier winter wear.
  • And of course, especially for us up here, check over and tune up the old snow blower.  Winterize your lawn mower and weed trimmer for next year.  A little TLC in the fall goes a long way next spring!

John Deere

7 Sensational Activities to Fall For

Untouched Birch

On this morning’s walk I noticed that the leaves are beginning to change in a few trees.  I saw numerous school busses and kids walking with backpacks that looked to equal their own body weight.  Yes, my favorite time of year is upon us, autumn.  Football has just started, they’re advertising the hockey opener, and we can actually turn on the oven again in my free-from-central-air century-old house.  Ah, fall.

I have always listed this as my favorite season, hands down and without a doubt.  So in honor of that, I have compiled a list of activities that I like to do or would like to try.  They may be a little “Up North” specific, but you can extrapolate them to your area with little difficulty, I’m sure.

  1.  Fall color leaf-peep.  This is the perfect time of the year for a trip to the country to check out the multitude of colors and maybe enjoy a picnic.
  2. Many hotels in our area are moving to off-season rates.  What better reason to get in one last getaway to somewhere quiet before the snow flies?  My pick in our neighborhood would be somewhere further north, maybe up to the AmericInn in Roseau, Minnesota.  Up by the Canadian border, the city affords the leisure-seeker many opportunities for meandering and decompressing.  The hotel looks like a great place with all the amenities I would need.  (Mental note, check schedule for getaway!)
  3. Take a drive along some of our Scenic Byways.  It’s kind of like letting someone else do the leg-work to find the best scenery and attractions.  We have plenty in Minnesota, but the website shows all of them, and they’re everywhere!  These routes are great for a short drive or a longer trip with overnight stops.
  4. And speaking of overnight stops, don’t forget about all of the great state and national parks.  Many of them have campgrounds, and what better way to enjoy all of what fall has to offer than sleeping out under the stars?  If camping isn’t your bag, there surely are lodging facilities nearby, or just make it a day trip to the park.  You will love it, either way.
  5. Go for a rock pick.  If you don’t live near the water, you may be scratching your head at this one!  Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved to pick rocks.  I thought maybe it was some sort of isolated, weird habit until three of my sisters-in-law revealed they also shared my infatuation.  On their last visit here we scoured the shores of Lake Superior and found some nice little treasures for them to take home.  Seriously, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!
  6. The Bayfield, Wisconsin Apple Festival.  Taking place this year on October 4th-6th, you’ll find everything imaginable made with apples.   The tiny town of fifteen thousand swells to the seams when 50,000+ converge here for the weekend.    We like to make the sojourn on Sunday for the parade and afterwards walk through over 150 arts and crafts exhibits.   It’s definitely a treat for the taste buds that shouldn’t be missed.
  7. What autumn to-do list would be complete without an Oktoberfest activity?  Here in Duluth we have Oktoberfest coming up in just a few weeks.  Since I am married to a full-blooded German, this is a big deal in my house.  In fact, the first time I attended an Oktoberfest function I found myself in a hotly contested Polka contest.  I swear, you can’t make this stuff up.  But if you are looking for a good time, even if you’re not a dancer or beer (das boot) chugger, check out an Oktoberfest.  I promise you’ll have fun.  Have you ever seen a picture of someone scowling in lederhosen?

So there you have it, my top seven things to do in this, my favorite, fall season.  Do you have other traditions?  Maybe you can start a new one this year.