Category Archives: Introductions

Going Viral VS. Adding Value

Good evening, readers! For a while now I’ve wanted to write a blog post on the difference between going viral and adding value. I recently had a discussion with my boss’s boss involving this subject. My statement went something like this:

“I see a lot of that in this company, especially among the directors and VPs. I don’t know all of them but from the angle I’m looking at it’s almost as though they’re all trying to trump one another. Who can get their next 15 minutes of fame? Who can outdo the previous person? And instead of focusing on adding value to their workforce, they are trying to look good in front of one another and earn themselves bonuses.

My superior agreed. He nodded his head and said, “There seems to be a lot of throwing spaghetti at the ceiling and seeing which strands will stick. And a lot of them aren’t sticking right now.” Our company as a whole is in such a dire need to change and grow because we’ve been so stagnant for so long.

There is suddenly a mad scramble to catch up from years of being closed-minded and not forward thinking.

Our leaders are scrambling to “go viral.” They are not adding value to anyone’s lives. Instead, they are over-committing and volunteering themselves for things they know they can’t uphold. By delegating those things to their workforce (a workforce that often runs without their input and has its own commitments to uphold) we all end up stressed out and unhappy with each other.

How does “adding value” apply to my writing career?

When I look at my blog and my writing, I don’t want to be one of those people who’s just trying to go viral. I want my writing to mean something. I want to add value to other people. However, I realized that by pushing myself to write a blog post every day that some of the posts (like yesterday’s for example) are not always super engaging.

I don’t know if I will keep up the “one blog post a day” momentum going after this month is over. It has been an interesting challenge and I’ve been surprised that I’ve been able to keep it up. Now I’m in the home stretch so I want to push myself to finish this month out strong. However, I don’t want to fill everyone’s blog feeds and inboxes with crap posts that mean nothing and add no value.

What is “adding value” to you?

With that being said, you all know where I stand and hopefully a little more about my goals and what I seek to do and improve upon. If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions I would love to hear from you in the comments below. I’m always open to blog post ideas. Therefore, if you have any questions about minimalism or being a writer, etc. I would absolutely love to hear from you.

I know that I don’t have a lot of original work out there yet but I work at it every day and I hope to have a readership that is comfortable with talking to me about my work. I’ve always enjoyed that sort of open collaboration with artists and fans. In the hopes that I can add value to people’s lives, I am going to continue to press forward with this challenge and try my best to come up with some more thought-provoking and engaging posts for all of you.

Thank you for reading!

-RB

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.

The Story of Brutus, King of the Guinea Pigs

So I feel like it’s time to share the story of Brutus the pig. Why? Because it’s an interesting story. It doesn’t have anything do with writing or minimalism. It’s story time.

So I had a guinea pig for a pet. I had never owned a guinea pig before. Instead I was raised with cats, dogs, fish, a rabbit, turtles, hamsters and gerbils… but never a guinea pig. I got him because we’re not allowed to have dogs and cats in our apartment but I really wanted something that would sit on my lap and chill when I watch TV. Apparently guinea pigs are as popular in England as dogs are in America.

The Adoption

I got the number of a local Guinea Pig Rescue (yes, they exist- apparently people leave the little guys in boxes on the sides of the road!) from my sister-in-law who had adopted a guinea pig for my niece and nephew. The owner was a British lady who immediately started talking to me about what kind of pig I wanted. I really didn’t know the answer, being unaware that they had different personalities just like dogs.

She started asking me questions about my lifestyle and I mentioned that it was a quiet home with no children or other pets. She said, “I just got two boys in today. I haven’t had time to see if they’re ready for adoption and I’m at the vet right now with one of our rabbits. When I get back home, I will check them out and see if one of them is ready. If not, it may take a few weeks.” I agreed and we ended the call.

For your entertainment, here is a two day old guinea pig in a champagne glass.
Meeting Brutus

Within a few hours she called me back and said, “One of them is definitely not ready for adoption. He’s super hyper and he’s not going to work but his brother, Brutus, is borderline comatose.” She laughed. “He is super chill. He moves around a little bit but not much and the boys are usually quieter than the girls so it’ll be a boy for you.”

“Sounds great!”

This is the little guy, Brutus.
Brutus’s Rescue

As it turns out, a Brazilian family had brought him in earlier. They  had originally purchased him from a Peruvian lady in Florida. When the Peruvian lady sold them the pigs, she asked if they wanted any recipes…

The Brazilian family said, “What do you mean?” and the Peruvian informed them that she sold her pigs for meat.

Up until this point, I had no idea that people ate guinea pigs but they are actually quite popular in South America.

The Brazilian family denied any recipes and took the pigs in as pets. However, when they moved up to Virginia, the mother was put on full oxygen and they had to get rid of all of their animals. They had dogs, cats, birds, and the guinea pigs. Luckily, they were brought to Carrie’s rescue the very day I called.

He was my writing buddy. As an animal lover, I miss him and I don’t expect those who have never owned a guinea pig to understand.
Talk about perfect timing! Brutus is one lucky pig.

No, I didn’t name him. Brutus was the name given to him by his previous family. His brother, Pop-Eye was eventually adopted as well and became a certified therapy Pig at the Chesapeake General Hospital. They were both about two when they were adopted. Unfortunately, Pop-Eye had problems eating and eventually he had to be put down.

Brutus had a life of luxury. He was very quiet, loved being pet between his eyes, around top of his nose.  He was particularly fond of parsley and when I made a “juice” I would sometimes feed him the pulp from the fruit and vegetables…which apparently is like guinea pig crack.

He was an awesome little pig and unlike most guinea pigs or any kind of rodent he actually had a butt crack.  Both he and his brother had butt-cracks and I wish I had a picture to show all of you!

He was two years old when I adopted him and lived another two years before I had to sadly lay him to rest. It may sound silly to some to have a guinea pig cremated but he was the first pet that I adopted as an adult and that meant a lot to me.

Will I get another one?

Probably not.

We’ve tossed around the idea of getting another pet. Even though I really want a dog, we’d have to move elsewhere in order to have one. We’ve talked about moving for the sole reason of getting a dog believe it or not, but we can’t justify it. Right now, between work and travel, it wouldn’t be fair to the dog to keep it locked up and alone all day, inside. So with no other options, we are forgoing pets for the time being.

I can only hope that one day in the future we will move (hopefully somewhere far away) and a big fluffy dog can join us on our journey together.

Thank you for reading.

-RB

 

 

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.

How To Cope With Imposter Syndrome

First of all, I want to take some time to elaborate on how difficult it was for me to find the right cover art for this blog. What exactly does an imposter look like? What does someone with imposter syndrome look like? As most of you know, I use Canva to create a lot of my blog art. At first I searched for “imposter” but nothing relevant came up in the results. After that, I searched for things like “thief,” “poser,” “wannabe,” “disguise,” “fake,” “uncomfortable,” and “outsider.” None of these terms were giving me exactly what I was looking for and eventually I stumbled upon the current cover art when I searched for “outcast.”

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Wikipedia (I know, not the most reputable source but it’ll suffice for the sake of this post) defines Imposter Syndrome as follows:

“Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments, and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.[1] Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved. Individuals with impostorism attribute their success to luck, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent than they perceive themselves to be.[2] While early research focused on the prevalence among high-achieving women, impostor syndrome has been recognized to affect both men and women equally.”

I just finished reading 52 Pep Talks for Writers by Grant Faulkner. Inside, his 21st “pep talk” is titled “Treating Imposter Syndrome.” Towards the beginning of the piece, he writes, “Authors are especially susceptible to imposter syndrome because writing is such a vexing labyrinth of self-doubt. What does it take to feel like the real thing? Writing every day? Finishing a book? Finding an agent? Publishing a book? Getting reviewed in the New York Times? Appearing on the Tonight Show? Have writer friends? Famous writer friends? Per Maya Angelou, even all of that sometimes doesn’t suffice.

Basically, it boils down to thinking that you’re a fraud, you’re going to be found out, and you’re minimizing your accomplishments.

Why do we have Imposter Syndrome?

It’s so easy for us to talk down to ourselves but we have other people talking down to us all the time. We’re brought down by society, our own friends, and our family.

I never really considered myself as having a low self-esteem. I always felt confident in my ability to write but at the same time I have a lot of moments of self-doubt and I think all writers struggle with that. At least a lot of us talk about it.

In Dr. Abigail Brenner’s post Why Do I Feel Like a Fraud? on Psychology Today, she poses questions to readers on why they might feel this way. Three topics she highlights are personal relationships, profession life and early upbringing.

Personal Relationships

Many who know me understand that I believe in the “private life,” something that people seem to not value these days. Besides my blog and Instagram, I stay away from social media. I don’t need to know who is dating who, who is getting divorced, who everyone is voting for along with their stance on every political issue, who is taking a shit at the dentist… you catch my drift. We live in a world where people no longer respect the bounds of privacy. We are a society that encourages voyeurism and encourages the sharing of too much information.

As such, my close, personal relationships are with three very select people. No one knows me better than those three in what I’d like to call “The Inner Circle.” There is an “Outer Circle” too that consists of perhaps twenty people but they are still held at arms length. Those three individuals in the “Inner Circle” are the only people in the world that I feel I can let go and truly be myself around. But even then, there are times I hesitate to say what I truly feel or mean due to fear of judgement.

It’s silly because they’ve never judged me before. In fact, that is how they go to that “Inner Circle” to begin with. But that fear is still there. Why? Probably my upbringing- done by a highly judgemental family.

Early Upbringing

I don’t feel like I can be myself around my own family. I always feel like I need to have my guard up when I visit them. Which is part of why I hate going to visit them. It’s emotionally and psychologically exhausting. It’s such a waste of time; it drains me and I don’t feel like it adds any meaning, value, or purpose to my life. After all, some of the most hurtful things about who I am, what I’ve done and what I haven’t done (to their standards) is what rings in my head most times. I grew up feeling like nothing I said had any value.

In Rachel Hollis’s bestseller, Girl, Wash Your Face, she mentions that as the youngest of four children, she was mostly ignored unless she did something good. I was also the youngest of four children and most often ignored and left to my own devises… unless I did something wrong.

When I first went to college, I was shocked when people stopped to listen to what I had to say. It took me awhile to get used to because I was so used to being talked over or ignored. Whenever I tell people that I’m not on good terms with my family, they want to know why. There’s no amount of explaining that I can do to articulate 32 years of feeling like you’re not appreciated… feeling that you’re an outsider in a family you were born into. If I truly wanted to patch up the relationship, I would but the problem is I don’t want to – I don’t care to.

To some people, family is everything. Their immediate response is that “you should patch things up.” To me, that is such a close-minded response. Not everyone’s family dynamic is the same. I know that there are shittier people out there. It could have been much worse but that doesn’t mean that bad things didn’t happen or horrible things weren’t said… Things that may affect me for the rest of my life.

Professional Life

No. I am not where I want to be with my career. Sometimes I look at my age and I think to myself, “Why wasn’t I more serious about such-and-such in college?” or “Why didn’t I see how important this one thing was and pursue it when I was younger?” We all have regrets even though we try not to. Even though I hate my current job, I recognize that without it there are many things I wouldn’t have learned… So many great people I wouldn’t have met. Whether I like it or not, it has shaped me into the person I am today.

In short, I work with imposter syndrome almost every day. Rarely, if ever, do I feel like I’m supposed to be right where I am. In Grant Faulkner’s closing remarks to his own Pep Talk he states, “Whatever you tell yourself is the truth.” He’s right there. The trust is what we make of it. That is easier said than done.

How do we cope with Imposter Syndrome?
Hold on to positive things.

I used to keep a word document filled with positive reviews of my writing. I called it “My Wall of Vanity.” The title itself suggests that I was ashamed at receiving praise for my writing… that I was being “vain” in rereading good reviews. Keeping a positive document like that is nothing to frown upon though. Those were real, organic reviews, written by people who didn’t know me from Timbuktu. I hope I still have it saved somewhere.

Stop the comparison trap

Another way to treat Imposter Syndrome is to stop comparing yourself to others. When I was on Facebook, that was all I did. I was part of many “writing” groups and often compared myself and my work to what others had done. If anything, that made me feel like more of a fraud. I kept thinking, “Why am I in a group with someone who has published 8 books?” or “Why am I with people who write 3,000 words a day on top of working a full-time job and being a parent?” Stop comparing yourself! Everyone does things differently and that’s OK.

Add value

For a few weeks now I’ve been thinking of writing a blog about Going Viral vs Adding Value. We’ve got too many people in this world seeking their 15 seconds of fame instead of trying to help others. As long as you as genuinely interested in adding value to others’ lives as opposed to seeking self gain, you’re not a fraud.

We all make mistakes. No one is perfect.

Making an error or being wrong about something doesn’t make you a “fraud.” Everyone is wrong several times in their life. Hell, I’m wrong about something at least 5 times a day… at least. And I’m far from perfect. Stop trying to do what others expect you to do and instead, do what you feel is right. Do what you feel is what you’re meant to do. No one can live your life but you.

What about you? Have you ever felt like a fake? An imposter? Please comment below with your experiences.

-RB

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.

The Importance of Rewarding Yourself

When working on projects, especially ones where you create your own deadline, it’s important to have rewards. I find that it helps productivity when I know that I’m working towards something. Whether it’s a small victory or a huge milestone, treat yourself. After all, your relationship with yourself is the most important of all. Yet, so many of us talk negatively to ourselves. Human condition? Perhaps? Treatable? Definitely.

I haven’t mastered it myself. I still have rough days and down days. In fact today was one of them. However, I knew that I had to still get my writing done for the day. So I decided that once my daily writing was complete, I would allow myself to partake in one of my most favorite meals: sushi.

I like to assign small rewards for smaller tasks and large rewards for larger ones. Makes sense, right? Some people elect to treat themselves to a night on the town, or a camping trip, or a movie. There are tons of different ways to reward yourself. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something that costs money either. Your reward could be a walk in the park or a day at the beach.

The Rewards

As a minimalist, I like to keep my rewards limited, simple and straight to the point. I didn’t want some complicated rewards system where I had to sit and calculate what I had earned. I have two basic rewards and they are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Sushi and Travel.

Reward One: Sushi

For small victories like, achieving a certain word count, it’s sushi time! Sometimes it’s delivered to the house and sometimes it’s a night out. Either way, I know that it’s one of my favorite meals (next to Shepherd’s Pie). The are we live in has no shortage of good sushi restaurants to choose from either. Unfortunately, Shepherd’s Pie is hard to find and usually has to be cooked from home (but he makes a damn good one!)

Reward Two: Travel

Not only do I have a trip to Arizona booked after the release of my novel In Articulo Mortis, but my partner has also promised me a trip to London. He knows that it has been a life-long dream of mine to go to England. I feel like I identify with their culture and sense of humor so much more than the American culture despite being born over here. So he set the reward for that one.

Accomplishing a big project, needs more than a bowl of ice cream for a reward. Something as big as a novel, requires a novel-sized treat. But I realize that not everyone likes to travel. And not everyone likes sushi. So what are your high end and low end rewards? How do you celebrate the accomplishment of a finished task or project? Let me know down in the comments below.

-RB

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.

Organization: Writer’s Block’s Biggest Enemy

A recent incident at my day job inspired this post. You may have heard about the importance of being organized from teachers, parents or bosses in the past. If you’re like me, in went in one ear and out of the other. I’ve always been  a supporter of organization. I suppose it’s in my blood but I never realized just how important it was until I suddenly didn’t have it! Organization is a key component to staying productive and on target with your goals. What caused me to finally realize this?  Here’s what happened.

The Day Job

My day job consists of a lot of paperwork among a few other things. As an Administrative Generalist, I do a lot of what no one else has time for. So my responsibilities cover the span of several different departments. One of my biggest responsibilities is that of the hourly employees’ Probationary Reviews. Basically, it’s a form that every new hire receives on their 30, 60, 90 and 110 day anniversary in order to be evaluated by their boss to ensure whether they are proficient enough in their job to remain employed.

I lay my hands on these forms every day for one department. There are over 200 that are sent out each month and as we are hiring every week, as one group finishes their last review, another group begins.

Keeping these forms on track and up-to-date requires a steady eye. They are returned to me through the mail every day. And every day they must be signed by management, scanned back into the computer system, logged as received and scheduled for their next review. It isn’t difficult but very tedious and time consuming. Keeping a color coded spreadsheet helps.

The Transition

There used to be two of us in the office who handled these forms. I distributed them for one department while the second person did it for another. However, that person recently acquired a new job and due to budget constraints, wasn’t being replaced. This meant that their monthly Probationary Reviews fell to me. It is now safe to say that I spend over 30 hours a week on these reviews alone while I have other responsibilities at work. My days of refusing overtime are gone.

In picking up this new task, it quickly became apparent that the previous individual did not keep up with their filing and organization. Compile that with the fact that none of their forms had been introduced into the computer system and I had my work cut out for me.

Suddenly, my downtime at work was nil. The first day the transition took place I worked a twelve hour shift and skipped the lunch break. So many forms were delinquent or missing in action, it was hard to fathom how things had gotten so bad.

The Solution

Phone calls were made. Emails were sent out. Files were sifted through and alphabetized for easy navigation. A week later and I still don’t have that department’s forms where they all need to be. Though I’ve made substantial progress, I think of all the time I’ve spent organizing when that should have been done from the start.

Being that the first department I had sole coverage of is so organized, I’m better able to help them and not rip my hair out while fixing the other department’s mess.

How to Apply this to Writing

During this process, I’ve been thinking on how I can use it as a lesson to better my productivity at home.

Here is one of the biggest folders I keep in my filing cabinet and it’s filled with all sorts of half-developed ideas and writing prompts. I know exactly where to go when I’m lacking inspiration.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen pictures of my desk. I’d like to think my organization skills are on point and being a minimalist helps with cleanliness. Staying organized not only gives me no excuse to put off writing… [Sorry, I don’t have time to write, I need to organize by thoughts first...] but it also promotes peace of mind.

By being organized, I can quickly pick a folder, grab my laptop and head to Starbucks for an early morning writing session. I don’t have to worry about leaving anything behind because all of my notes are neatly tucked away. This means no more, “Where is that napkin I jotted that random piece of dialogue on that I wanted to use for this scene?”

I’m a big fan of “floating storage,” which means “off of the floor!” Keeping all of my notepads in one place means I always know where a spare bit of paper is. Keeping it off of the floor means I’m less likely to throw other things into the basket. Notice that the folders are also labeled with working titles and numbered.

Whenever I want to switch things up and work on another project, I just grab the respective folder. If an idea for one project pops into my head while I’m working on another, I write the idea down quickly and throw it into that project’s folder. If the idea doesn’t have a big story line yet, it goes into the filing cabinet with other “random ideas.”

Promote Good Habits

What organization really is, is setting yourself up for success. Ever notice how your mornings run a little more smoothly when you’ve laid out your clothes for the day, the night before? Or how stress free your week is when you fill your car up with gas when the tank has dropped to half instead of riding on it until it’s nearly empty? What about paying your rent the day you get the bill as opposed to waiting until the last day they’ll accept payment without a late fee?

I splurged on some clearance isle Post-Its. The different colors make it super easy to form an editing system. Or a blog idea system. Or whatever you want!

Self-published author and self-made millionaire, Amanda Hocking, frequently states, “There is No Magic Hand.” Since the first time I saw her blog post stating that, it also became a mantra of mine. She’s right. There is no magic hand that is going to swoop into your life and makes your dreams come true for you. You must put in the work. So why not make it easier on yourself and set yourself up for success? Stay organized, my friends!

In Summation…

Perhaps I should have titled this blog 3 Reasons Your Lack of Organization is Promoting Your Writer’s Block.

  1. Gives you an excuse not to write.
  2. A cluttered space is a cluttered mind…which promotes anxiety.
  3. Writing is much more difficult when you don’t set yourself up for success… Lay things out, categorize them and put them within arm’s reach, and you’re golden.

I hope this helps your endeavors!

Happy Writing!

-RB

 

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.

Minimalism and the Death of a Loved One

I debated about telling the sad story behind my grandparents’ death in the summer and fall of 2016. As an introduction to what is looking to be a rather long post that is in essence about minimalism, I figured I’d go ahead and spill the beans. After all, whenever a death occurs in the family, the living are left to decide on what to do with all of the stuff that is left behind. This was the first time that I had to deal with it since I started down the path of minimalism.

To begin at the beginning…

My mother’s parents have never been in good health. At least not since I can remember. My grandfather had diabetes. He was legally blind. He had open heart surgery twice, and was pretty much deaf, not to mention grumpy. General grumpiness seems to be very common among old men. My Nana survived breast cancer, colon cancer, open heart surgery, and a stroke that left her left side fairly unusable. They had both survived a lot.

Born a few months apart, he was born in July of 1930 and she was born that November, they ended up passing away a few months apart. He passed two weeks shy of his 86th birthday and she passed two months shy of hers.

Even though they had been in poor health for decades, things suddenly went downhill fast. My grandfather went to the hospital because gangrene had set in on one of his toes. From what I understand of diabetes, the feet usually go first because of poor blood circulation.

Once admitted into the hospital for the gangrene, the doctors removed one of his toes. He swore that he must have cut his foot on something and didn’t feel it. The infection set in rapidly. Unfortunately, removing the single toe wasn’t enough as the infection spread. It spread to a second toe which they also amputated only to realize that they still didn’t get it all and the infection continued to spread throughout his foot.

It became more apparent that the entire foot was going to have to be amputated in order to stop the spread of the infection. My grandfather didn’t want to do it and I can understand why. He hated that he had to rely on other people. He knew that he was getting older and I think it greatly upset him that he was getting to a point where he wouldn’t be able to do things by himself. Being legally blind hadn’t stopped him but being unable to walk would.

Meanwhile, while he’s in the hospital my grandparents have agreed to have work done on their home. They have recently discovered a termite infestation. You see my grandfather was so distrusting of people – under the impression that everyone was out to scam him –  and as a believer in “your thoughts create your reality,” I can see why he constantly attracted those types of people into his life because he always thought the worst of people.

Years ago he stopped inspecting the house for termites. And guess what? The termites came. When the inspector came to the house, they found extensive damage. The inspector explained that termite tunnels are normally as big around as a spaghetti noodle but the ones he had found were as large as his forearm.

Just before repairs are to begin on my grandparents’ home, my Nana was alone one night and fell. She fractured her wrist, broke her pelvis and part of her spine. She was hospitalized. Shortly after that, my grandfather was informed that gangrene had been found in the heel of the opposite foot. They would amputate again.

Once out of the hospital, they arrived at the same Rehab Center across the hall from one another. He called for her often and she hobbled across the hallway with her cane, disregarding any pain she may have felt, to go take care of a man who she’s known for 70 years. One night she heard a commotion in the hallway and stood up only to see him wheeled past her. The nurses told her, “It’s after midnight. Go back to bed.” My grandfather died that night.

When I went to visit her afterwards, she cried and said, “I wasn’t there with him.” I told her that wasn’t true. I said, “had you not fallen and injured yourself, you would have been at home, asleep, miles away when he passed. Because you’re here, you were right across the hall and you were with him everyday until the end.”

She seemed to feel a little better after that explanation. After her release from rehab, she stayed with my parents while the work started on her home. The construction company said it would only take a week or two. They ended up taking over a month. During that month my grandmother was doing very well until one night she took a turn for the worse. She threw up bile all night and the next day my mother called an ambulance. She spent the next two weeks in the hospital. For 7-8 of those days she didn’t eat anything and she dropped down to 87 pounds. Is was very hard seeing her that way and it’s not how I choose to remember her. Just like my grandfather without feet is not how I choose to remember him.

She never came back home after that visit in the hospital. She died there and in October we had a joint service for both of them at St. Joan of Arc Church.

The Aftermath, a Minimalism Nightmare

I had been through the loss of both of my dad’s parents but my mom’s parents lived two doors down the whole time I was growing up there. There were often visits after school for milk and cookies. And it was especially difficult that we lost them both so close together. So next became the difficult task of cleaning out their house. And this is where the minimalism kicks in.

Because they had a reverse mortgage on their home, they did not own the home and therefore we could not sell it. The home went back to the bank and the bank gave us one month to clear it out. For two people who never had friends over, they certainly had a lot of stuff. Perhaps it was because they grew up with the mentality of the Depression era where you held on to everything you had. They owned sets of China which hadn’t been used in years. Five different sets of silverware, closets filled with bed sheets and rarely worn clothes. They kept everything. Antique furniture became a point of contention as no one had room for it but no one wanted it to leave the family.

The money that my grandparents had saved for their children was spent on hospital bills and house repairs. We inherited stuff that had accumulated over decades. It was a grueling process to go through everything and know all of the memories attached to each item. However, I think it helped my mother realize what a burden her house would be on her children when my parents pass away.

Seeing the brighter side of minimalism

Like my grandparents’ house, my parents’ house is filled with decades of memories. Items such as old batons and dancing costumes set abandoned in a back room. The attic is overflowing with toys that my older brothers had as toddlers. A filing cabinet in my parents’ closet holds drawings from our elementary school years. Why do we hold onto these things? Happiness never lies in the past. To keep a favorite drawing is one thing but to keep all of them? We certainly didn’t want them.

I once cleaned out my parents’ closet. It was overflowing with clothing that was sometimes in my mother’s case, not age appropriate. Many of the items she hadn’t worn in years or had never worn at all by the evidence of the price tag still hanging from them.

Things to take away…

The point of this story is that holding onto things isn’t the answer. You’ll find that with most material objects, once they are gone, you won’t miss them. Holding on to stuff creates more grief for your loved ones once you pass from this world. I will admit, I took some small furniture and items from my grandparents’ house. Now, two years have passed and I’ve since turned around and re-donated all of those items except 6. What did I keep?

  1. My grandfather’s rocking chair/recliner. We got rid of our loveseat and replaced it with this recliner.
  2. A small glass which I often drank milk out of as a child when I would venture up after school for cookies and milk.
  3. An old, standing rotary phone. It still looks pretty damn cool and works if you have a land line. Will I keep it forever? It’s doubtful.
  4. An incense burner that used to sit on top of their piano. My two oldest brothers would often get to light a cone of incense as a treat if they were good when they visited as boys. I will keep this above all the other items. I cleaned it with vinegar.
  5. A mirror.
  6. A washer and dryer. I suppose that’s two items but they go hand in hand. Previously, we didn’t have one and were using quarters at the apartments local facility down the street.

Try not to get too caught up in the memory of objects. Even if you’ve been a minimalist for a while, it can be tempting. Don’t let your brother guilt you into taking several sets of glassware because “they look cool” or “should stay in the family.”

In hindsight, I ended up re-cluttering my home only to re-donate. Holding on to their things can hinder people from letting go of the grieving process. It’s easier to move on when you don’t have the past holding you down. It doesn’t matter if the memories are good or bad either. Now is the time to make new memories by living your life to the fullest today.

Let go.

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.

Anger Management: Confessions of a Customer Service Employee Pt. 1

Welcome to my Anger Management Posts! It’s that time of year, isn’t it? That time of year when if you work retail, you have dark thoughts towards the ignorant, rude customers you have to deal with. Ladies and gentlemen of the customer service community, fear not. You are not alone!

While I may no longer work in that industry, I’ve been there. I’ve heard the stupid ass questions, been called a bitch for doing my job, had co-workers with annoying crushes on me, had co-workers who hated me for no reason and had both lazy bosses, and condescending ones. I can only hope that these posts titled “Anger Management” will bring some comfort to your shitty workplace.

I truly have no idea how readers will respond to this. You might hate it. Perhaps you’ll laugh? Find some relief in knowing that you’re not the only one who sees people for what they really are (or can be). You are not a second hand citizen even though some may treat you that way. Thus begins my anger management series! At a later date, I will compile all of these posts into a memoir for physical purchase. For now, please enjoy these posts and if you’d like to receive notifications when new ones are published, please subscribe to this blog by entering your email in the top right hand corner of this page!

Confessions of a Customer Service Employee Part 1: Introduction

I keep a cardboard box on my floor near my desk. Inside are a bunch of manila envelopes that hold old drafts of stories and novels. I sat down and pulled one out labeled “Memoir Notes” with a green permanent marker. Also on the front of the folder I left myself a little note. CAUTION: Open at own risk. May cause anger. Proceed with care.

Dear Reader,
As you read this work, please keep in mind that even though a majority of these incidents are angering in nature, this work is not meant to anger you. Rather, it is a reflection on the ignorance, arrogance and selfishness of the general public.

People are rude, stupid and self-centered. If anyone dares to tell you differently, they themselves are ignorant. Please keep in mind, a great man once said, “If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.” This work is not meant to anger you but instead educate and perhaps even make you laugh at all the stupidity in the world even though it’s really no laughing matter.

In sharp contrast, as I’m writing these very words, I’m angry – angry because of the very things you are about to read are all experiences that are relatively fresh in my mind.

I was sitting in my car when I wrote those three paragraphs; sitting in the parking lot waiting for work to start outside of the job I absolutely hated. We’ve all been there before. It’s 5 min. until shift starts and you sit in your car, looking up at the building, dreading going in because you know that when you walk through the doors you will no doubt be yelled at for something you didn’t do, be made to fix someone else’s stupid mistake, or be blamed for something that wasn’t even your responsibility in the first place.

Welcome to customer service.

Chapter 1 (The Shortened Version)

The fact that I had graduated high school had not hit me yet. Whether you are a senior in high school or senior in college, either way, you still feel like you’re the shit. It is only until you get older that you realize how young and stupid you were. After graduation, my days were wasted with shopping trips and binge-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Keep in mind that this was the age before Netflix and smartphones- so I was watching the DVDs.

I was wasting away with no sense of purpose or self-identity. I didn’t know much about myself at the age of 17 (who does?) Having been to a private school, I didn’t even have a sense of style or fashion. I felt lost in a world of unspoken possibilities. I wanted so much but did not know how to go about attaining any of it. Six months away from being a legal adult, I was still living with my parents, still under the shelter of the rock my controlling mother kept me under. To her, the world consisted of our city. To her, the world was a dangerous place filled with bad people. She always chose to focus on the negative and I became a product of my environment.


Defining Family

It’s important to keep in mind that the definition of ‘family’ is changing among today’s society and for that I’m glad. I feel so distant and disconnected from those who are my blood relatives. I have nothing in common with them and find them to be boring and close-minded. My family is now composed of people I chose, people I connect with. But I digress…


It was a Thursday in late spring of 2004. As part of my religion class senior year of high school, we had to serve the community twice a week. That year I chose to do community service at the local library on Main Street. On the short drive home there was an old stone building. It was an old mini-golf and arcade game venue that had gone out of business but recently opened up under new management. One of my brothers had worked there back in the 90s, when I was little.

My brother knew that with my upcoming graduation, I would need to get a job soon. He told me they were probably hiring since they had just opened on March 8 of that year. So that Thursday I decided to stop by on my way home and request an application. At this point time,  I had the horrible habit of introducing myself as “so-and-so’s sister” instead of using my own identity.

I walked up the inclined ramp and through the two sets of double doors into the game room. The floor was made of dark tile and the walls had dark paneling on the bottom half and a hideous coral wallpaper on the top. On my right where the bathrooms, the L-shaped concession counter and the office. I received my first paycheck on June 11, 2004 and set up a checking account.

September 1, 2004

…One of the last days that I worked 9 to 5. I was the only one behind the counter the entire day and I’d never had so many impatient, rude customers. Happiness would be the best term to describe my feeling when I clocked out. I was grateful to be granted time off for college orientation. I met a close friend from high school for coffee, had to endure statistics class first semester with a high school classmate who had sexually assaulted me, and I laid my 17-year-old cat to sleep.

Friday, October 1, 2004

The beginning of my college career was full of excitement and wonder. For the first time since Kindergarten, I was in a place where I knew no one. I made friends quickly. I was popular with the male upperclassmen in my department and my classmates were very warm and welcoming. Making new friends had never been easier or more fun.

I was juggling a demanding class and theater schedule along with working part-time. Meeting so many people and being young and single, I was overwhelmed with male prospects and having to deal with unwanted attention and a jealous girlfriend of a co-worker.

Monday, October 4, 2004

Somewhere deep inside my brain is this tiny trigger. It’s part of what makes me tick. But sometimes the smallest thing can pull that trigger a fraction – just far enough for me to EXPLODE.

Things that irritate me to no end:
“Are you open?

No. You just came in through unlocked doors to see employees working behind the counter, helping guests while all of the arcade games are on. Sorry, we’re not open. One time I did have a lady ask if we were open when we weren’t. I was in the process of getting ready to be open and of course she goes, “Well that’s a stupid question. I guess you’re open if you answered the phone.” For once someone with brain cells calls and of course she’s wrong.

“What can I get with this many tickets?

Well, let’s see. I told you how many tickets you had. So if you can count I don’t need to answer that question. It’s not that hard folks. Each prize has a clearly displayed number in front of it. This is how much it’s worth. So when you have 20 tickets don’t go pointing to the Hacky sacks or the basketballs, and no you can’t have a skateboard either! Not unless you can prove to me that the numbers 130, 600 or 6000 are below the number 20.

*The ticket weigher*

We have a machine that weighs the redemption tickets for us so that we don’t have to sit there and count every single one if the guest comes up with hundreds. “Does that count them?” Yes sir. It weighs them. “Weighs them?” Is that not what I just said!? I hate repeating myself. “But how does it weigh them? How do you know it’s accurate?” Because I fucking calibrate every morning.

Quiet Talkers

Customers who call an noisy arcade venue and that insist on speaking softly on the phone…use your big boy voice…

People don’t read…

Customers coming up to the doors and not reading the sign that clearly states our hours of operation. One time I went to use the bathroom right before we opened and somehow this lady came in (the outer doors were locked, the inner door unlocked so I could mop…I’m pretty sure she broke the outer door lock).  I’m in our one toilet bathroom with the door wide open, sitting on the toilet with my pants down, hoping that she doesn’t come this way. I can hear her at the counter yelling,  “Excuse me? Excuse me?” I can’t even piss in peace!!! You know what she wanted? To use the bathroom…was she unaware of the Hardees fast food restaurant right next to us that was open?

People entering through the side gate instead of the front doors.

Recently, I saw a family enter through the side gate. No big deal we just prefer customers to come and go through the actual doors. So what did I do? I went behind them and ensured that it was locked. Guess what? They couldn’t find their way out! What a bunch of dumbasses. That’s why man invented this thing called a door. Because when you enter through the gate, the employees working can’t see you. To us, you just look like another golfer who has finished their fun filled 18 holes.

The side gate is not the main entrance! It’s for maintenance! (And yes, dear readers, there is a sign…it’s also not an easy entrance to find). Another thing is when the doors are locked and the side gate’s lock isn’t fully engaged for employee access, people will take the liberty of undoing the lock, coming through the gates and strolling up to the golf counter. Hint: if the doors are locked, we aren’t fucking open.

Recently I had two fellows do this. I wasn’t too peeved because they were only paying a birthday party deposit, not buying golf. Except one of them said, “Why aren’t you guys open?” Because we don’t open till 12, sir. “But the sign on the front door says you guys open at 10 AM?” That’s on Saturdays, sir. Today is Friday. For once, someone who actually read the hours sign, and he read it incorrectly.

“Is golf open?”

Is the sky blue? No. It’s a bright, sunny day outside. Of course it’s not open. (If you haven’t picked up on it by now, this IS sarcasm).

No name

I hate it when people come up to tell me that a game is not working and they don’t have the title of the game. Which one? “The one where you shoot the ball.” Okay, you’ve just described every game back there. “The one where you put the token in and then it spins around.” Thanks that’s a lot of help but I need to know which game it is, so I can grab the right key and so I know what I’m dealing with.

“Do we keep the golf balls?”

No, you idiot. They go down 18th hole just like the rest. This is not a golf ball shop. If we gave them away for free, we would be losing money. We can’t afford to turn around order new golf balls every single day. No, we don’t sell them to you either. No, we don’t have standard size golf balls this is NOT pro-golf. It’s mini-golf. “Do you have any white golf balls?” Do you see any white golf balls? No. Pick a fun color instead.

“Pinball took my tokens!”

No, it didn’t. You just don’t know how to work a pinball machine. That being the case, you should not be allowed in an arcade.

Interruptions

I hate when I go back to fix a machine and I’m deep into my trance, hard at work, and someone comes up and tells me of 10 other problems with various games. Do I not fucking look busy to you?  And I have to hope that the fix doesn’t require opening a machine up because people love to crowd me and watch me work from over my shoulder. Sometimes it takes a little longer than 5 seconds to undo the problem they have created. Why can’t the go play something else for 5 minutes? Is that too much to ask? I’ll tell you when it’s fixed.

Or when I’m helping someone at the redemption counter and someone else comes up to me for tokens, completely cutting off the customer I’m helping. Do I have a register near me? Do I not look busy helping someone else? You’re not the Queen of England. You can be patient, like everyone else.

Refund tokens

We have this very nice service where we will refund your tokens for free if the game malfunctioned. Granted, a lot of our games were purchased used or were very old so they did mess up on occasion. But I really can’t help you A) don’t know how to work the game (like our unfortunate pinball players earlier) or B) the game is unplugged!

The other day a group of kids must’ve gotten, and I’m quoting a co-worker here, “$20 worth of refund tokens!” We currently have two air hockey tables in the game room. One is quite obviously unplugged and squeezed in between San Fran Rush 2049 and the wall. It’s near impossible to get in a position to play. Yet these idiots put tokens in it! Unplugged = not working.

One thing that does make me laugh is when little children are running around on the golf course and they fall. I know it’s mean. But I have to struggle to hold the laughter. After all, this is customer service and we have to find something to entertain ourselves.

I stayed at this venue for another two years until I moved on to another customer service adventure. Please stay tuned for another round of mini-golf/arcade venue customer service stories.

To be continued…

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Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.