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Monday, January 16, 2017

On Coping With the Obstinate Human

We have at least one obstinate child in our house, and I am was as a younger person perhaps a smidge on the stubborn side myself. So I feel somewhat authoritative on the subject of dealing with a creature whose heels frequently dig themselves six inches into the unyielding earth.
I hate, loathe, detest, and am unwilling to submit to external pressure. If you Nudge me on Words With Friends, I will do my best to trounce you, then block you like a foul-mouthed troll if you ever send me a “Let’s Play!” message again. But even when the thing being asked of me is something I actually want to do, if it smells one whiff like I’m being coerced, good stinkin’ luck, friend. You’ll have a better chance prying open a clam with a pair of wet Q-tips.
But at the risk of shooting myself in the foot (hopefully those who regularly have to deal with me are not reading my blog this week), I want to share—in the way of a public service message—a few secrets about getting the pigheaded mule in your life to concede to your will.
Give Up the Notion that You Know What’s Best for Him
This will get you nowhere. No. Where. At all. The obdurate person, by the time he has set his parking brake, has already prioritized his unwillingness to perform as The Most Important of All Important Things. Giving in would be traitorous to his sense of self and free-will. Acquiescing is akin to selling out your countrymen from the front lines in order to secure a safe desk job at enemy headquarters. Save yourself a lot of time, breath, and energy, and move on to a more practical strategy.
Don’t Assume You Know What She Wants
You may think you understand what’s going on inside the brain of the person whose lower jaw is now jutting out half a foot, but you likely do not. My older daughter was willing to stand facing a wall all day long—and I know from experience that she has the stamina to do it—rather than give her younger sister a hug of apology. Her father figured she was just being contrary. But when I asked why she didn’t want to hug her adorable little sis, Older Sister answered, “Because she’s gross.” Then she cited a couple of examples I couldn’t really contradict. (All people do gross things, if you observe them long enough.)
Ask the Person of Stiff Neck What Could Change His Mind
It’s useful to recognize that stubbornness is a often a reaction to a perceived sense of lost control. One of the quickest ways to deactivate the Shields-Up mechanism is to return some sense of control to your adversary. I asked my daughter, “Is there anything your sister could do which would render her less gross?”
The answer was, “No.” But it did open up a dialogue…
Turn the Situation Into a Problem-Solving Conversation, Rather Than a Confrontation of Wills
Again, intractability is typically the response to a high need for control. While you may want to address your intractable person’s overreaching control issues, in the middle of a battle for control is almost certainly the least effective time to do it. Deal instead with the present issue and bring up the larger problem in a less volatile moment. (Like after a nice meal followed by a rich dessert. People with happy tummies don’t usually get into knock-down-drag-outs with each other.)
Older Daughter couldn’t come up with a way that she could power through Younger Daughter’s grossness, so I offered a suggestion, wrapped in empathy: “I really hate for you to waste your whole day standing here. You have better things to do. What if you gave her a quick hug, then immediately changed your clothes and washed your hands?”
She left the wall, found her sibling, and the episode ended within sixty seconds.
(I may, however, need to do some research on germophobia.)
In Conclusion
As with most episodes of human conflict, understanding why someone behaves as they do goes a long way toward figuring out a resolution or workaround. Once I understand a person’s motivation, I can address the need behind it, rather than beat my head against the brick wall of the behavior I don’t like.
Hey, I wonder if this strategy might work in the political or national arenas?
Pfft. Where’s the fun in that?

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Exciting Book News from Maria Keffler

I'm pleased to announce that all five books by Maria Keffler are now available in both digital and print versions at Amazon:

The DRAWN Series:

What if you could make things happen just by drawing them?

Ebook ($4.99) & Paperback ($13.89)

Artistic prodigy Juliet Brynn wants to survive 1982 with as little social torture as possible. But then her sketches start to come true and Damon Sheppard, a boy with a troubled past, shows her worlds she never knew existed. When unthinkable trauma strikes, will Damon and her prophetic gift prove as catastrophic as some predict, or can they impart Juliet the power to make everything right again?

Ebook ($4.99) & Paperback ($13.89)
Juliet Brynn’s life looks nothing like it did. Her parents divorced and split up the family. Poor, alone, and shattered by others' choices, Juliet has only Damon to bridge the two halves of her life. But when her one refuge is ripped away, she must confront the power that grants her The Gift of Artistic Prophecy, and which demands her loyalty even as it seems determined to destroy her future.

Ebook ($4.99) & Paperback ($13.89)

Juliet hasn’t seen Damon in nearly three years, or heard from him after the devastating letter his new soul mate sent her. When the chance of a new life in Chicago appears, free of her shattered family and haunting memories, Juliet resolves to let nothing get in her way. But whispers of love resurface and she must choose between her heart and a destiny that something doesn’t want her to find.

Drawn (Book I) is currently offered as a free digital download at Smashwords.

For reviews and more information about the DRAWN Series, please visit its website at
OTHER BOOKS by Maria Keffler

Ebook ($2.99) & Paperback ($5.89)
Concussive diaper explosions and aircraft lavatories. (The Mile-High Club just isn’t the same thing after kids.) Death, destruction and debt. (How can a child be born $1800 in the hole?) Sibling rivalries of biblical proportions. (“I’m telling God!” “Oh yeah? I’m telling Mom!”) Sometimes the experience of training up kids seems more akin to experiencing a train wreck.

Ebook ($3.99) & Paperback ($11.89)

An orphaned Hebrew princess disguises herself as an exiled peasant. A Babylonian slave chooses between the courage that could save her and despair over the love she has lost. A sorceress discovers the truth behind the origins of her dark power. The consequences of the masters they choose will reverberate through generations.

Wasting My Education

I've also happily embarked on year three of my blog, Wasting My Education, where you'll find stories like:
"Those who occupy the chairs around my dining room table have two options when it comes to meals: take it or leave it."
"But honestly, it seems like a useful and honorable profession. (Tarantula milking, I mean.)"
"You’ve misunderstood the difference between freedom to and freedom from."
"The natives are restless. Cabin fever settled in like Uncle Eddie’s RV four days ago. Fighting has escalated to the brink of bone damage, scalping, and bloodshed. It’s time to homeschool."

Follow Wasting My Education with this free subscription!

Keep up-to-date on new publications, contests, offers, and news with a Like at my Facebook Page: @MariaKefflerBooks.

Thank you for all of the support and encouragement you've given me during my writing journey so far. I wish you all the happiest of new years, and may 2017 bring peace, joy, and blessing to you and your household!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Misogyny, the Church, & Me

The first time I experienced misogyny I was in the fifth grade, working on a series of logic puzzles with three boys. Together we comprised the advanced math group in our class. Stumped on one of the problems I asked my teammates if anyone else had gotten it yet. Jim replied, “Of course you can’t do math. You’re a girl.”
Words abandoned me.
I can’t do math? I’m in the same skill group you are, Jim. I can’t do math because I’m a girl? What do my genitals have to do with my ability to manipulate numbers? (Wish I’d had the presence of mind to say these things out loud at the time.)
I thought that was the stupidest, most out-of-order thing anyone had ever said to me. I’d considered Jim a friend—a cohort—until that moment. I assume he meant it as a joke, but even so, it was a demeaning joke and one that damaged our relationship to some degree, as he afforded himself and his gender higher status and respect than me and mine. It forever impaired my ability to fully trust him.
And it tainted my future interactions with males with the underlying question, “Am I being discounted? And is it because I’m female?”
I was reminded of this episode last week, following a Facebook conversation with a friend from a church we used to attend. Charles, I’ll call him, is an evangelical Christian who buys into a number of conspiracy theories I find unreasonable. When I cited several points in opposition to one of his assertions, he replied, “Maria, I say this kindly and very respectfully, you really have no idea what you're talking about.”
I consider it neither kind or respectful to dismiss a person and her argument based on little more than fact that you disagree. And saying so does not make it so.
Why do I link Charles’s disrespect to misogyny? Because of something he said the last time I engaged him in debate. I’d realized that my husband knew more about the subject than I did, so I included him in our email conversation. Charles’s response to my husband? “Hopefully you're not writing because you felt I influenced your wife inappropriately.”
Do some men really believe that women cannot participate in cross-gender dialogue without being inappropriately influenced by their wiser and more powerful male counterparts? (That’s some sarcasm there, in case you didn’t hear it in your head.) And that it is the husband’s responsibility to protect his wife from such potential mental sway? What a conveniently comfortable position from which to dismiss the viewpoints of half the world’s population.
Sadly, that’s not nearly the first time I’ve experienced condescension from a man who claims to respect and value me.
I’ve been increasingly dissatisfied with the too-pervasive male-Christian party line on gender. A pastor I heard this year gave an eloquent sermon on the honor and full equality of women as evidenced biblically by Christ’s esteem and inclusion of women in every aspect of his ministry. Yet that church has no females in its upper level of governance, and when asked why, or queried about the presiding leaders’ stance on the issue, only vague deflections—or the outright lack of any response at all—are ever proffered.
In one unapologetically patriarchal denomination I attended, I sat down with the pastor to discuss women and the church. I was told that Deborah was allowed to be an Old Testament judge because the men God selected ahead of her refused to step up. (If anyone has Scriptural evidence to support that claim, I’d like to hear it.) And he argued that the feminine name Junias, who is listed as one of the apostles, was actually the mis-transcription by an early Bible scribe of a male name. (Again, some scholarly documentation, please.)
The women reading this need no further explanation of what the past year has meant to women in the church, but to those Christian men for whom recent political events seem unrelated to gender, I’ll say simply this: Many of you gave your distrust of and distaste for one candidate greater gravity than the oft-declared, God-attributed mandate to protect and defend your weaker, damsels-in-distress (sarcasm again) sisters, wives, and daughters. You sold us out to a man (and I call him that only with respect to his XY chromosome pair) who brags about sexually assaulting us as a pastime.
You’ll understand if our confidence in your honor, integrity, and guardianship have eroded past belief. Rachel Held Evans put it succinctly: “The Religious Right: where calling a woman ‘pastor’ makes you a heretic, and calling one ‘a nice piece of ass’ makes you president.”
Some may wonder if I’m losing my religion. I’m not. God is still God, and that he is the eternal, omnipotent, and omniscient El Roi, ‘the God Who Sees Me’, I have no doubt. He has not changed, nor will he ever.
A number of the men claiming to emulate him, however, really must examine their attitudes and prejudices toward the other half of the church body if they hope to be anything but obstacles and enemies to women’s right to respect, reputation, and full participation in the life of Christ and his church.
If we disagree on this point, I expect we’ll both have the opportunity to discuss it with Jesus when we meet him.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Time to Write the Thank-You Notes

Welcome to the aftermath. You survived Christmas for another year.
Take a day off. You’ve earned it. Eat a pastry. Watch a game. Order what you really wanted for Christmas with the Amazon gift card you got from the person who last year gave you what they thought was a back massager, which quickly became a part of family lore that they will never live down.
But then you pick up a pen.
Writing thank-you notes is an essential and non-negotiable responsibility that fulfills a fundamental social-contract obligation: it completes the gift-gratitude circle.
Why Should I Write Thank-You Notes?
Because if you don’t, you’re a selfish, lazy jerk.
The people who gave you stuff shopped for you, wrapped for you, and delivered for you. Even if the gift was just some kitsch tchotchke, effort was made for your benefit. You can sacrifice the hundred seconds or so it takes to pen a note, slide it into an envelope, scrawl an address on the front, and slap a stamp on it.
No, Seriously. What’s the Real Point of Thank-You Notes?
For folks who require a tangible benefit to themselves before doing anything for others, let me offer some motivation:
People who don’t send thank-you notes get fewer gifts. I cut from my Christmas list—and know of many others who do the same—people to whom the gifts I send vanish into a black hole. These are frequently the same people who don’t send me anything, either. (Maybe you don’t really want me in your life? No problem. Off you go.)
And I once received a beautiful antique vanity table (which I still have and will pass on to one of my daughters—whichever one writes the best thank-you notes, probably) from a distant relative with whom I never had a lot of contact. Why did I receive it instead of someone who had closer kin-ties to the giver? “Because you always send thank-you notes.”
Okay, You’ve Convinced Me. But How Do I Write a Thank-You Note?
I’m glad you asked! It’s super easy.
Pick up notecards at Target or Hallmark or the grocery store. Michael’s and A. C. Moore have pretty decent ones in their $1.00 bins. But if going out of the house is a bridge too far, just use a sheet torn off one of those free notepads that charities send you to try to guilt you into sending them money.
But don’t use the return envelope that came with it. It’s really bad form to scratch out the Little Sisters of Charity address and write in your grandparents’ over top of it. Pony up for a box of #10’s, slacker.
And here’s a sample Thank-You Note script to get you started:
Dear Aunt Beulah,
Thank you so much for the thoughtful/useful/interesting (but NOT weird/cheap/crappy) gift you sent.
I’ve always wanted/I never knew I needed/I’ve never before seen a [GIFT(but NOT What made you buy this?/What were you thinking?/Did I do something to offend you?).
I can’t wait to try it out/show it off/research it (but NOT throw it out/re-gift it/light a firecracker under it).
I’m sure it will give me years of pleasure/entertainment/joy (but NOT embarrassment/firewood/fodder for mocking you).
Have a Happy New Year, and I hope to see you soon!
Your adoring/appreciative/only, (but NOT disappointed/P.O.’d/vengeful) nephew,
But I Still Have Some Questions About Thank-You Notes.
Fire away!
Do I have to write a thank-you note if the person was present when I opened the gift?
No. Unless you exhibited disgust for the person and/or their gift. If so, write to explain that because others who were present demonstrated such extreme jealousy over the present, you were afraid for your life and did not properly convey the actual depth of your gratitude.
What if I don’t receive thank-you notes for the gifts I gave other people?
Until now you have had little recourse against such detestable, gift-grubbing ingrates. But you can thank Wasting My Education for helping you out with this problem! Just send the offenders the link to this blog post. (You’re welcome.)
My grammer and speling aren’t so good. What if I make a mistakes?
If you are younger than twelve, you will be fully forgiven by the recipient of your thank-you, who will be so charmed by the note that criticism will only cross his/her mind if he/she is a real cretin.
If you are a grown-up, get a dictionary. Ask a more able writer to proof it for you. Type it into the computer for grammar- and spell-check, then rewrite it by hand.
Can’t I just write my note on the computer? Or send it by email?
A handwritten note is better than a typed note (unless you have a physical disability which precludes writing by hand), which is better than an email. But an email is better than no letter at all. Here’s a handy key to decoding thank-you notes written in various media:
Handwritten Note
This sender is gently-bred, well-mannered, and possessed of a bright future.
Typed Note
Barring a writing disability, this sender is more time-conscious and goal-oriented than etiquette- or people-focused. Believes that the end justifies the means. May be a politician or investment banker.
This sender is probably a Millennial or younger. Appreciative, but not possessed of higher-order social graces. And doesn’t care.
No Note At All
Badly reared, egoistic scumbag. Blames others for all his/her problems. Likely jail-bound.
My children aren’t old enough to write yet. Aren’t they exempt from thank-you notes?
Are they exempt from eating? From going to the bathroom? From wearing unsoiled clothing? No, they are not! You are the surrogate who feeds them and changes their diapers and does their laundry until they can manage these tasks themselves.
For babies and toddlers, you are responsible for writing the thank-you note. A delightful adaptation is to take a picture of the child with the gift, and write on the back of that.
If the child is old enough to wield a crayon, have him draw a picture of the gift received. Then you, parent, write a thank-you note next to it.
Older kids do the whole shebang themselves. If necessary take the Wi-Fi hostage until the thank-you notes are written.
But What If I Still Don’t Want to Write Thank-You Notes?
That is, of course, your right. Just like you can choose to not pay your utility bills. You may elect to ignore a court summons. You might also opt to shoot yourself in the foot, or any other body part.
This is America the-land-of-the-free, after all. No one here will ever force you to become a respectable and upright human being. Just ask the president-elect.
So do what you feel is right. Don’t let me pressure you.
Though my children do say I’m really good at that.
“You are, Mom.”
Sit your little round butt back down and finish writing that note!
(They’ll thank me one day.)