Dirty Money

Lately I’ve been hearing about money a lot from my clients. In some cases, they have a lot of money but feel guilty for having it, as though they did something wrong. In other cases, they have very little and feel bad about themselves for not making the kind of money (yet) that they want from their dream career. I remind those with a lot of money that money is a powerful tool that can be used for good, to help with an election, to fund new green programs, to add to an underfunded school. So much good can be done in the world, but money is the engine that makes it happen. Bill and Melinda Gates are two of my heroes because they turned their vast fortune into a foundation that is actively changing the lives of poor people around the world. If they had just gone and volunteered somewhere, that wouldn’t have been nearly as effective. For those clients who don’t have enough money, I remind them that there’s no shame in not having enough or struggling, but it can be a great motivator for getting out of the house and working harder. The gift of having to make money is that it pushes you to succeed in a way that people with trust funds don’t have, which is why the children of celebrities are often not as successful as their parents, since they don’t have to be.

In some cases, clients have beliefs that money is somehow evil. A lot of people confuse the famous quote about money from the Bible. They think the phrase is, “Money is at the root of all evil” but in fact it is, “The LOVE of money is the root of all evil.” In other words, greed is a problem, because it corrupts people and turns people away from kindness and generosity. But having money is not a problem. It can be an incredible force for good. And yet, many people inherit toxic beliefs about money that keep them from succeeding. I spoke with an artist recently who felt that having to work “for the man” was beneath him. He felt that groveling for money was unbecoming because all money was corrupting. I did try to remind him of all the great philanthropists throughout history, but he was not convinced. I suppose that this kind of attitude can work if you are independently wealthy– you can have streams of income arriving without having to interact with money and then you can do whatever you want with your time. But most of us need to work. And this artist needed to make money since he has little savings and no retirement. He was asking me about some “get rich easy” solutions to create enough passive income that he wouldn’t have to worry about money. I reminded him that those don’t exist. The reality is that that’s what everyone wants– to make a lot of money easily doing something that is quick and easy and not illegal.  But if it were that easy, everyone would be doing it. The internet in some ways is like a modern day Gold Rush, in that the early adopters made a lot of money different ways. But for everyone else who has followed, it’s a lot harder because so many more people are competing.

The way to have an abundant life and to claim your world stage is to look at and change any limiting beliefs about money, such as “Money is evil, it doesn’t grow on trees, or it corrupts everything.” Remember that without money, you can’t create what you want to do in the world. But with money, you can give to causes you care about, travel, give to your children, create or fund great art, and really impact the world.

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Surviving the Storms

The past two weeks has been horrendous for those in Houston affected by Hurricane Harvey. Thousands of people are displaced, living in shelters. And the stories pouring in are horrible. A preacher and his wife drowned in their car trying to get across town.  A man was found floating in his home, since he hadn’t been able to get out in time. A woman was killed when an oak tree fell on her home. And for those who survived, the stress of getting back to normal is overwhelming, since it may take years for that to happen. For home owners without flood insurance, they have lost their largest asset. For renters, some are getting pressured to pay the next month’s rent on a home that is now uninhabitable. Those who had to abandon their cars in high waters, are now having to claim them from an impounding agency for hundreds of dollars that they may not have.

This week, Hurricane Irma has barreled through the Caribbean, destroying most of St. Martin and knocking out power on many other islands. And now it’s headed for Florida, where millions are trying to evacuate.  But in many cases, they can’t leave because of gas shortages, and there’s no bottled water if they stay. As my minister said, “No gas to leave, no water to stay.” My cousin is prepared and staying put in a safer part of Fort Lauderdale, and I’m just praying that she will be okay. She did reassure me that she has a lot of water, a good generator and lots of canned food. She also knows to sleep in the bathroom without windows when the winds get strong.

But for those of us not living in Texas or Florida, we feel helpless, wondering what we can do. The best thing is to stay in touch with friends and relatives and let them know you care. The other thing is to give to organizations like the Red Cross, which are reputable and will get the job done. Unfortunately fake charities emerge during crises, just as they did during Katrina, for instance.  It’s better to go online and give to a charity that you have vetted than respond to a charity you’ve never heard of soliciting money.  Chances are they are not real.

For all of us, whether we are directly impacted by these storms or not, we all must deal with metaphorical storms in our lives that can make us feel like the air has been knocked out of us. For some, it’s losing a job. For others, it’s losing a relationship. For others, it’s a death. One of the girls at my son’s school lost her 9 year-old sister to brain cancer last year.  Not even a year later, she just lost her mother to cancer as well. One of my daughter’s friends is battling cancer and had to leave school today for a seizure resulting from the steroid treatment. I was glad that she followed up to see that he was okay.

In life, just as in storms, there is no clear cut path to preparedness. But just knowing that braving storms is part of the human condition makes them less scary because at least we know that we’re not alone. As you seek your world stage, remember that sometimes the best thing you can do is to stop what you’re doing to call a friend or to write a check to those in need.  To be a tiny light in a world of constant storms and suffering is a gift indeed.

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Be Kind to Yourself

As we head into fall and back to school and a quicker pace of year, it’s important to remember to be kind to ourselves, as we go from fewer emails to endless ones, and from no expectations to many. My husband always teases me when it’s the first of the month, because that’s when I try out new resolutions. And if the first of the month is on a Monday, there’s even more pressure. And if the first of the year is on a Monday, well then I need to be perfect! This may sound silly, but we all have times of the week or the year when we expect more of ourselves and hold ourselves to a higher standard. Fall is one of those times for many people, between back-to-school expectations and upcoming holiday obligations.

Here’s how my Sept 1st (and 2nd) went. I was so busy attending to endless emails, and school registration forms, and helping a child whose mouth is in pain because he just got braces, that I literally forgot to post my blog until tonight (Saturday night). I didn’t realize this until I was on a walk that started so late in the day that it ended by flashlight. Everything took longer yesterday and today than I thought. It’s hard not to feel defeated by that. But I’m trying to remember to be kind to myself.

Here is a list of some of the things I did just by email or phone (no other chores included) in the last two days because I know you all can relate: I spent an hour trying to arrange a bed delivery for my son with an angry moving company guy from NY shouting at me that they had to deliver the bed on the one day that won’t work because it’s the first day of school for one kid, it’s my husband’s first day of teaching this fall as a professor, and I have morning coaching clients. But this guy was trying to tell me why they needed to deliver that day since “all of New Hampshire needs beds” the other days. (I tried to point out that Massachusetts is actually closer to New Jersey than New Hampshire so they could swing by on the way, but he didn’t really listen.) Then I spent two hours trying to find a dermatologist who will take a patient until 15 years old (many won’t for some reason) so my daughter can have a minor cyst removed. Then I set up a phone date for a friend going through a hard time, scheduled a robotics team for my son, set up a play date, looked into liability for Toastmasters for rentals (don’t ask me how I got involved with helping with this– thankfully I wasn’t able to help after all.) I emailed my minister to ask why the world seems particularly crazy these days, as well as my mom to let her know that my son’s braces are fine. Then a client, then my niece regarding her school pictures, then more playdates, tons of school scheduling, release forms for a school nature trip, arranging dropping off charity items, looking into legal documents for my business, reviewing two separate soccer schedules and one choir schedule, another client, the science museum regarding online tickets, and signed my son up for online algebra tutoring. Believe it or not, that took two days.

To be clear, I don’t write this because any of this is scintillating. It is not. I write this because many of you have similar lists. And here’s the thing: we think the problem is with us– that we can’t get stuff done in a short period of time, in spite of endless other things to do, when in fact maybe the problem is the list is too long and impossible.  I often wonder what it means to actually have a village raise a child, because I’m raising two and I’ll tell you that after almost fifteen years of parenting, there is no village. I’m going to repeat this. There is no village!  It’s you and your spouse, if you’re lucky, doing the best you can, plowing through emails to help your kids do the best that they can, hoping that someday they will get into a college you have heard of and can afford, and when they get out of college, that there will be jobs available that don’t involve serving hot drinks, and that not all the jobs will have been outsourced to India.

In the meantime, you can breathe and be kind to yourself and to all the other moms who are starting to look frazzled and it’s only just beginning. By late November, I wish all moms could take a break until January 2 and let their husbands just do take-out for December. To find your world stage, remember that every day you are creating a life you love (or don’t love) by your choices. You don’t have to get it all done. Even when you try– as I did the last two days– it still won’t get done.  So just be kind to yourself.

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Live Like It’s Always Summer

I’m always sad when summer winds down at the end of August because it’s my favorite season. Even though we technically have the first three weeks of September until the season ends, the back-to-school rush tends to erase the last vestiges of summer. This afternoon we arrived home from the last of summer vacation, having spent a week in New Hampshire and Maine visiting family, and my daughter starts back at school on Monday, with my son’s school following close behind. I’m realizing that I feel the way I feel after returning from a long trip: grateful to be home and missing being away. And like summer, I am always grateful to be embracing a start of a new school year with all the excitement and opportunities it provides, but am already missing the slower pace, the buckets of blueberries and candy-like tomatoes, the fresh lake water and lazy days looking up at clouds.

This year, I’m going to try to live in fall, winter and spring as though it’s summer. I don’t mean wearing shorts in the dead of winter, but instead trying to keep up the more easy-going pace, spending more time outside in nature, and trying to stress less and live more in the present. I plan to take lots of pictures of fall foliage and enjoy apple picking and hay rides and Halloween, and for winter, I want to make more snowmen (women!) and make yummy soups and try cross country skiing, and for spring, I want to plant a garden early that we can enjoy all summer and spend time outside noticing all the colors that are emerging. It’s easy to forget the treasures awaiting us outside when we have a work deadline or a child home sick from school, but that’s in fact when we have to remind ourselves to notice more. As Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” Every year we take our kids to Walden Pond to see where he lived and what he saw, and being in the woods always makes me feel more present.

For those of you are not current clients and still want a chance to get a free 50 minute coaching session, you can still respond to the previous August quizzes, or you can comment on this post with the answers to these questions. (Click on the title of a blog post to comment on that post.)

  1. What is your favorite season and what do you do to really enjoy it?
  2. How will you plan to live your favorite season all year long?
  3. What will you do to make fall this year more relaxed and present?
  4. What is your big goal that you’ve been putting off that would make you so happy to achieve?

To find your world stage, find a way to live the pace and joy of summer all year round. Being calm and present and filled with wonder will make you happier and will allow you to stand out from a world that is often not at peace. And the world so needs people who are happy and at peace.

(The picture above is of me from a few years ago at my daughter’s camp, just celebrating being alive and enjoying summer.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peace Comes Dropping Slow

I’m loving hearing from you readers with answers to the past two week’s summer quizzes. The good news is that you’re responding. The bad news is that some of you are having troubling accessing the comments section in a post so that you can comment. Here is the key: click on the title of the post that you want to comment on and then the comments will appear and you can post. Or you can email me your thoughts at melinda@worldstagecoaching.com. If you’re one of the first six commenters and you’re not a current client, then you get a free 50 minute coaching session.

This week has been a sad week for the world.  In the US, we have a president who refused to stand up against the KKK and Nazi groups terrorizing protestors. For the first time in my life, I fear that the world is becoming more and more unstable and there seems little to counterbalance that. And then reading about the terrorist attacks in Barcelona, after all the attacks in France, and then Germany and then the UK, just made my heart sink. It seems endless. When my daughter went on a school trip to France this past spring, I had to warn her to be careful on pedestrian walkways and sidewalks and listen for cars careening out of control. The innocent days of walking down the street freely are over, at least for now. This is the world we all now live in.

My husband reminded me, however, that poetry is a great way to lift one’s spirit. I recorded an album a number of years ago with my musical settings and voice and piano on 14 poems, including one of my favorite by W.B. Yeats, whose writing I fell in love with first in college. The poem is a call to action to find peace any way you can. My favorite line is, “And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow.” (To check out this album, called Tread on My Dreams, you can go to https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/stanford.)

So for those of us feeling despair for the world, remember to find peace where you can and remember that peace doesn’t come all at once but in bits and pieces. Notice how and when that happens. And remember that as you move toward your world stage, the most powerful leaders who will inspire us will be the ones who are good and selfless and loving and filled with peace.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

W. B. Yeats, 18651939

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee;
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping
     slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket
     sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

Win Free Coaching: Summer Quiz Pt 2

I’m noticing a few friends and colleagues are unplugging from social media for the summer, which is so inspiring that I thought I would try it for August. So, no Facebook for me this month. (I even had to disable it to make this happen.) So far, I’m doing pretty well, but I have jumped on to wish people happy birthday and I confess that I got on by accident once (don’t ask), so I guess I’m 90% there. You’ll be happy to know that this is an international trend; a colleague in Scotland and one in Australia are unplugging.  I’m about to go camping with my daughter this weekend, as part of our annual Mom’s Weekend that is part of her sleep-away camp experience. (My husband will be camping with our son at the boys’ camp as well.) These camps are over 100 years old and have never had electricity in the cabins, so it’s a great chance to truly be in nature– that is when I’m not getting lost in the woods without my flashlight!

Here is the good news about many people unplugging.  This gives you a better chance to win a free 50 minute coaching session this month. Beginning last week, I started a challenge to readers who are not current clients. All you have to do is be one of the first 3 people to respond to 5 quick questions, either last week, this week or next.  Post your answers in the comments section and then I will contact you to arrange a free session. (To see last week’s challenge, just scroll to the previous blog post.)

Here is this week’s summer quiz:

  1. What is the most summery thing you did this week?
  2. What is your go-to summer outfit to wear when you’re not working?
  3. Where have you traveled so far this summer?
  4. What is your favorite ice cream you had this summer and where was it?
  5. What is your big goal to get done by Sept 1?

That’s it. Just post quick responses in the comments section and I will contact you. Feel free to pass onto friends and family. And try to experiment with unplugging some for August.  You’ll find that you have a lot more time to enjoy the sunshine 🙂

Here is my favorite recent picture from camp with my daughter.

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Win Free Coaching: Summer Quiz Pt 1

I want to do something fun and different the next four Fridays to shake things up. Let’s face it, in August none of us wants to do much work, including reading blog posts. So, for the next four weeks, I’m going to ask readers to post answers to 5 new questions each week in the comments section. (It will only take a few minutes.) The first 3 readers who respond in any of the four weeks will get a free 50 minute coaching session. 

Here it goes:

  1. What is your favorite thing about summer?
  2. Are you a lake person, an ocean person, or both, and why?
  3. If you had to choose: do you like pie, ice cream or cake, and which kind?
  4. What is your big goal for summer?
  5. What is something you’ve done this summer that you enjoyed?

I’ll give you my answers and then I want to hear yours:

  1. I like the slower pace and the sunshine!
  2. I like both but I’m more of a lake girl.
  3. I would say for summertime that I’m a pie person: rhubarb or peach crumb pie
  4. My big goal for summer is to clean out our closets and get 10K steps in every day.
  5. I most enjoyed our family trip to Portugal and Spain in July.  It wasn’t always easy and there were bumps along the way, like our car breaking down on the freeway, but we bonded as a family and our kids and we got to see more of the world.

Now it’s your turn.  Take 3 min to post your answers in the comment sections.  The first 3 people (who are not current clients) who post get a free 50 min coaching session! (Check out my website at http://www.worldstagecoaching.com for more information.)

These are pictures of Sintra, Portugal below.  This was my favorite part of Portugal!

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Just Show Up

As Woody Allen once said, “80% of success is just showing up.” I love that quote because it’s so basic. We forget that before we can become successful, we just have to show up. I know we’re all busy and have a lot of things going on, but the reality is that we do the things that we absolutely have to do, like going to work each day, because we don’t want to lose our jobs. We know that we have to show up at our siblings’ and best friends’ weddings, so that’s easy. But how many of us don’t show up again and again in ways that matter? Last fall, I took an online course through Live Your Legend called “Connect With Anyone.” It’s a 12 week course that involves weekly online coursework, online check-ins, and mastermind groups. I was really looking forward to being part of a big community of entrepreneurs, and even though I learned a lot, I was surprised by how few people actually showed up week after week to comment on what we were learning and be there for others. I noticed the people who wrote about themselves but never commented on others’ comments. I noticed the people who dropped out, but I also noticed the people who stood out because they consistently showed up. They have since become friends and mastermind partners with me and I continue to be grateful for their generosity.

The fact is that it’s hard to commit to show up consistently in so many ways. What about playing with your kids? Or staying in touch with your friends? I can’t tell you the number of people who have said to me over the years, “I’m not good at keeping in touch with friends.” The reality is that some people simply don’t make it a priority, so those who do, like my husband’s close friends from high school, really stand out. How many of us show up at our kids’ events but text all the way through? I certainly have my flaws, but texting through performances is not one of them. I know how quickly our kids are growing up, and how important it is to really be present for every second of a cello recital or a first musical, or a house design project. Showing up means unplugging and being present, but in our sped-up world, it’s increasingly uncommon.

I know that showing up is hard to do when you’re tired and have a lot going on, and sometimes the best choice really is to stay home. It’s true that sometimes when you do show up for something that’s not essential, it turns out that it really wasn’t important to come. Sometimes the party isn’t fun or the new yoga class is a bust. But how do you know unless you try? A few nights ago, I went to a cabaret open mic night at a local church. It was scary to do. I hadn’t sung professionally in over 10 years, even though I had written a lot of music and recorded and released two albums since then. Still, I had chosen to put performing on hold for a long time because with two young children and a husband traveling internationally a lot and many evening commitments, there were too many things (and people) pulling at me that mattered. So anyway, this week, since my two kids are both away at sleep-away camp, I decided that now was the time and I was going to show up at this open mic, no matter what the outcome. I quickly rehearsed my two songs, one an original song and one a jazz tune, and drove to the church. I forced myself to meet 30 people who had been coming regularly and to sit through 3 1/2 hours of a big range of performance abilities. I was delighted to hear some strong singers and was also impressed that people who really couldn’t sing well at all still had the courage to show up and get out there.

The best part of showing up when you’re scared and you don’t want to, is that sometimes amazing things happen. In my case, I got great applause and wonderful feedback, I connected with some musicians I really liked, and I even got a future gig out of it, so I’m now officially back in the saddle performing-wise. The last time I had a gig, I was paid really well and reviewed by the Boston Globe. This time, however, I’ll be part of a group of 5 performers, each of us singing only a 20 min set, and I will not only do it for free, I will have to pay $70 toward the pianist and the space since the evening is a fundraiser. Yes, I’m taking a few steps back to get started again, but I’m proud that I took time off for my family, even while keeping other facets of my music front and center all along.  The fact is that when you put something front and center, other things naturally have to fall behind. But the answer to changing that is still to show up, no matter the outcome.

To find your world stage, think about the things and the people that matter to you and make sure you are showing up for them, unplugged and present, because you never know what will happen. You might just discover how much you’ve missed performing.

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Slow Down

For those of us who tend to be Type A more than we care to admit, summer is the necessary pause that allows us to slow down. What I love most about this time of year is that the light shifts to a much more brilliant hue, the weather is lovely and warm, and the pace changes to something much slower. All of us with kids breathe a collective sigh of relief when school is over and camp is on. No homework, no playdate organization, no racing around, no activities. We can finally sit on the front stoop and watch the sky.  Summer is also the time my family and I travel; we just returned from a few weeks exploring Portugal and Spain. Travel is a great teacher, because you are forced to slow down, to be inconvenienced, and to not understand over and over.  It’s very easy when you are in another country to just want everything done the way it is done back home, but that’s not how it works. In Lisbon, we stayed in a tiny apartment in an old Moorish slum that involved over 60 steps (with crumbling cobblestones) to access. None of this would have been to code in the States. The “do gooder” in me wanted to paint over the endless graffiti on every building, and I wondered why everyone moved so slowly and no one seemed to be working much. In Santiago do Cacem, we stayed in the countryside where there was literally nothing to do except relax, or go to the local beach. We had a private house with a little balcony with views of the ocean. As long as I didn’t fret that the pool was too dirty to swim in and the kids were covered with mosquito bites from having no screens on the windows, I was fine. Watching the sunset over the valley and enjoying the pace of doing nothing was the reset that we needed. Then in Faro, we spent the day at the beach with a picnic of fresh tomatoes and cheese and bread, cherries warm from the sun and chocolate, and spent evenings laughing as a family while playing cards. I responded to as few emails as possible. Even though I wanted to clean our apartment’s dirty tile floor and was frustrated by the uneven WiFi, it was a great reminder that life doesn’t have to be perfect to be happy. I could just let go.

In Seville, the weather was 107 degrees every day and the streets in the old city so narrow that the sidewalks disappeared in the middle of a block, leaving cars to travel within inches of each passerby. I missed the safety and ease of American streets and sidewalks, but I was mesmerized by the beauty of this old city, with the Moorish influences mixed with beautiful Spanish architecture. I remembered that when it’s really hot, you have to go slowly. And you need to rest in the afternoon, which is why siestas are so popular in hot southern countries. On the way back to Lisbon, we stopped in Evora and the temperature was boiling and the Roman ruins not as impressive as advertised, but we had a lovely picnic as a family and bought some souvenirs. Back in Lisbon, we had to practice our breathing after our first housing plan fell through (long story) and we had to drag our suitcases up and down the cobblestone hills of Lisbon to get to our new place. But you can’t walk fast when dragging suitcases, and in the middle of this, we passed through a large African wedding celebration, with all the people dressed up in colorful garb, the women and children dressed particularly elaborately.

We’ve been fortunate to travel internationally quite a bit.  I’ve now traveled to 25 countries, and my husband to 35. My kids, at ages 14 and 12, have been to 10 countries.  And yet, we are hardly perfect as travelers. Our trip began with a missed flight due to a scheduling change I hadn’t made note of, forcing us to return home for 36 hours and catch a much-less convenient flight two days later. On our way out of Lisbon with our brand new rental car, we realized we had received a lemon car, with a broken clutch that wouldn’t change gears, and after discovering smoke coming out of the hood of our car, we pulled over to the side of the freeway and spent hours in a public housing slum, waiting to be rescued. We were delayed by hours getting to our next place, and the owner of the hotel almost didn’t let us in since we arrived so late. It was only after I threatened that we would have to sleep in the car with our two children that the gates were opened and we were let in.  I realized in these tough situations, that I had to slow down so that I could respond to each issue calmly and effectively.

To find your world stage, remember that travel is essential to understanding the greater world, as well as yourself. It will never be perfect and it will never be easy, but it will challenge you and delight you in unforgettable ways. And, just as summer naturally does, it will force you to slow down, which is something that we all need in this crazy, chaotic world.

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My family in Seville, Spain

Beware of Bad Guys

When I was in 4th grade, I watched Batman on tv with my best friend, also named Melinda, and loved that we could cheer on the good guys and boo the bad guys, and that it was always clear which was which. Unfortunately, in real life, that is not the case. People aren’t always as they seem, and sometimes the person who appears rough around the edges, like my daughter’s music teacher, has a heart of gold, and yet some of the mom volunteers at my kids’ former school, who were pretty and stylish, were not as nice as they seemed, forming invisible cliques that made middle school look like a walk in the park. (Thankfully, I stopped volunteering with the PTO a few years ago.)

I’ve tried to teach my kids the importance of trusting their instincts, something which is so crucial but is not easily taught or even mentioned in school. We are told to be polite and trust others, which is why it is so essential to learn to have a healthy skepticism, whether toward an internet or mail “offer” or a stranger at our door. I just recently received a bill that looked very authentic for a trademark I had registered a few years ago. The bill was for around $900 and I can see how a lot of busy people with inexact records might pay it. The only problem is that it’s a total fake. I already paid for a 10 year license, so I ripped up the bill. My parents and other retired people are often targets for IRS scams, with phone calls threatening them if they don’t pay up. Thankfully, my parents understand that this is a scam, but many people don’t.

When it comes to strangers at our door, most are innocent, whether they are asking for charity money or trying to proselytize, but some are not. I’ll never forget when my husband and I were newly married and living in an apartment on the first floor. One day someone tried to buzz into our apartment even though I wasn’t expecting anyone. A lot of our neighbors would just buzz in the person without checking, since there was no way to verify who it was without going to the door. I felt that this was unsafe, however, so since I was on the first floor, I just went to the door. There behind the glass was a good-looking guy in a flannel shirt. He looked like a graduate student, someone who I should have easily buzzed in. And yet I knew deep down something was wrong. I asked through the glass, “What do you need?” and the man responded, “I’m here to fix your building’s heating problems since you don’t have any heat.” He even had a badge to validate his story. Now in most buildings, that would have been true. But in our building, we had the opposite problem: the heat was always running. I knew in that moment that this guy was a fake and that he was there to do harm. I told him that he was a fraud and I was calling the police and he threatened to break down the door. The only reason he left thankfully is that he heard other neighbors on the first floor, even though I was all alone in the lobby. This was before cell phones, so I didn’t have a way to call 911 from where I was. As soon as he fled, I went to the police and gave the perfect description for the guy they had been looking for: a good-looking graduate student-type who was breaking into buildings and threatening people. I never forgot how important it is to trust my instincts.

More recently, a few years ago after we had just moved in to our new house, a woman showed up at our door acting very strangely, saying that she had lived in the house when it was rented the previous summer– and yes the prior owner did have summer renters. She said she needed to come in to check out if her jewels were still in the house. At first, I didn’t listen to my instincts– I figured she was just sad and spacy and honestly wanted to get her jewelry back. I told her that nothing was there– the house was empty when we moved in. But she kept still trying to peer around our door, and given that my husband was not home, I was starting to feel very creepy about her. I suggested that she talk with the seller’s realtor in case the seller had seen anything, and then when I had time to think, I realized how strange her story was. I said she had to leave, and thankfully she did. I reported her to the police and they said that this is a common trick that bad guys do; they find a recently sold house that had been rented out and try to clean the new owners out. They also choose a “front man” who appears innocent, and the guys in charge often hide in the bushes for back up. The problem is that this woman seemed like she was either high or crazy or both. Thankfully, I was smart enough not to let her in, and I was just about to call out for my pretend cop husband if necessary to scare her off.

To find your world stage, watch out for bad guys. Things are not always as they appear. Sometimes a graduate student-type might be trying to harm you, and a nice woman who lost her jewelry might be trying to steal from you. It’s up to you to listen to your instincts to protect yourself, whether it is someone in person, over the phone or by computer or mail. Most people really are good, but just remember that life is not always as simple as Batman. It’s up to you to recognize who the bad guys are.

 

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