Don’t Start A Conversation By Saying: “You Need To…”


The General stood behind me briefly last night as I sat at my computer. I think she placed a light kiss on the top of my head. Maybe she didn’t, but I’m remembering that she did. I remember clearly that she did touch the top of each of my shoulders; one with each of her hands. The tactile stimulation from the sense of touch was nice. She made the statement: “We’ve had a nice day.”


Interestingly, I talked about the sensation and importance of touch in my blog yesterday. I do know at the time the General laid her hands on my shoulders, she had not read my blog. I know that only because shortly before the brief encounter in my office, we had talked to Craig on the phone. During that conversation, he had asked about his mom’s response to my blog. She responded that she hadn’t read it. It really is true. She doesn’t drink coffee and when it comes to the pearls of wisdom (that’s a joke) that come from the ink in my pen, she’s not necessarily a fan.


Mid-morning yesterday, I received a message through messenger from Michelle, the daughter of one of my cousins. Michelle joined the United States Air Force following graduation from high school. The assignments, schooling and skill set she subsequently developed served her well and she’s accomplished much. She left the Air Force seven years ago and since that time has worked as a paralegal for the U.S. Department of Defense.


I’ve only seen Michelle three or four times in the past twenty-five years and each of those occasions were linked to the funeral of a family member. About a year ago, she was the only positive “for-sure” match of a relative found for me through I subsequently reached out to her by email. Apparently the cyberspace delivery got bundled up somewhere in the family tree and she has recently just received it. However, we have been Facebook friends for a while.


Her thoughtful and kind note yesterday morning figuratively made my day. My reference yesterday morning to Granny’s homemade rolls was the catalyst that motivated her to contact me. She reported that she has dabbled some with ancestry in an attempt to learn more about our family. She said: “It is amazing the random questions that come to mind after the only ones that can answer those questions have passed.”


At any rate, she made reference to the published journal of William Henry King, my Granny’s maternal grandfather. He chronicled his experiences and reflections from serving in Gray’s 28th Louisiana Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. The book is entitled “No Pardons to Ask, nor Apologies to Make”. The cover of the book includes a picture of William Henry King. She sent me the information not knowing whether or not I was familiar with the book.


She went on to say that she’s been reading and enjoying my blogs. Her words were thoughtful and kind: “I started reading “No Pardons” well before I started following your blog, and the picture of William Henry King reminded me so much of you. Since I’ve been reading your blog, I honestly think your love of writing (and perhaps Jakes’) is rooted deep in your blood and is an inherited trait. I mean that as a compliment. I just find it very interesting.”  I felt so honored to receive such a kind message. Her thoughtfulness to reference Jake made the message even more special.


The General reflected on the day as a good day. Although I thought it might go otherwise earlier in the morning, I have to confess that I concur with her assessment of our day. Maybe it really is true: “You get that for which you look”. If you’re looking for trouble, you’re sure to find it. If you’re looking for contentment and satisfaction, that, too, can be found. You really do get what you look to discover.


Dale Carnegie’s book entitled: “How to Win Friends and Influence People” contains timeless truths. Across the years, I’ve suggested to more than one friend that they might find it helpful. Of course, the friends who I’ve ascertained could benefit from Carnegie’s wise counsel on the importance of friendship formation aren’t necessarily concerned with anything other than exerting their authority and influence. Bottom line, “They don’t care if people like them or not”. Can that really be true?


One of the omissions I’ve subsequently discovered that Carnegie made in his book is that he failed to communicate the importance of never beginning a conversation by saying, “You need to…”. Maybe it’s just me, but that three-word-phrase is a trigger that puts me on the defensive. I’m not sure there is a fighting side of me, but there is an obstinate resolve that intuitively surfaces when anyone, the General included, tells my “You need to…”.


Early yesterday morning before the General left to go to yoga, she nonchalantly said to me: “You need to take care of the careless weeds in the yard.” The phrase: “When donkey’s fly” ran through my head, but I opted to look in her direction and say nothing. That in and of itself was a miracle; however, it was a mistake. Silence on my part didn’t serve me well. For one thing it gave her license to explain to me: “It is too early to start having the lawn mowed. If you don’t pull the careless weeds up by the roots they will grow right back.”


Well, fancy that! I’m almost seventy years old and “Ripley’s believe it or not”, I’ve got the good sense to know if you don’t eradicate the roots, you don’t eradicate the weeds. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the term “careless weeds” before, but I opted not to ask her for a definition. Although she didn’t provide an expected timetable for the task to be completed, the inference was she meant “now” and she didn’t mean “maybe”.  I was tempted to pout for the rest of the morning.


I also had the thought that her directive could carry with it a veiled threat. I think she and I had a similar conversation about this time last year; however, she simply referred to them as weeds rather than careless weeds. The lack of responsiveness on my part last year didn’t set well with her. Consequently, she took the bull by the horns and did it herself.


If you’re thinking she painstakingly and carefully pulled each of the careless weeds up by their roots, you’d be wrong. She didn’t do that at all. She took fifteen minutes and a gallon of round up and killed everything in the yard including the grass. I was furious! Unlike God who put a rainbow in the sky as a reminder that he’d not destroy the earth by flood again, the General made no such commitment.  Consequently, if I didn’t take care of the weeds, she would. The problem was, she wanted it done and I wanted it done right. Consequently, despite my disdain for the General designing my Saturday morning “To Do List”, I rose to the occasion.


Actually, I was surprised to discover how warm it was outside. Long story short, being outside was therapeutic for me. So was permanently eradicating the careless weeds by their roots knowing that I wasn’t destroying the lawn in the process. Three hours later when the General returned, the front yard looked great. I was more than a little perturbed that she didn’t tell me she was going to be gone for half the day. She countered that she was surprised that I noticed.


For her birthday in April, I’m planning to get her a copy of Carnegie’s “How To Win Friends and Influence People.” Actually, that’s a joke. We had a great day yesterday and I’m a little ahead of her “To Do List” for me.


All My Best!



3 thoughts on “Don’t Start A Conversation By Saying: “You Need To…””

  1. haha, Don! This so reminds me of Tom and me! I, of course, do things like ‘the General’ does and Tom responds much like you! It’s comforting to know there are others that communicate in much the same way we do! Cheers! Such a delicious read!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your weed pulling story reminds me that over 10 years ago, I gave up on killing the weeds and instead let them take over. I’ve learned they are very drought resistant and when everyone else’s lawn is all brown, my “weed lawn” is nice and green and the lawn full of yellow dandelions in the Spring especially makes for a beautiful sight indeed. Plus I’m doing my part to not pollute the local streams which the local group, “Friends of the Mahoning River” has asked all home owners to stop doing as well. Instead, I now have more time to write my blog,, as well as read yours too, thank you very much, plus do other “Honey Do list” items such as renovate the granddaughter’s swing set and plant more flowers. Did you notice I didn’t say “You need to . . . stop pulling weeds and instead let them grow”? God Bless you and Treva.
    Your friend,


  3. PS How’s “The Journal of Don Forrester” sound> The collection of all your blogposts combined under one cover. With comments and edited by your devoted readers too.


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