Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Swimmingly good service...

...and another opportunity to rave!

I bought a new bathing suit recently from Cyberswim, an online retailer specializing guessed it...swimwear. They carry a brand called The Miracle Suit that promised all kinds of happiness for those of us whose curves run toward the abundant side. Having lost weight recently, I needed a new suit before I headed to southwest Florida for some R&R. I found just what I wanted, forked over the (for me) ginormous sum for the suit and an extra twenty bucks for expedited shipping...and waited.

Nothing happened. I thought the suit was coming via the postal service so I checked diligently, even though getting to the post office isn't the easiest task (another post on that topic sometime). Alas...departure day came and I had no suit.

Here's where the really good stuff starts. I called Cyberswim. They checked and found that the suit had, indeed, been delivered and was left at the "side door of my house" without a signature (by my request). I calmly explained that I had no side door and that I had already checked every neighbor's side doors, porches, and patios and there really was no suit.

The representative handling my call contacted UPS, tracked down the problem and determined that it was a UPS issue (package sent to a non-existant address in a city two hours west of me). I explained my vacation plans and asked if they could reship to my brother's address in Florida. Not only did they honor the request, they overnighted the package so it was there by 9:30 the next morning. Happy girl.

The icing on the cake? The suit just ROCKS! It fits well, shapes beautifully, supports the girls in all their glory, and looks really good. Seriously...check out the Miracle Suit line on Cyberswim. They're great!

Bottom line? Mistakes happen; how a company responds when they happen is the make-or-break factor. Cyberswim's response was perfect - another happy service experience in a world where they're few and far between. I'm happy to give a shout out when I get the chance.

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Seventy-five is a beautiful number...

...and Weight Watchers is my friend!

I finally hit the 75-pound loss mark today...75.4 to be exact...and I'm ecstatic! I'm not at my ultimate goal weight by a long shot, but ding-dang-and-double-doggone-it, 75 pounds is worth celebrating! Yesiree, cel-e-freakin'-bra-tion! Yeah!

Weight Watchers has been such a positive experience for me. Yes, there have been rough spots, and I've had a meltdown or two along the way (for the survival of which my long suffering husband should be given a medal). And no, it's not a miracle-diet-never-go-hungry-eat-all-the-food-you-want-and-lose-weight kind of program. It's a healthy approach to eating and an opportunity to share the journey with people who are on the same path, who help each other, succeed together, fall off the wagon together and, by golly, get back on...together.

I am blessed with a meeting leader who gets it. Of course, all WW meeting leaders have been successful on the program, but our leader lost a lot of weight and knows the long road personally. And while I'm not in any way minimizing the struggle of the person who wants to lose 10 or 15 pounds, that's different than aiming to lose 100 - 150 pounds. And my buddies in the group - a couple of guys who, like me, have big weight loss goals - are astounding! They're funny, smart, and totally comitted to losing weight and to helping others in the group do the same. I love 'em!

So today I'm doing a happy dance...a 75-pounds lighter happy dance...and looking forward to hitting that century mark. And to mark the occasion, pictures of progress to date:

Seventy-five pounds ago...

...and now (that's my Mom on the left).

Stay tuned...more to come!

The tale of the nail...

...and the lessons we learn about ourselves.

Back in April, I fulfilled a dream of sorts. I had my fingernails professionally done. Not just done...artificially enhanced with acrylics, longer-than-life, stronger-than-strong, fashionably shaped and colored and shined. I did this to A) celebrate having lost 60 pounds; and B) because my boss and fellow managers all do it.

Actually, reason B is the real reason...and begs the question: WHAT WAS I THINKING?

For as long as I've been associated with my current employer, I've envied the beautiful nails of my fashionable peers. They looked so polished, so perfect, while my own stubby nubs looked remarkably stubby and nubby. Nevermind that my hands do all kinds of things that don't lend themselves to long nails. Nevermind that I earn my living at a keyboard and never really learned to type with long nails and that I've never been a change-the-polish-shape-and-file kind of girl, preferring my trusty buck-ninety-eight clippers to fancier things like buffing boards and cuticle pushers. Nope...I would not be satisfied until I, too, had long, shiny, fake fingernails to drum on the conference table during meetings.

Well, I got 'em...and I HATED 'em! Holy cow! How does anyone ever get anything done with those things? I couldn't pick anything up, and everything I touched left a little bit of itself under a nail somewhere. Yuck!

Worse yet, they began to look really awful as my natural nails started growing out. Removing them required soaking in pure acetone for a very long time, and then the thumbnails wouldn't come off anyway. It was another two weeks...two weeks...before I got those babies off my thumbs!

My natural nails paid a heavy toll for my little experiment. They were brittle, thin, and kept a layer of acrylic na-na-na-na-boo-boo to remind me of how I let my vanity overrule my common sense. It's mid-August and the remains of my temporary insanity are only now all but completely gone.

That was then...

This is now.

So now my nails are stubby and nubby again. I can pick up what I drop and I don't have to scrape goo out from under them all day long. I sit in meetings and look around at all the long, perfect acrylic nails and then at my own nubbins and realize they don't look as pretty, but they can do what hands are made for and they don't require my constant attention.

That's beautiful.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Those Visa commercials...

...the ones that show busy retail and service establishments humming along nicely until someone starts to pay with cash, causing everything to grind to a halt...shocking customers and employees into stunned, then irritated silence as the poor, out-of-touch cash-user sheepishly forks over the coin of the realm...yeah, those commercials.

Well, they're true. Totally accurate. I'm traveling with my 81-year-old mother. She likes to pay her own way and she insists on using cash. She never learned to use a debit card, refuses to use her credit card, and doesn't believe for one moment that anyone outside her immediate home area would ever accept her check (she may be right about that one)...AND she always...ALWAYS wants to use correct change. I work hard to not display irritation or impatience, and most service personnel are genuinely polite and patient with her, but it's a marked interruption in the usual flow. Customers behind us are usually polite, but I have occasionally heard loud, long-suffering sighs and an occasional young person with no home training says something out loud. Fortunately, Mom is usually too engrossed in counting out the 47 cents for her purchase to notice, though her hearing is sharp enough.

The Visa commercials probably don't help the situation much. They paint the cash user as out of touch and the root of all evil in the race to get-and-go. Maybe a commercial that shows an old person frustrated by technology they don't understand just trying to buy some milk and bread, one that zooms in on trembling fingers and a mind that doesn't always click like it used to, would be better.

Patience, people...patience.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The most intimate story I've ever read...

...can be found here. "Days With My Father" is published by a brilliant photographer named Phillip Toledano. Mr. Toledano's father is 98 (at the time of writing...not sure how current that is) and while he doesn't have Alzheimer's, he has no short term memory. The picture he paints with his word and his lens is sweet, sad, loving, heartwarming, heartbreaking, and achingly intimate.

The elder Mr. Toledano wants to die. He's tired and frustrated and achingly alone, imprisoned in a mind that no longer works correctly and a body too strong to die. My mother feels the same way. Her short term memory isn't as far gone as Mr. Toledano's, but it's going. She isn't as old; at 81 she's physically strong and nowhere near death. People she loves have died. She's lonely. She's frustrated. She's immeasurably sad.

I was moved to tears when I read "Days With My Father". Some were from sadness for an old man's pain and a son's grief. Some were from joy at being allowed such an intimate peek into so much love. Most were from knowing that a woman I have always struggled to know and understand and to have understand and love me, and still loved with all my heart is living in her own hell and I can't fix it.

Please...let me be patient...kind...loving...compassionate...for whatever days are left...days with my mother.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Can I just tell you... cool it is that I just found something I wrote being used as an email signature?

Yeah...I know...intellectual property and all that...and yes, the person is using my words without attribution or permission...but...

How cool is that? I'm sitting at my desk typing but I'm doing a happy dance on the inside and grinning like a possum! (That's an old expression from here in the southeastern United States, though I've never actually seen a possum grinning.)

The specific words are those of a little chant/song I wrote a couple of years ago. I've sung it at a few campfires and shared it with just a few others (by request after having sung it around one of those campfires) via an email group, but it's otherwise quite unknown. I suspect that the person who is using it on email saw them through a Yahoo Group that I belong to.

How she found it is really unimportant. That she wanted to put it on her email is the important thing. My words...mine...meant enough to someone that she attaches them to her messages, right under her name, for all the world to see.

That makes me all kinds of inexplicably large amounts of happy!

Deep breath...

Ok...back to work for time over...but I'm still smiling.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Dancing the Jitterbug...

...and happy to report that I have a GREAT customer service experience to share.

A little preface: I am SICK TO DEATH of lousy customer service, disappointing buying experiences, and apathetic encounters with retailers, service personnel, and business partners. Over it. Completely. So much so that I've almost stopped even ranting about it when it happens.

Once in a while, I'll have an experience that restores a bit of my faith, and I love to rave about those rare events. Buying my Mom's cell phone last week gave me a great opportunity to rave like a drunken sailor.

Have you heard of Jitterbug? They're a cell phone company that specializes in simple, easy to use phones that are great for old people, technophobes, and kids. Their plans start at just $10 a month for pay as you go (at .35 per minute), and their phones are beautifully simple - no cameras, no organizers, no text messaging. Big, easy-to-see buttons and a screen you can actually read make it easy for failing eyesight and shaky hands. Quick-dial numbers are entered via a secure website, allowing Jitterbug operators to have access to all the stored numbers on the phone - very helpful when the phone owner can't dial for his/herself. Just press zero and tell the operator to call a named person on the list and, bam! You're connected.

I called Jitterbug to order my Mom a phone and a very nice man walked me through the process. He answered every question, resolved every quirky request I made, and managed the entire process to a beautiful, blip-free conclusion. And he was pleasant, spoke real English that I could understand, and completed the whole transaction without ever once sounding anything but happy to be talking to me. The phone arrived in three days, exactly as ordered. After an overnight charge, we turned it on and found that it was already programmed with the first four quick dial numbers, given to the rep during the initial call.

It's not a great commentary on the state of service in our culture that I'm writing a blog about a routine transaction. It's a shame that calls this smooth are the exception rather than the rule. All that aside, I'm happy to sing the praises of Jitterbug. They've got a good product, clearly advertised, with excellent service to back it up.

That's worthy of a happy dance.

I said I wanted to write...

...and along came a friend who wanted to start a writers' group. She brought a friend who wanted us to come up with three monthly goals for ourselves to further/better/support our writing.

Be careful what you ask for.

I'm excited and happy and scared to death. The scared part is rooted completely in the fear of failure, of not being good enough, not doing enough, letting someone down (myself or others), looking foolish, being foolish, sucking get the idea. And the weird part is that I know I can write...that I have something to say and can say it well...that there are people who will enjoy and benefit from reading what I have to say. And still I find myself wondering what authority I have to say anything of import...who am I to think I have anything anyone else needs...the same questions I've always asked.

Self-doubt sucks.

Arrogance sucks, too.

Where's the happy medium?

I'm looking for it...honest...and I think I've hooked up with the right group of writing friends to help me find it.

Yay, friends. Yay, me.

So here three monthly goals, subject to revision in future months...
  • Write at least fifteen minutes every day.
  • Start compiling writing samples from my current collection of work.
  • Start a list of article, essay, and workshop topics; add to it as new thoughts come to mind.
Three goals...done.

Now comes the hard part.