Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Four more years!

I started this blog four years ago. Sometimes I can't believe it's been that long, but it's not like nothing's happened during those four years. Since I started this, I've had three different jobs, three residences, two computers, three cameras, a divorce, and an amazing new relationship. There's been a lot going on.

I'd like to say that when I started this blog, I thought I had it figured out or that I'd have no idea that things would change so much, but that's not true. I had a feeling a storm was a-brewin'. It was one of the reasons I started this, to have an outlet. I knew I was looking for something, and I still am. But, as cliche as it sounds, I see that getting there is half the fun.

I started writing here because I felt a pull of writing. I sort of expected to write a few posts, then let it fade away. I know that's not the most positive of attitudes, but I also know how these things go. I have more than a handful of half started projects hanging around the house (I probably will never knit that scarf.)

If I'm being honest, one of the reasons I started this blog was to reach out to (the former) Mr. Higgy-Piggie. This isn't the place to go into details about everything that happened or dig at old wounds, but, looking back, I know how many times and ways I tried to go to him, but there was never any attempt by him to move towards me. I started writing this, and he never read it once. Not a one time. Not when I started, not when I moved away, not when I told him that I didn't want to be married to him anymore.

I am now with Handsome Writer Man, and I am smiling, just writing this. As he is also a writer, it is not surprise that HWM reads this as well as any other writing I am willing to show him. He supports me, not only in my writing, but in so many ways that I was not supported before. I am happier now, but I am also stronger, and I am thankful for this every single day.

Thank you to everyone who has read this over the years. I know it's not a huge audience (if Statscounter is to be believed, I have yet to hit 7000 views), but I appreciate every single view. I will probably be writing here, on and off, until the idea of a blog goes away. I thank you, again, for reading and for all of the positive words.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


I get carsick. I get carsick like a little kid. I was told I'd outgrow it. Sadly, this was not to be. It seems so minor, but it affects a lot more than you might realize. I'm not going to pretend that it's a serious illness or that some people don't have bigger, truer issues, but it's something I wish people wouldn't just dismiss it as nothing.

When I think back on being a kid, about half my memories involve carsickness. My best friend's mom used to take us around in large, older cars with the heat cranked up. The car smell liked plasticized vinyl and that fake pine from one of those air-fresheners hanging on the rear-view mirror. (To this day, when I see one of those silhouettes of a pine tree, I get slightly nauseous.) I don't blame any driver for causing me to get sick. I get carsick at an Imax theatre. I've made myself carsick with my own driving, which should earn me a special prize or something.

I can't always predict when it'll hit. Generally, I need as few stops as possible. I am less likely to get carsick on a 50-mile ride down a highway than a two-mile trip to the store on back roads. Heat is always a factor, so if you see me place my wrists on the cooler window, I'm just trying to cool down a bit. (I'm not sure where I got the wrist thing, but it works on a limited basis.) I'm better in the front seat than the back, and I'm best of all when I can drive, which is why I will often volunteer to do the driving.

When I get sick, I starts out as a touch of queasiness, a rumble in my stomach. I cough (a reaction I have to being nauseous because just turning green and trying not to throw up is never enough.) At this point, I am usually trying to get fresher air, cool down, concentrate on not being sick (which is often not the right action because then my body starts crying, "I'm carsick! I'm carsick!" My body is a jerk.) It just builds from there. Often there's nothing I can do but just hope we arrive at our destination soon. I rarely get to the point of actually throwing up, but, once I'm out of the car, I do need some time to recover.

It's embarrassing. It really is. For me, it's the usual reaction to a ride in the car, but, for a lot of people, they want to check to see if I'm alright or they get overly concerned. I just need some fresh air and a few minutes. I don't want to discuss it, because I am highly suggestible and the more I talk about it, the more I feel it. (How suggestible am I? I'm slightly carsick just writing this post.) The good news is that it never sticks around. Five or ten minutes after I'm out of the car, it's over.

You probably don't realize how often you just pop in the car with a group of people: you go to lunch, you run an errand together, you pick someone up. I do, because every single time, I have to decide if a bout of carsick is worth it. I dread when someone picks me up to go somewhere. Every Christmas, my family wants to drive around and look at the lights, and I have to ask them to limit the drive.

Of course, it's not just cars: planes and boats are just as much fun. Sailing is just an invitation to revisit my last meal. I'm not afraid to fly, but I hate the idea of getting sick when I fly. I can feel it the second a plane starts circling an airport. I can't read when I travel -- that would be too much. (I have found that mahjong on my Kindle is a good diversion, but I have to shut it down when we approach, which is when I'm most likely to get sick. Flight attendants do not take this as a reason to violate FAA rules.)

It's not deadly and there are bigger problems in the world. Just understand that when I ask to ride in the front seat and a touch more air conditioning, it's just an attempt to enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Toms shoes: A story of really awful customer service

I buy too many shoes. My excuse is that I have a hard time finding ones I like. I want cute, comfy, nice-looking, non-blister-forming shoes. This is not easy for me. If they're cute, I get blisters; if they're comfy, they generally look dumpy and I might get blisters anyway. I thought I found a solution earlier this year with Toms shoes, but their customer "service" is too terrible for me to support, on any level.

I bought two pairs, liked them, so I ordered a pair of plain black canvas ones. For what they are (basic canvas shoes) they're pricey, but they were want I wanted. It took two months to finally have these shoes. 

When I ordered the black canvas shoes, Toms sent me the incorrect ones (these). I did everything correctly when I placed the order (I didn't click the wrong style or anything like that), but Toms expected me to handle the return in the sense that they would email me a UPS label, and I would have to repack, label the box, and take the box to a UPS store, then, once received and processed, they would send me a replacement pair. I asked if they would at least pick the box up at my door, and the customer service rep said that I would have to drop it off. I don't live by a UPS store and I work, as I explained, so she suggested I flag down a truck and they would take it. As this was the extent of the help, I told her I'd figure it out.

Unfortunately, I was unable to get the return to a UPS store in the 30-day window attached to the label (I wasn't aware of the time constraint until I got an email stating that my label had expired), so Toms offered to send me another label. I replied to the email that, yes, I would like a new label.

I heard nothing back.

I sent another request via email.

I heard nothing back.

I called directly. Unfortunately, even though I called during Toms business hours (which are limited and West Coast times), everyone was away at a team-building event, so there was a message to call back even later in the day. I called back later and was on hold for over 20 minutes. Unacceptable. Look, I get that they want to be this hippy-dippy-California place who does team building on a work day. Terrific! But now that you're back to work, answer the damn phones!

It was suggested to go to email (although my email experience was a series of non-replies so I didn't go down that road) or live chat, where, much to my surprise, there was no one there as well, just this message, over and over:

"All TOMS Customer Happiness Team members are currently assisting fellow customers. We appreciate your patience and a SOLEutions specialist will be available to assist you shortly. Please have your order number ready."

I got that at least 20 times. You can only imagine how pleased I was at this point. I'm on hold and the live chat was sending form letters.

I finally did get someone to talk to me and send me a UPS form. I didn't want to go through that again, so I sent it off right away. And waited almost three weeks for my replacement shoes. Toms is one of the few places that still charge shipping fees and, yet, their shipping system is incredibly slow. Frustratingly slow. In that time, I realized I needed shoes for a vacation, and since these weren't coming, I ordered from Zappos.

What is going on over there? These shoes are not inexpensive, but I thought they'd be worth it. When I got my first pair, I thought that I had found that shoe that I could wear almost anywhere. My sister, who has all sorts of foot issues, also raves about how wonderful her Toms feel. But, honestly, how can I continue to support a product that doesn't seem to be interested in its customers?

So, as I do, I wrote an email to customer service detailing everything above (in fact, most of the post is from that letter.) Their response: "We are following up regarding your request for a return shipping label for a recent TOMS order error..." Yes, that was the point of this email: my request for a return shipping label. I ran screaming into the night.

I know that some of the delay was my own delay in sending the shoes back, but this whole experience has soured me on Toms. I appreciate their causes and wanting to help others, but they need to fix the basics. I just refuse to support a company that ignores customer service.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Love in a work climate

This isn't about office romance. This is a question for those out there, working for The Man: how much do you owe The Man? Where is the line between company loyalty and selling your soul?

Let's start with the basics: you owe your company however many hours promised per week (usually 40, which is another discussion, but, for now, these are the rules of the game.) But no one really talks about the quality of those hours. Of course, you have to talk to your coworkers, but there is a difference between discussing a deadline and chatting about the kids' soccer games. But, then again, getting to know your coworkers makes the work environment more pleasant and makes working with these folks that much easier.

Should you be updating your facebook page? "Heavens no! Not on work time!" Except it's been shown that a bit of web surfing can actually increase your productivity, so maybe not checking facebook is a bad thing. Maybe you owe it to your boss to be tweeting.

How many hours in excess to the base 40 do you "owe" the company? Should you be checking your email at night and/or on the weekend? How about when your on vacation? Or sick? How many extra hours should you put in to get that big project done? What if there's no big project and they just expect you to be working more and more? There is a definite "you're lucky to have a job at all" vibe that some companies give off, but don't they owe you a reasonable workload? Is it fair for a company to demand that you work extra hours to fill out your 5-year plan?

Another big question: when is it time to look for the next opportunity? Sometimes the grass is truly greener someplace else or there might be rumors of lay-offs and cut-backs. Is it being "disloyal" to look for other places to work? Is it fair that companies frown upon such behavior, yet have no issue with a "reorganization" that leaves hundreds of employees behind? Do companies have a right to upset if someone browses LinkedIn? What about going to a job interview?

Back in the day, people would work for a company for 20 or more years, so, not only were you loyal to a company, but a company would be loyal to you. Now, it's a different dynamic, but companies still expect a loyalty that I'm not sure they deserve. If you truly love your job, you may not get that commitment that you want or need. Maybe it's easier to not get your heart broken if you have love outside of the office.