Saturday, November 16, 2013

Click Over Here...

I'm no longer blogging here. If you would like to read about my thoughts and family, please visit:

Structure in an Unstructured Life

See you there!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Trying to Make a Comeback

So I haven't posted in three months. And honestly, I've just been dealing with stuff that I haven't wanted to write about and has taken a lot of time and energy from me. But I miss the blog. And hopefully, the blog missed me. So to jump start my comeback, I am posting a couple posts that I actually wrote in the fall and never got around to posting. They are dated, but, hey, you gotta start somewhere. So you can read them below. I have every intention of posting again soon...

Three's Company or Three's a Crowd?

I get asked more often than you would think if I am having any more babies. About half the time, the question is phrased around if I am going to "try for a girl." In regards to a girl, the answer is simple – I don't really care if I have a girl or not. After having two boys, I'm not sure I would know what to do with a girl. But in regards to having any more babies, that is the tougher question to answer.

When I was pregnant with Brett, I was positive he was my last one. I am not one of those women who love being pregnant. In fact, most of pregnancy I hate. Ultrasounds are fun, the funny little movements you feel in there are fun, but everything else, as far as I'm concerned, kinda sucks. Granted, I get horrible morning sickness, migraine headaches, sciatic nerve issues, and a host of other odd ailments when pregnant. And after my long and difficult birth of Brett, I was really positive I was done having babies.

Then when Brett was about 8 weeks old, I moved him into the pack n' play in our room and out of the bassinet. Both my boys slept in the bassinet my dad and my aunts had slept in as babies, and me and most of my cousins slept in as babies, and my cousin's kids slept in as babies. It has a lot of tradition and sentimental value. I went to pack it up and put it in the attic and started sobbing. The thought of never putting a baby in that bassinet again broke my heart. Then the same thing happened when packing up the newborn size clothes, the baby toys, the bottles; you get the picture.

So then I was sure I wanted one more. Not to have a girl, but to have one more baby, boy or girl. I started to forget the bad stuff, like the horrendous labor and delivery, and remember the good stuff, like that moment when the doctor hands you the baby and at the sound of your voice, he stops crying and just stares at you. The whole rose-colored-glasses thing. All of a sudden, I couldn't imagine life without one more baby. I was convinced I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn't have one more.

Lately, I have started to wonder again if I really want one more. As Brett gets older and I see his personality more, I wonder if he would do well as a middle child or not. I think about how nice some things are now that he is older. Brett and Jack can play together in the living room while I fix dinner and I don't have to keep checking every two minutes to make sure "the baby" didn't put something in his mouth. Brett can actually walk when we go somewhere and my hands are full of stuff. I have a little bit of independence as he gets older and more independent himself.

While I was pregnant with Brett, I remember watching Jack sleeping one night before I went to bed. The thought ran through my head that maybe I had made a mistake. Life was so good most days with our little family of three. We hung out together and had fun. We had figured out how to manage, and were doing it quite well, I must admit. I panicked that this new little baby would rock our perfect little boat we had going on.

Then Brett was born. I'll admit, we had our rocky times. The first day I spent alone with two kids I did yell, through my tears, that everyone in the house needed to stop crying. Not my finest hour, but we made it through. And I look at our life now, and realize it wasn't complete without Brett. He fills a hole I never even knew was there. I can't imagine our family without him.

So how do I know what to do? Some days I wish I would just either accidentally get pregnant or would find out I medically can't have any more kids. (I am fully aware I should REALLY watch what I wish for here!) Then the decision would not be mine to make. But unless that happens, I have to continue to wonder what to do. All I can say is, stay tuned, there may or may not be further programming…

Can't Get Good Help These Days

I am passionate about customer service. I strongly believe the most successful companies and organizations are the ones that recognize the value of a satisfied customer. Part of my belief comes from the work I do. I have done quite a bit of customer service training, and, therefore, have done quite a bit of research on customer service. One recent statistic I came across was part of the "new" focus on the impact social media has on customer service. It used to be a dissatisfied customer might tell 8-10 people about poor service. The more recent statistic I read was that 13% of dissatisfied customers used social media to broadcast their dissatisfaction, thus reaching far more than 8-10 people.

So, I have decided to be part of the 13%, mostly because in the last few weeks I have experienced such tremendously bad service that I can't keep quiet anymore (my head just might explode). My streak of bad service started at McDonald's Drugstore in downtown South Haven. The quick version of the story is that a simple no-receipt exchange of an item they clearly sold took well over an hour. The sales person had to "go talk to my manager." The situation got more and more ridiculous as she started asking Troy if he knew the exact date he had bought the item and how he paid for it. Now, I understand having policies and procedures so a business runs effectively and efficiently. But when those policies get in the way of providing customer service, they are no longer effective policies. She ended up doing exactly what I came in their asking for – returning the wrong item that had been purchased, getting me the right item, and charging me the difference. However, because she took over an hour to do so, I will never return to the store again. Unfortunately for them, I am not some tourist coming in to get a cute souvenir. I am a local who would have shopped there for years to come.

Next, I started dealing with South Haven Public Schools. Specifically, the administration branch of the schools. I will say, so far my experience with the teachers and the on-site personnel has been nothing short of fabulous. However, my experience with the transportation department was awful. The week before school started I had no information whatsoever regarding Jack riding the bus. So I called. I was told by the person answering the phone that she would look up the route. Then I proceeded to listen to her talk to other person in the office about the computers not working, servers being down, etc. for about three minutes straight. I was never asked to wait a moment, or please hold, or really acknowledged at all. Then she simply said she would check when the servers were back up. She never told me when to call back, or offered to take my name or number and call me back. When I finally did talk to someone again I was told my not-quite-five-year-old would be on the bus over an hour and would have to wait in front of a vacant house with a pond that would not have a plowed driveway in the winter. Her response to my concerns was simply, "I can understand you feeling that way." Fabulous. My slightly less frustrating encounters have had to do with lunch menus not being posted online and charging a "handling" fee for me to electronically deposit money into my child's lunch account; however, if I actually hand the money to them (hence, actual handling of money occurs) there is no handling fee. Weird.

Finally, my last straw before writing this post, I called my bank with questions regarding my account. I have been with Honor Credit Union (formerly Berrien Teachers Credit Union) for probably close to a decade now. I have my car loan there as well as Troy's, in addition to our checking and savings accounts. I used to rave about their customer service, but I have been increasingly frustrated with their customer service for the past year. Since they have grown and changed their name, they seem to have gotten progressively worse when it comes to customer service. I recently talked to a friend that works at Chemical Bank about maybe switching and she said in the last 6 months she has heard the same complaint about Honor quite a bit. I told the person on the phone this. Her response? "Well, a lot of people from Chemical Bank come to us." Thank you, for responding like a 12 year old. The appropriate response should be concern that the people in the communities you are located in are talking about your organization negatively. You should also be concerned that your competition knows it.

So, I wish I could say sorry to these organizations for outing their poor customer service, but I'm not really sorry. You reap what you sow. And you happened to provide horrible service to part of the 13% going to social media, someone who also happens to research customer service and teaches it to others. Thanks for all the examples I will now share with probably hundreds of people when I teach. As Julia Roberts so famously said to the snotty salesgirls in Pretty Woman, "Big Mistake. Huge."

Monday, September 12, 2011

School Days

My little Jack-a-roo started school this week. He is in the Young 5's class at Lincoln Elementary; officially a South Haven Ram now. I, like the emotional mother I am, cried like a baby his first day of school. I did save my tears for after I left his classroom, but trust me, they flowed. I couldn't believe I was leaving my little boy in that big classroom for the whole day.

I saw my friend Senice in the parking lot when walking back to my car. She asked me if Jack had, all of a sudden, seemed like a little boy this last week; more grown up. I realized he absolutely had. My baby was disappearing and being replaced by a boy. It made me sad, and happy, and proud all at once. And I realized that's what the tears were for.

So as I think about my little boy, and not my baby, here is what I am most proud of:

• Jack entered that Kindergarten room confident. He had no problem with my leaving him there. He came in, checked things out, and found a spot to play. He had no tears and no fears.

• He is eager to make friends. He told me about being excited to show the other kids his new backpack. He told me about playing with kids on the playground.

• He is honest. While he knew I wouldn't really like the answer, he was honest that he ate all his cheese pizza, but did not eat any of the salad or grapes that came with it. I praised his honesty, but, being me, I also talked about the importance of eating fruits and veggies.

• He had a big smile on his face when I saw him at the end of the day. I'm sure his day had its share of uncertainty and stress, but he was smiling at the end of it. He made his way through it and was happy.

Jack's first day was great, which makes me unbelievably happy. Here are some pics from the big day:
 Breakfast - maybe not quite ready for the day!

 NOW we're ready for the day!

 Brett had to be just like his big brother and wear his backpack!

 My boys and their packs

 My happy little boy

 Waiting for the doors to open (it was a little chilly!)

In front of Jack's new classroom

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Reflections a Decade Later

On the radio the other morning was a montage of music and sound bites from a decade ago. Specifically, from September 11, 2001 and the days immediately after. As the tenth anniversary approached, I saw and heard more and more about that day. The programs about the attacks and in remembrance of those who died. The recollections of where people were and what they were doing. It was definitely being brought to the front of people's minds again.

I was teaching third grade in Battle Creek on 9/11. My friend and colleague, Sarah, came over to my classroom and said her husband had called or emailed that a plane had crashed into one of the towers in New York. I got the kids going on an assignment and went to I caught the first reports coming in. At that point, no one knew what was really happening. Shortly after, I was no longer able to get to the website. I later learned all the major news sites crashed because of the traffic to them.

I was isolated inside a school with no TV or radio. It didn't really hit me because I hadn't seen anything or heard much. The principal came into the staff lunch room and said a decision was made to not mention anything to students. It was the parents' decision and choice as to what to tell their children. Parents started arriving early to pick their kids up. I still didn't quite get it.

Then I got home. And I, like so many others, sat in front of the TV for hours. And then for days. I cried at the stories. I prayed for the families. And I held on to hope for so long that they would find more people. That they would save more people. Then I cried again when the inevitable message came that the rescue effort had become a recovery effort.

I, like so many others, rediscovered my pride in my country and my patriotism. I wore my American flag pin. I said the Pledge of Allegiance with a little more meaning. And I sang God Bless America in the middle of baseball games. But I also had questions. How could this happen? How did we not know it was coming, with our vast network of intelligence systems and agents? How could anyone be evil enough to come up with this plan?

So where am I a decade later? I have to admit, my patriotism has faded. I once again question certain characteristics of my country and its leaders. But I also have to admit, I do so because of a commitment to the people of my country. I may be embarrassed by the actions of a vast number of people in my country, but I am proud of my commitment to do something to help others in need whenever and however I can. Perhaps patriotism has not been the lasting impact of 9/11 for me, but service to my community has.

A decade later I still have the same questions. I still don't know how that tragic day happened. I have watched countless hours of commentary and analysis and theories, but I think it all points to the simple truth that none of us know how this happened. Maybe we all just didn't know that level of evil existed. We didn't know what we didn't know. But unfortunately, I think that day, and in the days after, we all lost a little bit of innocence, and faith, and hope. Perhaps that is another lasting impact of 9/11 for me, and for all of us watching that day.

So on this anniversary, my thoughts turn to the victims and their families. I doubt many people in this country escaped this tragedy without knowing someone that was lost, or someone that lost a loved one. I pray that they have all found some kind of peace and a way to keep going. And I promise them that I will continue to remember the impact of their loss, and use it to fuel my commitment to help others whenever I can. I also promise to someday, when they are older, teach my children the lessons to be learned from that day. I can't answer the questions I am sure they will have, because I don't know how someone could do this. But I hope their generation can find the innocence, the faith, and the hope that the rest of us lost that day.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

One Year Later...

One year ago today, my life was forever changed. Usually what follows a sentence like that is something about marrying the love of your life, or giving birth to a beautiful baby. I don't have a happy ending for my sentence. One year ago today my mom fell and hit her head on the concrete driveway, causing a bleed in her brain. What followed after was a long and incomplete recovery, the destruction of my relationship with my parents, the rise of alcoholism in my dad, a long and pointless legal battle, and basically a trip through hell, one in which I am still waiting for the "and back again" part. One year later and not much is better, it is simply far, far worse than I ever could have imagined it would be.

When I sat down to write this, I realized this can't be how my story ends. This glass-half-empty girl, can't have a completely empty glass at the end of all this. I have to find some good. I have to fill my glass. So here's the good that has come out of the past year of my life.

I have realized I am far stronger than I ever would have known. At least a dozen times over the past year I have said to Troy, "I can't take any more. This is my limit." And then there would be more. So I've come to know that no matter what hell comes my way, I may hate it, and I may wish with everything I have for it to get better, but if it doesn't, I will continue to exist and plow through each and every day.

I found faith this past year. For most of my life, I have had a kind of on-again-off-again relationship with God. Through high school and college I went from being involved in church to not involved and back and forth. After college, I became somewhat anti-organized religion. I viewed it as historically a way to control the masses, get people to behave the way the powers that be wanted them to through the threat of exclusion. This past year, the relationship got even more dicey. For awhile, I was angry at God for allowing everything to happen. I mean really angry. But the more I went to church (for Jack's involvement, initially), and the more people who told me they were praying for me, the more I would feel moments of peace. I've come to realize, and am trying to accept, that while God let those things happen, He gave me the strength and the people to get me through them.

I have forged a bond with my sister that is, I am certain, unbreakable. My sister and I were close to begin with. Ever since I moved back to St. Joe, across the street from her, we had been getting closer and becoming even better friends. We knew about each other's pregnancies before the rest of the world knew, we had numerous conversations that started, "I couldn't tell anyone else this, but…" and we talked probably more days than not. But we went through this past year together in a way no one else could. It was truly a shared experience. They are our parents, and no one else had that common thread, or so much emotional investment, as the two of us. We may have lost the rest of our immediate family, but I will never feel alone for the rest of my life. I have my sister.

Finally, I gained the courage to change my life this past year. I had hated my job for so long. But change was scary for me. I came to a point where I realized I no longer had anything to lose. I had to get out of St. Joe. I couldn't continue to be the first responder to my parents' numerous emergencies simply because I was the closest one there. I couldn't continue to wonder who all knew the gossip going around town about my dad and his drinking, or my brother and his various jail sentences. I found and went after another job. And I love it. It took having nothing to lose, for me to be open to having something to gain.

So a year later, I resolve to be more aware of how full my glass is. Maybe the glass-half-empty girl you have come to know is evolving. I may not always see my glass the right way, but after everything I have gone through, there are certainly days when I realize that my cup runneth over.