Re-launched, but still slightly under construction. :-)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Learning to take things as they are

Friday, March 27, 2015 By

This was my face, pretty much the whole time I was
trying to explain this situation to Emerson.

AUGUSTA, GA. - Emerson and I are going through the house and clearing out clutter to sell online. Books, clothes, shoes, toys, small appliances I never use, etc. We've made about $100 so far, with a $1,000 goal.

In the process, she decided to take some of her books to sell at her school. I wasn't convinced that it was a good idea, but she assured me it would be fine. I had reservations.

"MOM! I sold some books!" she said when I picked her up. "I made SEVEN dollars!"

"Wow, that's great, honey! How many books did you sell?"

"I sold three books. I thought that about $2 apiece was a fair price, but then the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book was more expensive, because it has a hard cover."

"Oh, okay. Well, that seems pretty fair."

"See? Look. It's a Sacajawea coin. It's worth $5."

Uh oh... I don't think this is how it works.
"What do you mean, Doodle?"

"It's a $1 coin, but it's really worth $5. A. has a book, and she said it was worth $5. So I told L. that was fine to give me just the coin, and I gave her one dollar back. And then I have two dollars here. So I made seven dollars!"

"Umm.... did you see the coin book?"

"No, she has it at home."

"Honey.. I don't think it works that way."

"Yeahhuh, A. has a book that tells you what things are worth!"

"Okay, let me just Google it."

"Okay."

Unfortunately, it was as a I suspected. Because the coin was a 2001P, and had been in circulation, it was only worth face value.

"The face value means the amount written on the coin. See, honey, it's worth $5 only if you can sell it to someone who also thinks it's worth $5. And there are stores that buy coins, but then they have to sell it and make a profit, so if you sell it to them, they can only give you about half what it's worth."

"What?! I got cheated!"

"Well, hold on. You're still holding one dollar, the face value of the coin. And it sounds like this was an honest mistake that L. made - and that you agreed to."

"Ugh... yeah, I did agree to it, but that was because we all thought it was worth $5. She owes me $4!"

"Hmm. I'm not saying you're wrong. I just don't know, Em. All three of you made honest mistakes, and L. is your friend. Maybe it's not worth the stress."

Emerson stared down at the coin in her hands and thought in silence for a few moments.

"I think I have to talk to her about it. I think what I have to say is, 'I'm not saying anybody is wrong,  but A.'s book made a mistake. This coin is only worth one dollar. Face value.' I think from now on I should only take things that I know what it's worth."

"Well... I think this lesson was definitely worth $4."

"Yeah. From now on, I'm going to take things at their face value."


Monday, March 23, 2015

Her thumb will freak you out

Monday, March 23, 2015 By

Okay, this isn't our photo, but it's almost exactly what
Emerson's awesome tacos looked like.
AUGUSTA, GA - Emerson cooked dinner one Friday night. She made pork soft tacos, spiced black beans, and saffron rice. I only helped a little bit. It was delicious.

"Em, this is great!" I said, stuffing spinach into my second one.

"Thanks, Mom! I was afraid you were going to not like it and spit it out." She gave me a hug, clearly relieved.

"Why would you think that? You did a fantastic job."

"I really like it, too. I never cooked meat before, but it's just perfect. I think I have a brown thumb."

"A brown thumb?"

"A meat thumb. Like a green thumb, but for meat instead of plants."

Got it. Meat thumb. Wonder how that would taste in a taco.


Friday, March 20, 2015

I adore these people

Friday, March 20, 2015 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - I requested information about a marketing strategy. This was our conversation - some of which has been summarized. My some of which. Because I am incapable of asking a question that has less than 250 words in it. 

Me: "So, are we doing this as a solely internal strategy, or can we push this out?" (See? Nicely summarized. But it's not what I said in a long, rambling voice mail message.)

E: "UUHHHHHHHHHHHHH..."

Me: "I don't know what that means."

E: "​So, just look at it like this. You, me, and T. are sitting in a room. You ask the question you asked. That is our response."

Me: "T. would never say that. T. would have a five-page research paper explaining the strategy."

E: "​The T. across the hall from me?"

Me: "Yes, that T. LOL. Who can bean you with her stapler from where she sits."

E: "And to think I just moved my computer screens -- I no longer have cover."

Me: "That was foolish. You ALWAYS have to have cover. Marketing 101. CYA. Or, at least, CYF. (cover your face)."


Thursday, March 19, 2015

How to drive people AWAY from your brand with social media

Thursday, March 19, 2015 By


This is a personal experience story that I like to call "You're Doing it Wrong." If you came here for a tight little bulleted list or pithy infographic, you've clearly never read my blog before. :-)

AUGUSTA, GA. - I'm sure the social media team at Whirlpool had good intentions. On a Saturday, when I tweeted my frustration at being unable to get to the thermal fuse off one of their dryers so that I could replace it, they actually tweeted back in a direct message, asking how they could help.

    Me: Wow, I was just whining but this is great! Replacing thermal fuse. Can't get drum out to get to it. No rear panel access. Belt off, drum stuck.

   Me: Seems connected at bottom of felt liner but can't see where or how. All web resources say same: it should lift right out. But it won't.

    Whirlpool: Please DM your name, address, ph# & the model & serial number so we can review this for you. Thank you.

    Me: Okay! It would be great if there was a technician who could tell me how to do it! I don't have the money to buy a new dryer right now, so I need to repair this one.

    Whirlpool: Thank you! We'll be in touch with you after looking into this further.

    Me: I really appreciate your responsiveness!

See the heating element? That's what I need to get to in order to
replace the thermal fuse. Only I can't get the drum out.

On Wednesday, a team member actually called me to help!

    Whirlpool: We'd like to offer you a special code to buy a new dryer at a discount.

    Me: Um, well, that's very nice of you, thank you. I'll be happy to take a look at that, but it's really not in the budget right now. If someone could please just tell me how to get the drum the rest of the way off, that will probably do it for me.

    Whirlpool: We don't really have anyone who can do that. But I can send you a list of repair providers in your area.

    Me (long pause): Sure, fine. Thanks.

Really, Whirlpool?

First of all, I find it hard to believe that, in the whole multinational company that makes dryers, you don't have anyone who can say, "There's a bolt under the drum. You can't see it from the front. You have to stick your hand in there, totally blind, and feel around for it." Or whatever the problem is. I don't know, I haven't figured it out yet, and my dryer is still in frickin' pieces.

Second, I didn't ask you for help in purchasing a new dryer. I need to get ONE PART off, then I can repair your broken-down dryer MYSELF. Well... assuming I can get it all back together again. But you designed this dryer with no rear panel access. Thanks a heap.

Third, they actually caused more frustration than they addressed. As I shopped around, the discount ended up being probably $50 less than Lowe's, Home Depot, HH Gregg, and Best Buy - although Lowe's has a price match guarantee, and I didn't check to see if they'd honor this one. I appreciate that Whirlpool reached out. I appreciate that they offered a discount. But the follow-through of their outreach went from "We can help," to "J/K we're not going to help. Give us money."

That's terrible in several ways. First, it's tone deaf. Second, it ignores my actual request. Third, offering to help me find repair services in my area tells me that you think I'm an idiot who can't use Google or Yelp. Or even the Yellow Pages, for you throwbacks out there.

Finally, it reeks of sales management ambition. You just know that about five years ago some 25-year-old junior territory manager made a very nervous presentation to senior management called "Using the Social Media Sales Funnel to Eliminate Missed Opportunities." Buzzwords and phrases included "Millenials," "revenue impact," "meet them where they are" and "controlling the conversation." All the senior management cheered at this new, extra-super-crass way of moving a few dozen extra units every year, and the junior territory manager was given a raise and a promotion to Associate Sales Director for North America. Now the Boomers at the top introduce him as their "social media guru," and he actually puts that on his name badge at conferences. "Dave, Whirlpool, Social Media Guru." All the while, some NEW 25-year-old junior territory manager named Logan is watching for an opening for his OWN presentation titled, "Social Media 2.0: Closing the Sales Gap." Dave better hope one of those lingering Boomers retires in the next few months so that people start to shuffle upwards again. Hope you catch the wave, Dave.

Hmm... Maybe I overthink things. Maybe I had inflated expectations. Maybe my frustration with the repair process is clouding my ability to appreciate the $50 discount on the fictitious dryer - fictitious because, as I told them in our DM conversation, buying a new dryer isn't in the budget right now. It might as well be a $50 discount on a Lear Jet for all the difference it makes.

Eventually, I'll be able to budget for a new dryer. First I need to budget for new tires, the removal of a few suspicious moles, and some minor dental work.

But when I do go shopping for a new dryer... I think I'll go with Maytag.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What you really need to know about online yard sale sites

Wednesday, March 18, 2015 By



AUGUSTA, GA. - I really enjoyed The Metro Spirit's article on online yard/garage sale forums. I'm a member of three of them, and I have found them very useful. Better than Craigslist (in that you rarely show up to buy a couch only to find that "couch" was that week's code word for prostitutes), online yard sale forums are usually Facebook groups where you can sell your stuff - or buy other people's stuff - and hardly ever get murdered. Yay!

Emerson and I are clearing out clutter. Clothes and shoes that haven't been worn in forever, books, DVDs, toys, etc. We've been very fortunate to find buyers who are interested, and we're hoping, over time, to turn this into a nice chunk of change to finance a visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter next year for her 11th birthday. You don't even know how badly we BOTH want to go.

But despite the fact that I love those stupid sites, and I have had mostly very good experiences with them, I have found some frustrations... mainly, women who engage in a kind of histrionic bait-and-switch that makes me want to tear off their acrylic nails and color in their highlights. Oh, yes, there is a profile, people, and I'm here to tell you it's upper-middle-class housewives who are the number one perpetrators of the following kinds of exchanges.

Poster: "SOLD!! Hi! I really super seriously need to buy everything you're selling immediately!"

Me (having posted four separate, distinct, and unrelated items that day for $25 each (total $100), with the caveat that I would meet buyers in specific areas): "Great! When would you like to meet?"

Poster: "I can meet every other Tuesday. How's tomorrow at 10 a.m.?"

Me: "Um, that won't work. I work full-time, 9-6."

Poster: "Oh, how sad. Well, can you bring them to my house in BFE around 6 p.m.?"

Me: "Um, no, I'll only just be leaving work at 6 p.m. And is there perhaps a more central location in which we can meet?"

Poster: "How about at 6:15 at the grocery store two blocks from my house out here in No Man's Land but still a 30-minute drive for you with traffic?"

Me: "No, that won't work for me. This might not work out. It's okay if you want to pass."

Poster: "No, I really want everything! I might be in Augusta tomorrow at 10 a.m. Will that work?"

Me: "Again, I work 9-6. But if you'll still be in town around noon, I can meet you on my lunch break."

Poster: "Thanks! And will you take $20 for everything?"

Me: "No."

Poster: "Then I'll have to pass."

Me: Bangs head against wall.




That's still better than the ones who show up and try to force their scam down your throat unexpectedly. I don't play that game.

Me: "Hi! Good to meet you!"

Poster: "Yeah, good to meet you, too! Well, everything looks good. Will you take $40 for everything?"

Me: "Um, no, we agreed to $100."

Poster (looking stricken): "But I only have $40. Will you take that?"

Me: "No."

Poster: "Will you take a check?"

Me: "No. But that's okay, I'll just move on to the next person who was interested."

Poster (grumpily): "No, wait, hang on. Let me check my glove box. Oh, look! Here's $60 right here!"

Me: "Imagine that!"

Hmph. I wish I had a magic ATM in my car.

If you want to use these sites, jump in but be smart. It's mostly good fun. I love buying secondhand for cost and conservation efforts, and I love keeping things local. But beware that there are people who prey upon naive site users. Here's my advice:

1. Document - Use Facebook messenger to always verify the purchase items and price. Then you have a written record in case they pitch a fit to the site admins when they don't get their way. The admins do not have time to get into drama, and they will just ban you and not think twice about it unless you have a compelling reason (and proof) for them not to. They are nice volunteers who just want to facilitate a useful service, and they do not have time for a full-on investigation.

2. Safety First - NEVER meet anywhere EXCEPT a well-lit, high-traffic, low-crime area. Some common locations are large retail parking lots (Target, Wal-mart, grocery stores), fast food restaurants, and places like Starbucks and Panera. Some police departments will let you use their parking lots and lobbies, and anywhere there's a sheriff's substation is a good idea.

3. Convenience is Key - Do not travel far from your home. It won't be worth it when the buyer either doesn't show up (not uncommon), or refuses the purchase for whatever reason.

4. Price Fairly - These sites are not fine furniture stores and antiques showrooms. People are looking for good deals, so price your stuff accordingly. Everyone thinks their leather sectional is worth $1,500. But is anyone willing to pay that? (Spoiler: No.)

5. Price Fairly, Part Deux - But don't come down on the price when a buyer is being irresponsible or trying to scam you. A well-mannered woman with a fresh manicure in a nice car can afford to buy your secondhand books for the less-than-one-dollar-apiece price you're asking. She's just being a horrible human being by both wasting your time and trying to pressure you into just taking what you can get in the moment.

6. Admins are Awesome - Report jerks like this to the admins EVERY TIME. They will ban them, and then they can crawl back to Freecycle like the mooches they are.

7. Document, Part Deux - When I remember, especially if the buyer seems even slightly sketchy, I run my phone's video camera or voice recorder while the transaction is going. If there are any conflicts, they are on record. That might be going a tad far, but I don't even care. Some people be crazy.

8. Admins are Mere Flawed MortalsFreecycle has been useful in the past, but again, some people are nuts. I once offered three used bras that didn't fit me after Emerson was born, and the first to respond was a woman who wanted me to ship them to Aiken. No way. She pitched a fit, said I was discriminating against people from Aiken, and reported me to the site admin, who said it was my fault for not specifying the delivery area. Sigh... sometimes, even the admins be crazy.

Happy hunting!

Monday, March 16, 2015

The only time my daughter listens to me

Monday, March 16, 2015 By



AUGUSTA, GA. - Emerson is complimenting my boobs. It's weird. I tell her to cut it out, and she starts belly laughing.

"Jumping Jehoshaphat, Em. That was wildly uncomfortable."

She laughs harder, shrieking, "Jumping Jehoshaphat?! What the heck is that?!"

"You know what? I'm not even going to tell you. You can just Google it tomorrow at your fancy art school in your fancy computer lab while all we had was stupid Oregon Trail on 5-inch floppy discs."

"Oregon Trail? What's that?"

"A video game. Basically, every computer lab was a choice between either doing typing programs or murdering an innocent digital family as they traveled across the prairie to a new homestead."

"Which one did you choose?"

"Well, I never actually learned how to type properly, so... "

"That's hilarious! So, you didn't have the internet?"

"Nope."

"That's sad."

"Well, but we got to ride dinosaurs to school, so it all worked out."

My senior portrait. I was a badass.

"Mom..."

"What?"

"You didn't ride a dinosaur."

"Prove it."

"Mom! Dinosaurs are extinct!"

"Because they all died on the Oregon Trail. My bad."

"Mom..."

"I should have taken typing. Maybe they'd still be alive."

"MOM!"

"What?"

"... You know what? Nothing. I like your crazy stories. Tell me another one about the old days."

"They're not that old, Em."

"They are to me."

"Fair enough. Let me tell you about my friend who lost an eye to her crimping iron."

"What?! What's a crimping iron? How did she lose her eye?"

"It was back in the 80s. It's like a flat iron, but it made a crimping pattern in your hair. It's hot and you put it near your face, so... accidents happen. Anyway, we called her Crimp-Eye Kristen."

"Did she really lose an eye?"

"Oh, yes. And then she couldn't see the dinosaurs. So, sadly, she's not with us anymore."






Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Her investments can sometimes stagnate

Wednesday, March 11, 2015 By


AUGUSTA, GA. - Emerson's digestive issues are a constant source of conversation in my household. Bohr and Einstein we are not. But she was born with digestive issues, and was recently very sick, so it's necessary to "monitor her output."

However, I might be too comfortable with this aspect of motherhood. She took a bathroom break at Costco that stretched longer than is normal. So I checked on her, because MOMS ARE AWESOME.

"Em?" I called.

"Yeah?" she answered from behind a closed stall.

"How's the poop going, Doodle?" I asked.

"Mom! Ugh! Can you please not ask me about my poo in public bathroom?"

"Okay, sorry.  ...   ...  How's your stock portfolio, Em? Making some good investments?"

"STOP IT, MOM."

Friday, March 06, 2015

Ten Things to Avoid After a Break-up

Friday, March 06, 2015 By



AUGUSTA, GA. - I waited two years after my divorce to date again, because I wanted my daughter to be comfortable with the idea.

She was maybe a little bit too comfortable.

     "Mom, I want to meet them before you go out with them."

     "Uh... that's... that's not really the way it works, Doodle."

     "I have to make sure they're going to be nice to you."

     "That's my job, Em. To make sure I pick someone who's going to be nice to you."

     "Wull... we're a team. You always say that."




I do always say that. So I've developed an online questionnaire for potential suitors. Emerson will be signing off on applicants of whom she approves.

I'm kidding, of course.

Anyway, I thought the end of my first relationship, post-divorce, was going to hurt a lot. But it didn't. I met a guy. We dated for a few months, but we knew we weren't headed in the same direction in life. We had fun, but things were winding down, and it ended - awkwardly, amid some dishonesty (boo, guys, just talk to us). But, ultimately, I had an okay time. Easiest breakup ever.

I was lucky. Breakups are rarely easy. There's a person in your life and then, suddenly, there isn't. It can throw one for a loop, and spark a lot of soul-searching and questioning of self-worth.

Y'all, don't do that to yourself. Unless your relationship has been interrupted by some divine comedy of errors, you probably played this thing out as far as it can go. It's time to get on with your life.



Keeping in mind that I don't know jack, here are some things I think we should avoid after a breakup:

1. If it hurts, don't pretend you’re fine
Shut up, you're not fine. Unless you're a sociopath - are you a sociopath? No. So don't jump right back into dating. I'm actually fine, but I'm still giving myself time before I dip my toe back in the dating waters. I'm not lonely, my life isn't lacking, and I have no desperate need to check anything romantic off my bucket list. I'm fulfilled by my platonic and familial relationships, by the work I've chosen to pursue, by my outside interests. I'm happy. I'll date when I feel like it might be fun and fulfilling. Right now... I'm having fun with my people.

2. Don't spend all your time replaying events in your head
But DO look for useful bits of insight. I learned a lot that I had forgotten about dating from this experience - about communication styles and expectations, about boundaries and family ties. And it has reminded me to be even more cautious than I already am. Look, relationships are hard. Forty percent of them experience infidelity. It's a bit of a crap shoot. When you fall in love with someone, what you're really saying is, "I'm going to give you the power to hurt me more than anyone else. I trust you'll keep it to a minimum." That's daunting. So make good choices. And we make good choices by learning from our mistakes. For example, it's a bad idea to date a person whose life goals don't align with mine, and whose education and life stage are so different that the disparity sometimes halted conversations in their tracks

3. Don't sleep together
Argh, no. Take a walk. Buy some batteries. Or, if it's the kind of thing you're into, find someone new. That's not for me, but have fun if it's for you. Bottom line is that no one on his or her deathbed has ever said, "Man, if only I'd had sex with so-and-so one more time, I'd be dying really happy." No, no, no. You're just complicating matters, and dragging out the process.



4. Don't play out your drama on social media
You're embarrassing yourself, and we're all cringing behind our keyboards.

5. Don't make big decisions
Do not pack up and move out of state, shave your head, buy something outrageously expensive, quit your job, or get a face tattoo. Everything you do right now is influenced by that pain in your chest. And nothing but time, honesty, and self-love are going to relieve it. Wait it out.

6. Don't forget to have fun
Delete your Netflix queue. Go to dinner with friends. Try a new hobby. Explore. There's a big ol' world out there just waiting for you to enjoy it. I'm so looking forward to spring on the Canal towpath, to watching my daughter self-pilot a kayak on the Savannah River for the first time, to finding time for friends and family, and to reading some really good books I haven't had time for lately. There is much about life that is wonderful. Your breakup is not one of those things. Focus on the wonderful things.



7. Don't get back together
Hopefully, you broke up over a solid, well-reasoned issue, and had a calm, rational, positive talk about it. If you didn't have a good reason to break up, but you dumped your ex anyway (or were dumped by your ex), there might some maturity, communication, or other issues for one of you to work on. Getting back together is not going to help.

8. Don't seek revenge
Come on. It doesn't matter what he or she did while you were dating. Trying to get some kind of revenge by badmouthing your ex or damaging his or her property or career is just going to give you more to deal with than if you just let yourself feel the hurt and move forward. If you get angry, act like a fool, then try to move on, you'll have to deal with your own guilt on top of everything else. I'm lucky to have been at a point where the breakup was, essentially, mutual. So this wasn't an issue. But I've seen it play out embarrassingly in the past.



9. Don't throw in the towel
Sure, take a break from dating for as long as you need. There's no rush. You're not going to die alone. You have wonderful friends and family, and romantic love is not a necessity for us to achieve happiness. In fact, as opposed to depending upon it to provide happiness to you, romantic love is more likely to come along when you've already achieved happiness. So chill out, but don't go get a bunch of cats. They're adorable, but they will straight up eat your face the moment you die. These are not the kind of relationships in which you should invest. I mean, I love my two little face-eaters, but I have no illusions that the feeling is mutual.

And finally...

10. Don't fail to forgive yourself
You might have engaged in one, several, or all of the above behaviors. That's okay. Take a deep breath, remind yourself that you are only a mere mortal, and do better next time.



Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Cramming in a little work today

Tuesday, March 03, 2015 By


AUGUSTA, GA. - 

Q: "Did you get that save-the-date email?"

Me: "Probably. I'm working my way through all of the emails I missed. I'll try to get to it before I leave at 2 p.m."

C: "Why are you even here? Don't you have, like, pneumonia and the flu?"

Me: "Dysentery. Life's hard on the Oregon Trail."

C: "I'm sorry your ox died."

Me: "Thanks."


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Product Review: Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Castile Liquid Soap

Wednesday, February 25, 2015 By


AUGUSTA, GA. - I shower and wash my hair every day, unless I'm sick. It's a necessity of life, with having the oily hair and skin I was gifted by genetics.

I have some favorite products that I use regularly. They generally have some similar characteristics:
1. Relatively inexpensive.
2. Really good at what they do.

Dr. Bronner's soaps are one of my all-time favorite products, and I've been using them since I was about 15 years old, off and on. They are made with organic oils, contain no detergents, are vegan, are certified Fair Trade, and are packaged in 100 percent post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic bottles. I don't know many other products I can buy that don't make me feel like I'm helping to destroy the planet for my daughter.

And if there's something you need to clean, these versatile soaps can do it: laundry, people, pets, dishes, surfaces, toilets. You can find posts online that tell you how to make inexpensive and effective cleaning solutions, like this one: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/12-great-ways-to-use-castile-soap.html.

The peppermint and tea tree soaps are my favorites, and are readily available at New Life Natural Foods, EarthFare, Whole Foods, and sometimes Publix. They smell so fresh, last forever, and really do what you expect them to do, which is to clean all the things.

Except... I do not use them as shampoo very often, because I haven't figured out a configuration that doesn't make my hair feel like hay. They are very strong and thus can be drying. So be sure to dilute with water and to moisturize.

Otherwise it is a very versatile, useful, affordable product. And while it might not work as shampoo, you know those commercials in the 80s and 90s that said, "Hey, ladies, do you ever get that not-so-fresh feeling?" Well, there is nothing fresher than peppermint ladybits!

Sorry, Mentos. Dr. Bronner's is The Freshmaker.