Tuesday, 6 December 2011

PayPal's version of "Merry Christmas"

UPDATE: There's been tonnes of shares on Facebook, tweets on Twitter, blogs (including individuals and media), phone calls, emails, petitions and PayPal has relented!!!

Regretsy Issue Resolution

And an article regarding the resolution

I'd have probably seen it before I wrote this blog if I hadn't had to perform CPR on my router a few times before posting LOL


Sadly it sounds more like "F-off kids and get the hell off my lawn!".

There's a website I go on regularly called Regretsy. It's a humour site, poking fun at some of the odder crafts found on Etsy (a website where crafters can have their own shops). Many of the people in the forums on Regretsy have Etsy shops and quite a few of them get together to do charity work.

The owner of the site, April Winchell (aka Helen Killer), decided to buy presents for needy children this Christmas by raising money from her readers. She posted on Regretsy, requesting donations. Many people, including myself, donated immediately. She raised over $4000 in a matter of hours!

Here is the original request
and here is the update regarding how quickly the donations were amassed (note, there is swearing on Regretsy for those with sensitive eyes)

Everyone was so excited. Nothing starts the holiday season off better than realizing that you've helped save Christmas for 200 children and their families. Go back and look at the original request and the photos and stories regarding those children... then think of an over-funded donation drive for them and the treats and surprised in store for them this Christmas.

Two days later there were some concerns. Almost all the 200 toys had been purchased and some of the children had received their Santa letters... but Paypal was holding some of the funds.

Then the shit hit the fan. Their first complaint was that April used the "donate" button instead of the "buy now" button. Because, you know, a "buy now" button makes so much more sense to use when accepting donations to raise money for needy children *facepalm*. So they requested she manually return all the donations (many of them in $2 increments). Luckily many of the donations (including mine) had already been processed so she *only* had to manually refund several hundred donations (minus the fees PayPal kept).

The "donate" button was turned into a "buy now" button and $3000 was once again raised within hours. Then PayPal struck AGAIN!!! They froze the accounts so the remainders of the donations plus April's own money from book sales are inaccessible for 6 months. Here are some quotes:

PAYPAL: Only a nonprofit can use the Donate button.
ME: That’s false. It says right in the PDF of instructions for the Donate button that it can be used for “worthy causes.”
PAYPAL: I haven’t seen that PDF. And what you’re doing is not a worthy cause, it’s charity.
ME: What’s the difference?
PAYPAL: You can use the donate button to raise money for a sick cat, but not poor people.

ME: The problem is I’ve already bought all of these toys, so now I’m really in a position like any other merchant – which is to say, I have inventory I need to sell. Why can’t I sell them as gifts, like any other retailer?
PAYPAL: Don’t you think it would look suspicious if the same people bought them again?
ME: Why? These are my customers!
PAYPAL: If you wanted to do that, you’d have to start a new website.
ME: What? Why would I start a new website?
PAYPAL: I’m not going to argue with you.

PAYPAL: The only way you’d be allowed to sell these as gifts is if you sent them directly to the person who bought them. And we will track your shipments and make sure it goes to the buyer.
ME: That’s discriminatory! You don’t make other retailers send purchases to the buyer only, especially not at Christmas.
PAYPAL: No one but a nonprofit would send gifts to someone else on buyer’s behalf.
ME: What about Amazon?
PAYPAL: We know what you’re doing and we’re through playing games with you.

PAYPAL: You say you’re selling these as gifts but there is no information as to what the gift is.
ME: People sell mystery gifts and grab bags all the time. What about sites where they say, let us choose for you?”
PAYPAL: It doesn’t say that on your site.
ME: Is that the problem? If I say it’s a mystery gift would that be sufficient?
PAYPAL: You aren’t going to be able to get around this. It’s too late, we know what you’re trying to do and we’re not going to let you do it.
ME: But there are hundreds of toys! Do you think it’s reasonable to create a drop down menu for hundreds of gifts, all of them different, and create an inventory for each as “one?” So that every time one sells, it’s sold out, and the customer has to keep choosng options and going through check out to see if they can find a gift that’s still available?
PAYPAL: Yes, I think it’s reasonable.


So if April had put a donate button up and requested donations to get her dog some de-worming medication that would have been fine in PayPal's eyes. Donating money to give a happy Christmas to little Rory, who just spent three years in the hospital on dialysis, and had two painful operations this year (including a kidney transplant) is wrong. Apparently Rory (and all the other little children) are not worthy enough for PayPal. If only they had fur and barked...

If you're angry and want to do something here are some options. First, you can share my blog if you want (or any of the other blogs detailing what happened).

Second, there is a petition on the Change.org website requesting the president of PayPal unfreeze Regretsy's account to help children in need. This petition can be easily shared on Facebook as well.

Third, here's a link to a blog with all sorts of PayPal information, including phone numbers and email and snail-mail addresses: How PayPal Stole Christmas

Friday, 25 November 2011

My Christmas present to myself

It is exactly one month until Christmas and my present to myself is to be in the 160's for Christmas. This is do-able. I'm sitting at 176lbs right now so I just need to lose a minimum of 7lbs in a month.

I spent a good chunk of the fall in denial. I'd miss going to the Y and think "next time" over and over again. My son would ask if he could go across the street and pick up a treat and I'd say "sure". Then he'd come home with a bag of chips or a carton of ice cream for us to share. This was happening several times a week.

One day my belt at work was a bit snug. I chalked it up to PMS and moved the belt to the second hole instead of the third. And there it sat... for a month. At the end of October I had a "what the hell am I doing?" moment and weighed myself, then realized I was up to 182lbs.

Over the past three weeks I've gone to the Y every time my son's had swimming lessons (minus our community group night) and have exercised with the My Fitness Coach almost every morning. I refuse to get up early enough to exercise on mornings when I have to be AT work for 6am (that's maybe twice a month) and I missed last Saturday. I've lost 6lbs and, even better, my work uniform is now loose and I'm *this* close to having my belt on the fourth hole! My energy levels are a lot better and I'm simply just feeling better about myself.

I can't wait to see how much better I feel by Christmas!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

My Christmas Wish

I love Christmas. It's, hands down, my most favourite holiday. I love the lights, the music, the decorations, the candles, picking out presents for family and friends, writing cards, receiving cards (and finding out how friends and family have fared over the previous year), baking, and spending time with family and friends. I've got bins of candles and decorations. Each year I swear I'm going to wait until November 25th before I start decorating. Each year I cave about a week early.

But what I love the most about the holiday is the spirit. I love how this holiday brings everyone together no matter what their culture or religion. I'm sure there are people out there who hate the holiday but I have yet to met one. I've got coworkers who come to work one week with their hands decorated for Eid and the next week they're oohing over Christmas ornaments and which ones to get. I've got friends who go right from celebrating Hanukkah to stuffing stockings for the kids. Christmas is ingrained in our culture.

The only thing I hate about Christmas are the emails and messages determined to turn the holiday into an "us against them" situation. The mildest are the "show you're going to put the CHRIST into CHRISTmas" forwards and shares. I know Christians celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25... even though it wasn't the actual day of his birth. If someone wants to celebrate Christmas with minimal fuss and decorations, remembering Christ as their saviour, and attending church during their holiday, that is their choice and I respect it. What I don't respect is the underlying divisiveness. Show that you put Christ in Christmas (unlike some others). I thought it was part of the Christian religion to be meek and never boastful about your faith. To pray quietly and privately. Giant shout outs to prove who celebrates Christ the most seems neither meek or private.

The emails that bother me the most are the truly divisive ones that start off announcing they don't care who they offend and usually end with an "if you don't like this, move back to your own country". When on earth did prejudice and racism become part of Christmas?

I don't know anyone who refers to a Christmas tree as a Holiday tree. The emails go around constantly every holiday season yet the only time I've ever heard of a "holiday tree" was years ago in Toronto. And, from what I remember, it was a group of white Christians who were worried they might offend others if they called it a Christmas tree (despite the tree standing without complaint for years).

I know that some schools have Holiday or Winter Concerts instead of Christmas Concerts. Our elementary school was very multi-cultural and had a Winter Concert. We still had a bunch of kindergarten kids singing "Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer" (if they weren't talking to each other, waving at family, or picking their noses), grade one kids singing "All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth" and grade two kids singing "I'm getting nutting for Christmas". Somewhere, I think there's a law stating those three songs are mandatory in concerts. I've heard that some schools don't allow any Christmas carols at all in the concerts. I think that's a shame. A winter concert should have songs from all sorts of cultures... and that includes Christmas carols.

As for people who look at advertisements to *prove* Christmas is turning into a generic holiday season... just pardon me while I laugh for a minute...

... okay... advertisements are written by people who want to sell products. They don't really care who's buying the product. They don't care if you're buying that doll as a Christmas present or a Hanukkah gift or for Kwanzaa... they just want the darn thing sold. I spent years teaching my kids not to look to advertising for facts, only to find out there's adults who look at Wal-Mart ads to find proof of how their holiday is celebrated.

And then there's the people who believe they own Christmas and list demands of who is allowed and not allowed to celebrate *their* holiday. How on earth could my tree, stockings, and decorations offend anyone? Scroll up... do they look horribly offensive?

So my biggest wish this holiday season is for my friends to celebrate which ever holiday (or holidays) they choose and to have a great time. Spend time with the people you care about... show them you love them... and stop frigging worrying about whether everyone else is celebrating the same way as you. Let them celebrate the way they want. I assure you that your own holidays will be a lot more enjoyable.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Great levels of derpness

Story of my life...

I went to the Y with my son today with the goal of working out on the elliptical while he was taking his swimming lessons. We had a 20 minute bus ride then a 5 minute walk. In the 5 minute walk I realized I really needed to use the bathroom.

I dug my Y card out to scan, then stuck it in my coat pocket. I zipped the pocket because with my luck the card would fall into the toilet. Went to my usual locker and started digging out my exercise clothes. I went to put the card into the locker... tugged on the zipper. It wouldn't open. Wedged tight with fabric.

Okay, no problem. I'll just close it a bit, push away the fabric, then pull the zipper back down. Except the fabric still stayed jammed. Ten freaking minutes later I admitted defeat and went to get a guest pass so I could use the locker while I still had time to exercise. My Y card is still in my pocket. Thankfully my keys and cell phone were in the OTHER pocket.

A few days ago I was at work. We have a sweet hot drink topped with a whipped topping and drizzle. The whipped topping comes in a plastic bag with a nozzle at the end. The bag was *almost* empty and I was squeezing the last little bit out when, wham, the nozzle shot out and hit the side of the cup. Of course the cup wobbled and all the whipped topping poured out onto the packets of sugar and sweetener on the counter. I attempted to grab it, I don't know why, and ended up knocking the whole cup over. Customer's watching me.

Okay, I'll try that again. Get a new cup, turn on the beverage machine, get a new bag of whipped topping, go find scissors to cut it open. Customer asks if I'm almost done. I start to say "yes" then look at the cup filled with brownish water. We're out of the powdered beverage mix.

Yep... I've got a line up, an impatient customer, no whipped topping, and I need to fill the beverage container AND clean off the counter AND replace all the sugars and sweeteners. That's my life.

The last one really showcases my derpness. It's pretty much derpness squared. I have a habit of saying "Got to stop smoking the crack" when I make a mistake. I say this if I mistype something on the cash register or tell someone they ordered $7.64 worth of items when they ordered $4.67. Basically I say this multiple times a day.

It's dark and early one morning and I'm ringing in a breakfast order. Type the wrong thing in again and make my crack announcement. Look up at two very confused looking police officers. Blink a bit.

"Umm... the bagels will be at that counter."

Whisper to co-worker "Crack is smoked right?" The officers looked so confused I couldn't tell if it was because I said I smoked crack to them or because I said it and that's not what you do with it. And in that case I'd been saying it wrong to a whole lot of people. Apparently it is smoked.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Another good day...

Every morning I stand at work and look out the windows at the trees and the sunshine and think "I wish I was out walking in the woods". Today I woke up just before 7am and decided today would be the day. I was outside, waiting for the bus, just after 8am. The trail I walk is not really "woods". It's right off a minor highway and I could hear the traffic on the 401 (a major highway) for the entire walk. Plus there's subdivisions on both sides of the trail, hidden behind the trees. But it feels like the woods when I'm walking and that's enough for me. It was chilly this morning and the grass and leaves were trimmed with frost. The brisk walk kept me warm, even though I stopped to take a few pictures.

I decided to go out to our favourite restaurant for lunch today. They have an amazing lunch special and I order the same meal every time. A bowl of vegetarian hot and sour soup for the appetizer and vegetable golden curry with rice and two vegetable spring rolls. I thought about lunch today. I love the hot and sour soup and it's a healthy choice. The spring rolls and curry, not so much (as much as I love them too). Today I ordered the appetizer mango salad with a larger bowl of curry. It was just as good and I didn't leave feeling overly stuffed (like usual).

After lunch we went to the mall. Often, when we're at the mall, we pick up a treat. Last time we went to Cinnabon for a minibon and a container of icing. According to the information I found online, the minibon is 300 calories (not including the extra tub of icing). I went to Purdys instead and picked up a 100 calorie chocolate peanut butter bar.

My other treat was a trip to Teaopia for a tin of chocolate mint rooibos tea. If you click on the link it leads you to the tea and to the nifty little tin I got to hold it in. That's what I'm sipping on now as a before bed treat.

I've spent a lot of my adult life making excuses for needing treats. I worked hard and deserve a cinnabon. It's been a stressful day and curry from iThai would be the perfect way to relax. All those *treats* ended up with me being 72lbs overweight... and that wasn't a treat. I worked hard at changing those habits and managed to lose 40lbs. But then I sat on a plateau for a year... struggling with the *treat* mentality and regained 10lbs this fall. Now I'm determined to change my views on treats. Treats shouldn't shorten my life. Treats shouldn't weaken me. And every day I'm going to continue to push myself to treat myself better. Today I succeeded. Now I need to work on tomorrow.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Murder presents

I have three cats, the youngest is Oreo. He is the goofball of the three, as you can see from his picture. He routinely sleeps on his back with all four paws in the air. He was stretching and yawning in this picture, I love the shot because I think it looks like he's singing opera.

Out of the three cats, Oreo is our cat most likely to hunt mice. He comes from a family of barn cats so I guess that's to be expected. What's less expected is that we'd get any mice here. We live in a high rise apartment building and not on the first floor. And we've lived here for 7 years without seeing any mice other than the ones attached to our computer... until this summer at least.

I was in the bathroom in August and Oreo was staring, rather intently, at the litter box. I figured there was a bug of some sort behind it. Probably a big one like a beetle, or even a spider. I moved the box so he could kill it and discovered there was a mouse crouched behind the box. Neither Oreo or I caught that mouse then as it quickly bolted under the bathroom vanity.

A day later I noticed my bedside mat had a lump underneath it. I figured it was a crumpled Kleenex (the garbage can was right near the lump). It was a very flat mouse. My guess was that Oreo crouched, waiting for the mouse to appear... on the mouse.

A week or so later I was woken up, on my day off, by Oreo and Blackie stalking around my bedroom. They were trying to paw behind my filing cabinet. After I went into the living room they moved to the front hall closet. Then Oreo walked toward me with a tail hanging out of his mouth. I took the tail and told him to "drop it". Thankfully he did. Even more thankfully, there was a mouse attached to the tail and said mouse was alive.

Son and I took the mouse to the greenspace across the road and released it. Said road is a minor highway... I don't think that particular mouse is coming back.

We didn't see signs of any more mice after that so I figured we were done with them. Then last night rolled around. I walked into my bedroom and found another very flat mouse on my floor. Very flat and very dead. It appears Oreo is giving me some special presents...

Picture is from here

Although to be honest, considering the flatness of the poor things, I'm not sure if Oreo's trying to kill them or he's just snuggling them to death.

Generation gap

Last night my son and I were talking at the dinner table. Son is very worried about the elevators in our building. He's regularly concerned the cords are going to snap, sending everyone inside plummeting to their doom.

After several minutes of elevator talk I told my son he was like Chicken Little, trumpeting "the sky is falling".

Son looked at me blankly then said, "Yes, but Chicken Little was right at the end".

"No he wasn't," I reminded him, slightly puzzled. "It just turned out to be an acorn."

"Yes," son insisted. "It was an acorn at the beginning but then the aliens came."

Aliens? I seriously began questioning my son's sanity at this point. What aliens? There's no aliens in the book...

That was when the light bulb lit. There was a movie, which I'd never seen but apparently son had.

"No, son," I explained. "Not the movie, the book."

That was his turn to look confused while I explained the book to him. I guess that was one book I missed in his childhood.

It's funny how you can talk to someone, think you're both talking about the same thing, and discover you both have something completely different in mind.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Tried something new today

I saw a recipe for stove top lasagna last week and thought it looked interesting. However it called for broken lasagna noodles and a lot of cheese. We're selling lasagna casserole at work these days too and that one's with egg noodles. I decided to fiddle around with ingredients and make my own today and it turned out really well.

2 cups water
carton or jar strained tomatoes
package of Yves veggie ground (equivalent of two pounds ground beef)
2tsp pureed garlic
1 container fat free cottage cheese
a whole whack of spices (I used liberal shakes of Mrs Dash spicy pepper blend and table shake and President's Choice salt-free sun-dried tomatoes and herbs)
1 package extra-broad egg noodles
a bit of Havarti

I brought all the ingredients, minus the noodles and Havarti, to a boil in a big electric skillet. Then I dumped in the noodles, put on the lid, and let it boil for 10 minutes... stirring occasionally.

Once the ten minutes was up I diced up some Havarti (three slices, each about 2cm thick) and sprinkled it into the mixture. Then put the lid back on for another minute until the cheese melted.

It was good and my son almost inhaled it. I'll definitely be making it again. If you're making this with minced dead cow I'd fry that first. Veggie ground is pre-cooked.

I found these treats at our local dollar store today for $2!

Each square is a decent size and about 67 calories (the serving size is 3 squares at 200 calories)... and they're yummy! It's nice to have something small to stick into my work bag for lunch. I think I'll go back and pick up another bag.

Son is off at swimming lessons. I was looking forward to going to the Y with him tonight and using the elliptical for a half hour, then I remembered our community group meets tonight. I'll have to go to the Y on Friday evening for sure!

It's been a good day and I'm aiming for just as good a day tomorrow!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

A productive day today!

I had the day off so exercised for a half-hour with the Wii My Fitness Coach instead of my usual 15 minutes. I then went out for a walk in the park across the street. As you can tell by the picture, our part of Ontario isn't know for gorgeous fall colours. Most of the leaves on the ground today were still green. It was a good walk though.

I bought a big container of hemp oil at SuperStore last week and whipped up a container of salad dressing. Hemp oil is a good source of both omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, I try to get a tablespoon a day since I don't eat fish. I also made chocolate banana muffins (with flax and cocoa) for desserts.

I cleaned up the living room today. I can't stand mess and three cats and two guinea pigs tend to scatter a lot of mess around. As the saying goes, I swept up enough fur to make a new cat. I also put away our Hallowe'en decorations; it's hard to believe I'll be putting up our Christmas decorations in about three weeks!

I think my biggest challenge is going to be keeping up staying organized. So far I've been doing really well this week. I'm totally ready for bed, the dishes are washed, and my breakfast and lunch stuff is ready for tomorrow. I've even got my work shoes untied beside the computer desk. It feels good knowing everything is ready and I don't have to rush.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Today is the first day of the rest of my life

I've been really slacking off, diet-wise, for the past couple of months and I decided yesterday that things had to change. Today was my fresh start, and it was a good one.

I woke up this morning and exercised with the Wii My Fitness Coach then, after breakfast, I went across the street for a quick walk before church. It was a bit chilly but the sun was lovely... especially on the frost. And it was quiet enough that, at first, I couldn't figure out what the noise was. It was leaves falling from the trees.

By the time I got home then back out to the bus stop, the frost had almost completely melted. I'm glad I went for my walk when I did.

We had pot-luck at church. I filled my plate mostly with salad (my bean, tomato, & pepper one and a lovely green salad with homemade croutons). And one butter tart for dessert.

I had a bag full of apples from my Mom and sisters' trip to the apple orchard Thanksgiving weekend. Today I peeled and chopped all of them and made applesauce with vanilla, brown sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch of nutmeg. We had it for dessert tonight.

I also found a recipe in an ad in the November Chatelaine magazine. It's one from the Dairy Farmers of Canada but when I tried to find it online, they didn't have the same recipe there. The one in the magazine is called "Spicy Red Lentil and Havarti Soup". I made it for dinner tonight and it was so yummy! It's on page 121 if anyone has the magazine handy and wants to try it. Definitely a keeper recipe. Even my son, who's incredibly picky, ate a whole bowl!

I think what made today great is I kept on top of everything. By the time dinner was on the table, I'd washed everything... including the blender and the soup pot. By 8pm, all the dishes were washed, the lunches packed, breakfast stuff prepped, clothes laid out for work tomorrow, and I was in my pjs. All I need to do now is shut off the computer and crawl into bed. It feels nice knowing everything is prepared for tomorrow.

And since I have to be up at 5:15am tomorrow so I can exercise before work, I think crawling into bed sounds like a good plan.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Yet another Rogers rant

I started my complaint about Rogers here on the 27th of September then moved on to more issues here on October 1st, regarding my lost cellphone and my issues in reordering the same (or similar phone). Both times I was assured that after October 14th I could reorder my Corby Pro for $19.99.

I called, bright and early, on the 15th to order my phone. It was a poor connection so I missed the representative's name. However he assured me repeatedly that it was the same phone I had originally and it would arrive within five business days. The only part that confused me was, when he was hanging up, he commented that there would be a $15-something charge on my bill; four dollars less than what I was expecting. My biggest concern was that he'd sneakily sent me my original phone, the one I replaced this spring, the Motorola Krzr.

I hadn't received any messages regarding my phone or an attempted delivery so called Rogers to check for a tracking number. This time I got Amanda as a representative. She checked through the notes and commented that the previous rep noted he was sending me a 3410 phone but there was no sign of shipping information. I googled the phone and came up with this:

Unless he was not only drunk but blind as well, there's no way he could have mistaken this for the Corby Pro. And, talk about a complete slap in the face, the one thing I've stressed with every customer representative is I need to have a camera. I scrapbook and photography is very important. The only two things I look for in a phone is that it can send and receive calls and that it has a decent camera. This phone is 9 years old, discontinued, and doesn't have a camera! My old phone was a huge step up from this one. At least it had a 2MP camera (and is four years newer).

The best Amanda could offer was the same Samsung phone Bob offered back on October 1st. I explained I'd already turned that phone down. Then she brought up the "upgrade fee", something that had never been mentioned before. Oops... while every representative explained I'd have to pay $19.99 for the phone, no one had mentioned a $180 upgrade fee. I freaked, wanting to know why no-one had mentioned an upgrade fee before, not even the manager Chris. Oh, I'd spoken to a manager before?

That was when I got Jevan on the line. I don't know if I've spelled her name right. The email she promised she'd send at the end of the call hasn't arrived yet. She went through the "manager's list" and found my phone then offered a $39 upgrade fee instead (on top of the $19.99). I took it.

At this point I've been without a cellphone for a month... a cellphone I just paid $35 for (on top of my upgrade fees). I'm just hoping I'll have my phone back in the next few days and that this is the end of my Rogers issues.

Friday, 21 October 2011

An Evening of Hope

Last night was cold and damp and windy. It poured the night before and the lawn was saturated to the point of centimeter deep puddles. It was a good night to be home. Instead my son and I spent two hours in a local park and I'm glad we did.

Last night there was a rally against bullying of all kinds but especially bullying gays, lesbians, and transgendered people. It was also a memorial for people (mostly teens) who had killed themselves. They were remembered with white paper bags, handwritten with messages, with a lit candle placed inside.

My son loved it. There were free cupcakes with purple icing, lots of people to talk to, and he got to buy a rainbow coloured bracelet (which he thought was pretty neat). I talked to him about the event; he often acts a lot younger than his years but he does listen and take in a lot.

I had several reasons for attending. I felt it was important for people outside of the gay community to be there. With any bullying, if only the people being bullied stand up, nothing changes. In order for change to happen, everyone needs to stand up and say "this is wrong". That was the least important reason as I don't have a sign saying "straight" on me and didn't look any different from the rest of the crowd. It still stands though.

I felt it was an important message for my son and I to hear. He missed the anti-homophobia rally his school held last week (he was home hallucinating and recovering from anesthesia from his dentist appointment). There were a lot of very powerful messages yesterday evening. I don't know which was more powerful for me. The sheer number of candles for those who died or listening to the teenage boy beside me (who looked my son's age, maybe a bit younger) agreeing with a video clip. The clip was by a young woman who talked about how hard it had been for her when her family found out, through reading letters, that she was gay and that they no longer loved her or cared about her. That shook me, seeing a boy my own child's age agreeing; not that it would be hard but that it IS hard. I've got two teens of my own and, while they can drive me right around the bend sometimes, I can't imagine them doing anything that would make me stop loving them. Falling in love with someone of the same gender certainly wouldn't be a reason.

But, while the above two reasons are important, the real reason I went is because a young friend of mine asked me to be there for him. And I can't think of a better reason than that. Thanks for inviting me.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

On life and underwear...

I worked on Friday until 3:30pm. It was rainy and both my hands had been hurting all day. I stopped off at a nearby plaza to pick up pain medication then hurried home, vowing not to go back out again that night. I remember unlocking the outside door of the building and know I had the keys when I got inside our apartment. I was positive I'd stuck them, as usual, on the key rack by the front door.

Saturday morning my son went off to do a bike ride for charity (he raised $140!) and I puttered around at home. I decided to chuck in a load of laundry and, as usual, went to grab the keys so I could check the mail while I was down there.

No keys.

That was odd but I figured I'd just placed them in my coat pocket or lunch bag. Checked them as well. Still no keys.

I searched harder on Sunday and still couldn't find the keys. Left for work Monday morning figuring I'd spend my day off today tearing the apartment apart. They had to be here somewhere; I'd come home with the bloody things. Thankfully we had spare keys so I wasn't stuck keyless.

I got home from work yesterday and unlocked our door. My first step was to get changed out of my work uniform. Pulled open my underwear drawer and stopped. There wasn't a single pair of underwear inside. There'd been about 4 pairs in there that morning.

That was when the little lightbulb went off...

... my keys. Someone must have opened my door a crack and fished them off the keyrack... then come back while we were at work and school to steal... my underwear?

I looked around and nothing else was missing. The computer, router, Wii, netbook, and camera were all here. My purse was sitting on the front bench complete with my wallet hanging out (I'd grabbed something out of it that morning) and everything was in there as well. Health cards, bus pass, MasterCard, debit card... all left completely alone. Someone walked past all of that so they could steal my old undies.

Granted, while friends can and do chuckle over my naivety, I'm not quite that naive. I know there's no black market in two year old granny pants; they're not a hot item. There's pretty much only one reason someone would steal underwear (outside of college pranks). But my underwear are not me and I'm simply relived that a) neither my son or I were home b) the cats and guinea pigs are happy and unharmed and c) I'm not having to call my insurance company so I can replace everything.

The locks have been changed, the key rack moved away from my door, and I went out and bought a $4 pack of undies to replace my old ones. So hopefully that's the end of that!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Dancing through life

I saw this picture on Facebook this morning and it speaks to me. This is my basic philosophy towards life. We don't always get what we want (or what we need for that matter). Sometimes life just plain stinks. But there is always a positive.

I can assure you that when I was a teenager, my life's ambition was not to be a single mother of two children on the autism spectrum, serving coffee at a doughnut store, while living in a high rise complex. I was going to be a writer living in a loft in downtown Toronto (complete with a fireplace).

Life is what you make of it. My marriage was not a success but I ended up with two wonderful children out of it and great friends I never would have met otherwise. I've made good friends in both apartment buildings I've lived in over the past 14 years... and at my job. And I'm happy.

There is always a positive to life, no matter how small. There's always a sunrise... a rainbow... a singing bird... a laughing child. And, when we're focusing on the negative, we miss those opportunities to laugh and dance.

We're all twirling around together... spinning through the universe on the same tiny ball. We're all here for a brief time. It doesn't matter if we expected to be someplace else. We're at this party and we might as well dance.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Trip to the dentist... take two (and Thanksgiving)

Back in August, my son went to the dentist and needed a filling. Just a small filling but it was deep enough that the dentist decided he would need some freezing. It would only take five minutes total.

Son freaked. Completely and utterly freaked. Enough that the dentist decided he would do better sedated. Naively I pictured a mask (as did son) and agreed.

We went into the dentist last month for the initial assessment. This was when we realized it was IV sedation. But he would get oral medication to relax him first and laughing gas. He probably wouldn't notice the needle. Famous last words.

Fast forward to today. We went off with Emla patches on his hand and inside of his elbow. Son got two little pills to place under his tongue, then we sat in the waiting room for a half hour while he got sleepy and a bit giggly. He giggled his way to the dentist's chair and laughed at his "clown nose" (the laughing gas mask). So we were all taken a bit by surprise when he went into freaking hysterics when the needle was being inserted. Son is not a little kid, they actually thought he was 18 years old when we walked in (they were off by four years) and he's strong. There was no way we could hold him down for a needle... not even the four of us together.

They decided to pull out the big guns and stuck him in the arm with some needle. Note I don't have a freaking clue what they injected him with... I'm sure they told me but I was draped across a hysterical teen and it flew right over my head. Whatever it was worked though, he was frantically crying one second and asleep the next. He never even noticed the IV being inserted.

They called me in after the filling was done. His eyes were open but he wasn't home. He didn't react to my voice... didn't track my finger when I waved it in front of his eyes. Then he started shaking. The nurse said that was common. Then informed me he was so out of it, he'd probably sleep all afternoon. I had visions of me working on my novel and getting some baking done while he blissfully snoozed on the couch. HA!

The first warning sign was when he woke up and discovered we were at the dentist. Where was the treasure box? He needed a prize. Thankfully he got his toy, even though he hasn't had one in years. The box is full of toys aimed at small children (bouncy balls, plastic bracelets, foam airplanes) as a reward for making it through their appointment.

Second warning sign was on the way to the car when he started insisting he could walk on his own... while falling against my arm with his head lolling on his shoulder.

For the last two hours he's been up every minute (two at the longest). He's hallucinated, cried, laughed, demanded food (only to want a single bite of yogourt), then passed out for a minute. Only to start up again and again. I'd naively figured I could run downstairs and chuck in a load of laundry while he napped. Instead I found myself scared to use the bathroom because son was positive he was fine and could walk and kept getting up.

"Mo-om... I can walk all by myself," he'd slur while staggering into a wall. "I just want to sleep in my own bed," he'd protest. Meanwhile he has a loft bed. Mr. Staggering-into-walls is not climbing a ladder to his loft bed. Especially when he's going to attempt climbing back down in 60 seconds.

I think, hope, the worst is over. He's physically able to sit up on his own now (something he couldn't do a half hour ago) and is calmly watching YouTube videos. He just walked into the kitchen a minute ago without holding onto anything or walking into a single wall.

I had grand plans of blogging what I'm thankful for this weekend. Then ended up busy enough that I didn't have time. Which, in itself is something to be thankful for.

I worked on Saturday and walked home in absolutely incredible weather. It felt more like balmy mid-June weather instead of early October. I was tired of being inside and packed son up so we could go on a walk. Unfortunately, I worked until 3:30pm, so by the time I got home, collected son, got a bite to eat, and hopped on the bus, it was after 5pm. The sun was setting at the beginning of our walk and dusk began to fall just as we got into the more heavily wooded part of the trail. Since it's not lit, we decided to bail. Thankfully we were about a block away from the bus that takes us directly home. The walk was still wonderful and I got a few amazing pictures of the moon. This is one of my favourite shots.

Sunday was even more incredible than Saturday and, once again, I couldn't imagine just sitting at home. Son was a bit more resistant about going out so I agreed to just go across the street to our local trail. The first part of the trail is very short and, for a decent hike, I usually walk into the back of the park and hit the dirt trails. I hadn't been there since July when I discovered the trails were completely overgrown and was thankful to discover those vines had died off and the trail was once again clear. The sunlight poured like thick, warm honey across us and the trees. It truly was bonus weather! Son invited his friends over for Thanksgiving dinner then went to their place for a sleepover.

I'd just woken up on Monday morning when my phone rang. A friend of mine wanted to know if I'd be interested in going to his sister's house with him. I didn't have any plans for the morning so said "sure". I'm pretty easy to entertain. I'm equally as likely to say "sure" for a run through the car wash. I was a little surprised to find out his partner wasn't coming with us, then more surprised to discover his sister didn't know son and I were coming. Surprise doesn't cover finding out we were heading over there so he could read over his father's will. Thankfully his father's alive and well and the will reading was over in five minutes.

As I said in the car, when I start wishing that I could get out of the house and talk about *anything* other than elevators and Minecraft (which I don't play)... I really need to get more specific.

The visit was fun though. My friend's nephew is a year younger than son and both are right into Lego, Pokemon, and Nintendo. Friend's sister asked if we wanted to go to the Brick Works and I, of course, said "sure" even though I really wasn't sure what the Brick Works were.

The Brick Works were amazing! We started out at the kilns. The whole area is covered in spray painted art and there was a bride getting her pictures taken in there. Scattered around the building are long, skinny tunnels with tracks running through them. They were originally built for drying bricks. Behind that was a courtyard where I took this picture. We didn't get into the wooded trails as son was wearing flip-flops. Instead we followed trails around a turtle pond, while the kids ran up hills. Monday, weather-wise, was the best day of the weekend. It was shorts and t-shirts weather and felt more like a hot August afternoon.

We went to my parents' house for dinner that evening and had a quiet family dinner. Then sat out in the backyard until dark.

I've spent much of the weekend thinking about what I'm thankful for and there are a lot of things. Most are pretty obvious. I'm thankful for the health of myself and my family. I'm thankful we live in a country with fresh, clean water readily available at the turn of a tap.

I'm thankful that I live in an area where driving isn't a necessity. I'm scatterbrained and almost never remember my left and right so this should be something everyone's thankful for. I have four buses that go by my home almost every day multiple times a day (one bus doesn't run on weekends).

I'm thankful I live in a country where being an atheist is seen as more of quirk than a sign of moral deficiency... unlike the States which had George Bush announce, before he was elected, that he didn't know if "atheists should be considered as citizens".

I'm thankful that I can walk across the street seven days a week and pick up clean, fresh, and healthy food at a reasonable price. And I'm thankful I have a kitchen with a stove, fridge, sink, and microwave in which to prepare that food.

I'm thankful for my pets... goofy critters that they are.

I'm thankful I'm literate and surrounded by books.

I'm thankful for my kids. They have enriched and changed my life in uncountable ways.

I'm thankful for my friends. They have shared my laughter, my tears, and seen me in all states of quirky.

I could go on forever but, since I've crammed the equivalent of three blogs into one, I won't.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Election day

During the federal election I explained to my kids about the major political parties. We discussed who the party leaders were and went through what each party was offering. My son, in particular, was quite interested in the election and made sure to come with me to vote.

Fast forward half a year (give or take) to the provincial election. This time around I pretty much stayed in denial until early this week. Then I went through all the reasons I didn't want to vote for each party until I found the one I disliked the least.

First up was the Progressive-Conservatives. Last time around they took a "punish the poor" stance and pretty much hammered Ontario into the ground. This time around they decided to release flyers claiming OMG the Liberals are going to teach your six year old about cross dressers! Considering I was standing beside a man in an evening gown during the Sunday service at our church's annual conference, I don't think there's anything in the Liberal's (still unused) sexual education program my kids haven't already picked up at church. I really don't appreciate the shock tactics.

Next are the Liberals, our current party in power. The ones who were apparently asleep when The Highland Companies bought up prime farmland claiming to want to operate a large potato farm, then announced they're making a mega quarry deeper than Niagara Falls and twice as wide... pumping out 600 million litres of water a day. Water that is at the source of 5 major rivers along the Niagara Escarpment. It took them months before they, oops, admitted that maybe a pit mine that size *might* have an ecological impact. Note this was after denying there was a potential issue at all and only after realizing that there were a LOT of angry voters. At the beginning they were pretty much telling concerned voters to suck it up and deal with it.

Then comes the Green Party, complete with a green leader. He sounds like he's a great guy but has no real political experience. He claims he's got a fresh new outlook. I would like someone who knows a little bit about what's going on in politics at the helm of our province.

That leaves us with the NDP. They didn't do that great a job running the province the last time but I think they did a better job than the PCs. And, as someone who takes public transit, I like that they are planning on freezing transit fares in Ontario. Congratulations Andrea... you got my X.

Frankly, the options were so weak this time around that I'd have voted for whatever party offered free cookies. Something politicians might want to keep in mind next time around. I'm a sucker for peanut butter and chocolate by the way.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The "fun" of working customer service

I work at the cash register for a national doughnut store chain. Most of the time when people finish ordering, they then move to the other side of the counter to pick up their food and drinks. This works well when there are two people at cash (one taking orders and one making drinks) but when it's just me it can get a little awkward. Often the next customer will come up wanting to place an order immediately but I've still got three drinks to make and doughnuts to pick up. And, depending on the time of day, I might have to make a sandwich too.

Today was no exception. I got an order for several fancier drinks (including flavourings, whipped cream, and a blender) plus some food items. That was when an older gentleman came up to the cash register and announced, with a heavy accent, "Egg salad. Egg salad and coffee".

I smiled and said, "I'll be with you in a minute sir, I'm serving another customer."

He repeated himself, "Egg salad and coffee."

I repeated myself and again was told, "Egg salad."

I thought for a minute. I could argue with him or I could ring in the egg salad sandwich, hope that someone popped onto the sandwich counter to make it while I made the drinks, then I could come back and finish his order.

So I went to the cash and said, "Is this for here or to go?"

He just smiled.

Scratch that. "Would you like your sandwich on white or whole wheat?"

Same smile. He gave no indication he knew what I was saying. Okay, white non-toasted bun it is. Keyed that into the cash register.

"What size coffee would you like sir?"

Same smile. Fine. Medium black. I can put some creams on the counter for him with the sandwich.

I held up one finger and said "Just a minute sir, I need to help the other customers."

This time he added a nod to his smile.

I made the drinks and went back to the cash register. I read the total amount to him and he handed me a fistful of change. I counted the change out and he had $1.85. A sandwich and a medium drink came to $4.90.

"I'm sorry sir," I explained. "This isn't enough money for a sandwich."

That was when he looked at me and clearly said, "I don't want a sandwich. I want an extra-large black coffee." His accent faded dramatically.

Thankfully no one had made his sandwich and I hadn't poured the coffee yet. If that's his idea of a hobby, I suggest needle point. If it's his idea of a joke, I suggest getting a book on elephant jokes out of the library. Pretending not to speak English just to confuse the cashier is bizarre.

Shortly after that I had an 80 something year old man try to pick me up. His parting words when I turned him down were, "Now don't you try and pretend I never offered." Sorry sir, but I'd much rather pretend this never happened at all.

I don't know when the full moon is, but from the behaviour today I would have sworn it was tonight. My sister assured me it's not and, thanks to Google, it's apparently not until the 12th at 2pm (which was more specific than what I was looking for but still interesting to know).

And woo hoo... I've got tomorrow off. I got asked if I wanted to work but it's my Mom's 65th birthday today (happy birthday Mom!) and my Dad splurged for a spa package for my Mom, my sisters and I for tomorrow. Sorry work, I'm too busy getting pampered tomorrow to come in for you! I figure I'll spend tomorrow morning writing and tomorrow afternoon getting pampered.

A friend of mine posted this picture on Facebook today. Thanks to my daughter, I now know it's by ironydesigns.com. It speaks to me and I'm sure my friends can relate to it as well! Thanks, Wanda, for putting it up on your wall.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Random Thoughts

I was sitting in the living room this weekend when I noticed a flurry of movement out of the corner of my eye. I looked over to see this little guy sitting on our balcony railing, watching me type my last blog entry. Luckily my camera was right in front of me so I was able to snap a couple of shots. We have three cats and, surprisingly, this isn't the first bird to land on our balcony. They even hop off the railing and wander around on the ground. This was one of the cutest ones... usually we just get pigeons (the seagulls only do fly-bys). Thankfully the cats haven't caught one (yet).

I was at Wal-Mart with my son and found this package of "boil in a bag" curry. How do you resist something called "tempting lentils"? Not only is it tempting but it's exotic too (and has a heart). I usually think of lentils as something to add bulk to soup. Ironically that's exactly what I did with these. The soup was yummy!

Now that it's getting colder I've brought our firepot in off the balcony and it's just as lovely inside on a chilly evening as it was outside. I'd been working on my novel and decided to take a photo of my workspace. I can't decide which workplace is nicer... the camping site we had this summer or our table with the candles and firepot lit. The table will get a lot more use though.

And, for my last thought, I'm sharing a picture from Facebook:

It was found on this page.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

What not to do in customer service take two

I called Rogers back today with what I thought were reasonable requests.

1. I am paying for a cell phone and I would like a cell phone I can use. I would like either the courtesy cell phone they insist is available as part of their handset protection plan or my own cell phone.

2. I only want a cell phone for two reasons. One is to use as a phone (that should be obvious) and two is to have it as a back up camera just in case something memorable happens when I don't have my real camera with me. I'm an avid scrapbooker and photography is very important to me. I would prefer the phone I chose originally, the Samsung Corby Pro, but if they have another cell phone with a decent camera I would be willing to accept that one instead.

3. I wanted an explanation on why I have to wait two weeks before I can pay $19.99 for the phone, instead of the $249 available at our local store (it says $279 online). Why can't they waive that two weeks?

First customer service representative on the phone was Bob. He was friendly and willing to try and help out. Unfortunately for Bob, he works on front line and didn't have any suggestions other than going through the list of phones they have currently available for people who had the misfortune of having their phone lost or stolen within the first 6 months of upgrading. The best he had to offer was the Samsung Gravity, which has a 1.3MP camera. Sorry, but if I'm going to be stuck with a phone for three years I want a phone that works for me. I don't want to pay $19.99 for a refurbished phone that does not suit my needs. Especially when I can pay the same price in two more weeks for my original phone. Speaking of which, why do I have to wait those two weeks?

Bob couldn't answer that and transferred me to Stacy in the customer service department. Stacy should have moved onto another job at least a year ago. She was cynical and hard-nosed and got onto the phone with the attitude that I was wasting her time and out to rip off her company. She didn't have anything to do with courtesy phones and she didn't know why I was bothering her about them. That was up to the stores. She didn't particularly care it was part of the plan her company offered. There was no way she could waive that two weeks, the charge for the phone would be automatic. She wouldn't be able to credit my account for the charge either. Besides, why should Rogers have to credit my account? She knew that I could have a phone in 5 days if I wanted. It didn't matter to her that the phones they were offering didn't suit my needs. That was when I barked "I want to speak to your manager NOW!"

Next on the line was Chris, ostensibly her manager, although chances are he was her supervisor. No one ever speaks to a real manager in a call centre. I reiterated my concerns yet again. By this time I'd been on the phone for an hour. Chris explained that they only offer the upgrade I'm getting (which is available to all new customers by the way) to people in their last two years of a contract. Again that "get them upgraded and onto a new contract before they quit" philosophy. So getting a new phone 6 months into a contract was really bending things for me. And there was no way they were going to budge with the two weeks.

I explained that my biggest issue was I currently don't have a phone. It's funny, I went without a cell phone for years but they're incredibly handy. I really could have used one yesterday. I got off the bus at the mall, leaving my son on the bus with plans of meeting his Dad at a bus stop farther down the road. Son was supposed to call his Dad as he passed the mall. This was to give his Dad time to get to the bus stop. As I was getting off the bus and the doors were closing, son informed me that his Dad wasn't answering his phone. And there I stood as the bus pulled away, with the dawning realization I had no cell phone. Son couldn't call me if he couldn't find his Dad and son had only ever been there once. That was when I went to the Rogers store in the mall and asked for a courtesy phone as my phone was lost. They didn't have one but, confronted by a ticked off and panicked Mom, were willing to let me use their store phone to contact my son. Who was luckily with his Dad by then.

Chris explained that he couldn't give me a courtesy phone, they weren't available through customer service (which is directly opposite of what the lady at the store in the mall thought). But blithely assured me there were 15 Rogers Plus stores in my area and at least one of them must have a courtesy phone. He would put a note in my file telling the sales clerk that I was to get a phone and I could use that until the 14th.

I lucked out, in a sense, as the first store clerk I talked to had literally just called all the stores in the area looking for a courtesy phone and not a single phone was available. Which saved me a heck of a lot of dialing but still left me without a phone.

So I called Rogers back and got John. John was so new to Rogers that he needed to speak to his coach before getting approval. By this point all I was asking was for a credit for the time without service. John calculated this to be fourteen or fifteen dollars but, surprise, I don't qualify for even that little of a discount on my bill. The best he was able to offer me was two months unlimited texting instead. Even though I don't text anyone other than my daughter, I took it. The other option was some sort of discounted long distance. I don't call anyone long distance so that was even less of a help than the texting. Thanks Rogers, for offering me services I don't need instead of a credit that would actually prove to be handy. So, if any of my friends get a sudden urge to text me in the next two months, feel free.

And Rogers, if you're going to offer a service like the courtesy phone, make sure it's a service you honestly have available AND make sure you explain it to your staff. Because, quite frankly, at this point I seem to know more about your courtesy phone plan than a good chunk of your staff and I'm not get getting paid by you. Speaking of which Rogers dear, with the number of times you've screwed me over the past two weeks, you really should pay me something. And I sure hope this was better for you than it was for me.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

What not to do in customer service

I have been a customer of Rogers for years. I can't remember how many (and don't feel like digging out bills to find out) but long enough to qualify for "long term customer" status. Not only am I a long term customer but I'm a good long term customer. I pay my bill, in full every month... often pre-paying several weeks in advance. I have all my services with them as well: home phone, internet, cable TV, and cell phone.

When I originally got my cell phone, I picked out a cheap flip-phone. It had a camera that took relatively okay photos and it made calls; that's all I needed it for. I had that phone for years. After a few years I started getting letters in the mail encouraging me to upgrade the phone, then the letters came complete with lists of the phones I could choose. I ignored them as the phone was working fine.

By this spring my phone was looking shoddy. The silver paint had bubbled off and the screen was starting to break. I decided it was time and headed off to the local Rogers store to see what I could get. I looked around and picked out a great phone for me. It was easy to use, had a full keyboard for texting my daughter, and a 3mp camera for those times I want to remember and don't happen to have a camera with me. I agreed to another 3 year term and headed out with my new phone.

Last Monday I worked until 3pm. As I headed out to work that morning, I told my son that I'd be home before him. Then a lens fell out of my glasses while I was at work so I stopped off at the optometrist on the way home. By the time I got out of the office, son was already home so I gave him a quick call to let him know I was on my way.

I finished the call, tucked my phone back inside my work bag and trudged home in the rain. Got home, put on my pjs and declared I wasn't going out at all for the rest of the night. As usual, when I'm at home, I didn't use my cell phone.

The next morning my Mom called and asked if I wanted to go out shopping with her. On my way out the door I patted my purse and realized my cell phone wasn't inside, then went into my work bag to get it. It wasn't there. Checked my coat pocket... not there either. So I called the phone only to find out the phone was not in service. That struck me as odd. I knew it wasn't off and I'd charged it the night before so it wasn't dead.

I checked around the apartment when I got home and, by the next morning I had to admit it was gone. I walk home along a local highway so chances are it fell out of my bag and either landed in a puddle or got smucked by a car. The ironic thing is, I wasn't worried because when I'd got my new phone, I'd received a slip of paper stating they have a handset protection plan so I knew I was covered.

I went to the Rogers store today to get my phone replaced, totally believing I'd be walking out of that store with a phone in hand. Only to be told, oops, it was too close to my renewal date to get a new phone. Note, not that it was too close to the end of my contract; I just signed on with them for another three years last month. I really only qualified for a new phone in my last 12 months of my contract. And, since it had been less than 6 months since my phone was replaced, I didn't qualify for getting the same type of phone. If I wanted the same phone I had to pay $249... the same as anyone without a contract. Just think on that... being a good customer for years gets you the same assistance as someone walking in off the street WHO DOESN'T WANT A CONTRACT and less help than someone new who wants a contract. The only time they're truly willing to help is when you're almost finished your obligation with them and are able to walk away.

Since the lady at the desk couldn't help she suggested I talk to customer service on the phone in case they could offer more help. Fair enough, I used to work in a call centre and know they have more options (depending on which level you're talking to). I also snagged their pamphlet on the handset protection plan. First I discussed the free courtesy phone I was supposed to receive. Only to find out that the store didn't actually have any. Note, in the fine print it says that you "might" be charged a $50 deposit for this phone. I was told it was mandatory, with the rep saying in shocked tones "we couldn't just hand out free phones to everyone". Note, handing a free replacement phone to a long-term customer (who has to return it to pick up their new phone AND who is already paying a monthly bill) isn't the same as handing them out on the street corner. I dropped that argument as moot since, despite their promise to have a replacement ready at the store, they had none available. No point in getting worked up over a $50 deposit on something that doesn't exist.

I talked to two separate reps on the phone and got told the same things repeatedly that I already mentioned above. It didn't matter how long I'd been a customer, the best they could offer was having me wait until October 14th. That's the magical six month date for how long I've had the phone. On October 13th I have to pay full price, on October 14th I can get the phone for $19.99 (with a three year contract).

So they're going to make me wait two and a half weeks without a cell phone. Either that or fork out $229 extra (or get a cheap flip-phone that *might* have a camera).

I'm sure, they'll have all sorts of wonderful deals to offer when I tell them I'm closing my account. But that's not customer service. Customer service is treating the customer with respect all the time, not when they're walking away. Customer service is saying, "Yes, I see you've been a valued customer of ours for years. We'll waive that two weeks for you." It's not making a customer sit without service (service I am currently paying for I might add) for weeks. It's not telling them they only qualify for better service when they're able to walk away and choose another provider.

For now they have me by the short and curlies. It would cost me several hundred dollars in early termination fees if I cancelled now. Taking another three month contract on my phone is nothing... it's literally tacking on *one* extra month. But they can consider this my farewell letter. As of October 15, 2014, I'm done with Rogers.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Good news and bad news

So the good news is I'm finally off this plateau. The bad news is it's because I gained weight and I'm now sitting at 180lbs. Okay so there really isn't a good news in this scenario, but the blog's titled "Positive Steps" and I have to work with what I've got.

Yesterday, son asked me if he could take the Wii (and the TV) into his room since I never use the My Fitness Coach anymore. I thought back and realized it had been about a month since the last time I used it. The answer was "no" (nice try though child). I've been slacking off with exercise classes as well. It's too easy to send him off to the Y on his own so I can get some quiet writing time; too easy to say "I'll go next time".

When the answer to "Am I feeling stressed?" is yes, my response invariably is to eat chocolate. Sometimes I throw peanut butter into the mix as well for variety. Note, this response has never, in the past 41 years, actually cured the stress. But it tastes good and I keep figuring that something so tasty might work someday.

This time it worked 8lbs worth.

I dug out the My Fitness Coach and found a Wii remote with working batteries. It's all set and waiting for the morning. Anyone who's got this program knows what the Physical Challenge is. For those that don't, you weigh and measure yourself then measure your resting heart rate and active heart rate (by performing two minutes of jumping jacks). Then you do sit ups, push ups, and stretches. This is what I did this evening so I can do the actual program in the morning.

Dinner tonight is a salad made with mixed greens and some funky tomatoes from the Farmer's Market. Plus I made a mixed vegetable pizza on PC stone-baked cheese flatbread. I'm eating without my son tonight, as I have no idea whatsoever where he is.

A friend of mine called about a half-hour ago and, in the course of the conversation asked what son was doing. I informed him I didn't have a clue. He went on a sleepover last night and I worked today until 3pm. When I got off work, son wasn't home and his cellphone is off. He did turn it on briefly and called to ask if we could go to Blockbuster soon because they have the Nintendo 3DS on for some incredibly low price ($99? $95? somewhere around there). I asked him where he was and was told the 401... so I feel reasonably sure he's somewhere in the Greater Toronto Area.

I assured my friend that son was indeed in a car and not walking along the highway. Then my friend asked what my daughter's doing and I had to say "I've got no frigging clue".

Long silence...

... so you know where your cats are right?

They're indoor cats so I was able to assure him that all three cats were safe and accounted for. See...

Son has since called back and clarified he's in the next town over, still checking out Blockbuster and still with his friends and their Dad. And I can be sure that he'll be home sometime before bed tonight.

I don't claim to be a perfect parent but my goal isn't to be perfect. It's to raise my children so they can be healthy and independent adults. Considering my autistic teenager is currently out comparison shopping for Nintendo products with his friends, I don't think I'm doing that badly.

And, while he's out window shopping... I'm heading across the street for a walk in the autumn sunshine!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The characters in my novel

This is either going to be cool or it'll make me sound like I've got multiple personalities (or maybe a mixture of both) but I'm going to introduce the main(ish) characters in my novel. Some don't show up until part way through the novel... some are at the beginning.

Jessica: She's the main character and narrator of the novel. She's young, extremely naive, and always tries to see the best in people. Which works out great for her sometimes... not so great other times. She can be a bit sarcastic and is extremely loyal.

She spends a lot of time reading in the novel. The books she reads tend to be urban fantasy with a bit of suspense thrown in. She loves reading women's magazines too.

Chris: He's the other main character, Jessica's boyfriend/husband. He's also young, not as naive as Jessica but a lot more optimistic. He's loyal, hardworking and determined but a bit of a joker. Enjoys playing cards and hanging out with friends.

He also spends a lot of time reading and enjoys murder mysteries and horror. They don't tend to swap books LOL

Darcy: Chris' friend and co-worker. Down to earth and doesn't embarrass easily. He's loyal and hardworking but young as well and still sorting out what he wants to do in life.

Darcy doesn't read much... he'd rather watch a movie.

Pete: Comes in later in the novel. Hardworking and quiet and blushes easily. He's the oldest in the novel by about a year or two but has been fending for himself a lot longer than the rest. Always wants to help others (to the point where he really should learn the word "no").

Pete's been reading too many text books to pick up a book lately. When he's not in school he enjoys biographies (of mostly historical people) and medical mysteries.

There are a bunch more characters in the novel. Some don't have a lot of character, so there's not much point in describing them. Some are only in the novel for a short time. Some characters change too much to really give a description without giving away plot (something I'm trying to avoid LOL). But that gives an idea.

I've got two hours and an empty apartment. Time to get writing!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

More examples of my stellar parenting

or something LOL

Son: I'm going out with my friend on my bike
Me: Okay, where are you going?
Son: We're going to hang out in the parking lot outside Country Style.
Me: Okay, don't get hit by a car.
Son: I'm taking my netbook with me and the cord because it won't stay on unless it's plugged in.
*note he found this netbook beside the dumpster out back*
Me: Sounds good. If it catches on fire, unplug it before dumping water on it.

I covered all the basics right?

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Statistics... but not the boring kind...

I wrote a blog entry this morning and added a link on Facebook. Then I started looking at all my entries and seeing zero, zero, zero, five... Oh yeah, the five responses was when my daughter corrected the spelling of her favourite band and her height. That was how I found out she had a blog and immediately put her on my follow list until she decided having her Mom as her only follower wasn't really cool and took me back off again. Hon, I swear I didn't put a picture of me wearing a glitter wig and dancing on a chair in my blog. I only described it.

The zero replies and lack of comments on Facebook made me wonder if I'm the only person reading this blog. Hello... hello out there... *listens to echos*

Then I noticed a "Stats" link and started fiddling with it. According to Blogger 1,904 people, not including me, have viewed my blog since I started writing this spring. I must be some awesomely super negative person because it was only 1,880-something before they stopped tracking my views. I viewed my page -24 times? Scratching my head.

Most of the views are from Canada and several hundred are from the States. I've also had views from Australia, Netherlands, UK, Germany, Singapore (I love your virgin slings by the way), Belgium (ditto your chocolate), Russia, Ukraine, Kenya, Turkey, and Latvia.

They have come here via searching various things like:

40lb dog
today's positive steps
little girl back stock
preteen girls in school uniforms
running up stairs
steps dealing with stress

I hope the person looking for preteen girls in school uniforms was very bored with my site (which completely lacks both). Same with little girls in back stock. I don't know what you're looking for (my first thought was scrapbooking with little girl silhouettes made out of card stock... which is undoubtedly wrong but I can live with being wrong in this case) but I'm sure you didn't find it here.

And they've come from various sites. Mostly Facebook and two forums I belong to (both of which have my blog address in my signature) but also from my friend Theresa's blog. Thanks Theresa!

So now I know I have people reading my blog. Very shy people but they're there. And now that you know I know you're reading... feel free to reply sometimes so I don't feel like I'm talking to myself.

Thanks for reading :o)

Of colds and blood donations

I donate blood every two months and today is supposed to be my donation day. Yesterday I was foot-dragging exhausted, but I hadn't slept well and had to be at work for 6am, so it was hard to tell if I was coming down with something or simply exhausted. But I woke up this morning with a scratchy throat and have been coughing and sneezing so, congratulations, it's a baby cold.

I guess it could be worse, I could have come down with the cold tomorrow, which would mean I'd gone through the whole donation process just to have my blood thrown out.

The donation process leaves me puzzled every time. I get most of it, I really do, but some parts baffle me. They have a list of questions that you have to answer. Half the list you check off at a booth (similar to a voting booth). It has questions like "are you feeling well" and "have you taken any medication in the last two days". Nice common sense questions, and yes, if I'm bleeding out on an operating table, I wouldn't want to have donated blood with Aspirin in it. The last question in that section asks if you've ever had a job handling monkeys or their bodily fluids and I'm juvenile enough to snicker every single time I read it.

Then come the personal questions which are answered in a partitioned off area. Only you and a nurse are allowed in that area and she (I've only ever had a female nurse at blood donors) asks the questions. And they are strict about it being only the two of you. If you've brought a toddler with you, you better have some toys to entertain your child because they're going to be sitting in the waiting room on their own. Yes, I've been there.

And those questions are, for the most part, personal. Some have to do with travel but most have to do with sex, drugs, and money or drugs for sex. But that's where I get confused. My first inane thought is regarding most questions starting "since 1977". I turned seven years old at the end of July that year so was six for most of it. I'd have to be one heck of a precocious child to be turning tricks for drugs at that age.

They have a question in there (and thank you Google because I didn't have it memorized): "In the past six months, have you had sex with someone whose sexual background you don’t know?"

Now I'm not sure, I thought it was "in the past year" but, as I said, I didn't have it memorized. Let's say it is, in fact, a year. Hypothetically that means I could spend every single night from now until New Year's Eve having carnal relations with a different man. If I stopped as of December 31, 2011, Canadian Blood Services would be fine with me donating as of January 1, 2013.

That would be (looks at the calendar and counts on fingers) 106 hypothetical men... all of them with unknown backgrounds. And as long as I didn't open my mouth and say, "hey, have you ever slept with a guy before", Canadian Blood Services would be more than happy to take my blood. Children's Aid might have some worries but Canadian Blood Services, as long as I pass their blood tests, wouldn't know. I wouldn't even have to lie.

But friends of mine, who have been together for 14 years, can't donate. Why? Because they're men and there's another question (thanks again Google): "Have you had sex, even once, with another man any time between now and 1977?" And that one leads to a lifetime ban.

I don't know about you but if I had to choose between donated blood from a man in a monogamous, long-term gay relationship or blood from a woman who had sex a year or so ago with a bunch of men whom she never bothered to ask for sexual history... I'd go for the man. Canadian Blood Services decided otherwise.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

The beginning of Small Dreams

I keep blogging about my novel but haven't really shared much about it. This is the beginning of the novel. I hope you like it :o)

Chris perched on our porch, knees bent, his back against a rotting beam. He stared intently at something in his hands, and didn’t notice me until I reached the end of the driveway. I winced as he jumped down; our landlord was not known for his stellar repairs, and I half expected the railing to collapse under his weight. It certainly didn't have anything solid supporting it.

“This is for you,” he blurted when I reached him, then he handed me the bag he’d been holding. I took a peek inside. A pregnancy test? I quickly handed it back.

“Chris!” I exclaimed, “Why did you get me this?”

He looked at me as if I were nuts. “You've been queasy all week. You've thrown up twice today alone and your period is late. Why wouldn't I get one?”

“I can't be pregnant!” I replied. “We can't afford a baby!” I could feel tears welling and quickly blinked them back before they overflowed.

His face quirked into a little half smile; one I usually found endearing, and he pressed the bag into my hands. “At least take the test. If you're pregnant you'll need to see the doctor. If you're not you'll need to find out why you're sick.”

He held the front door open then we quietly headed upstairs. I could hear our roommates, Ann and John, laughing and talking in the backyard so I knew we had the place to ourselves. Luckily Ann had been cleaning so I could no longer smell the liver she’d fried that morning. Unluckily Ann had been cleaning so all I could smell was powdered Ajax (only 79 cents a can at Bargoon Land, Jessica) and some heavy duty, catch-in-your-throat industrial floor cleaner. I tried to breathe shallowly.

Chris shuffled his feet awkwardly. “I’ll, umm, wait out here while you take the test.”

I nodded, too nervous to speak. As soon as the bathroom door was shut, I took the test out of its box. It looked easy enough to use but I read the instructions three times first. Then stood in front of the sink and stared at the test. The first line popped up right away and almost instantly a second line appeared; the pregnancy line.

I started to cry as I looked around the bathroom at the chipped paint, grimy windows, and cracks in the wall. I looked at Ann’s hairy razor and the rust stains in the tub and felt sick at the thought of bathing a baby there.

The bathroom door opened a crack and Chris slipped inside. He picked up the test gently and stared at it in amazement. His expression said it was Christmas and Santa just showed up with a Porsche. Then he looked at my tears and his smile dimmed.

“You don't want the baby?” he asked forlornly.

I rubbed the backs of my hands across my eyes before replying. “It's not that,” I protested. “What are we going to do with a baby? What sort of life can we give it? Our bedroom is tiny and looks like it held a war.”

“Could you imagine bathing a baby in here?” I gestured around the bathroom, “Or feeding a baby in the kitchen with Ann glaring at us and John's dog growling through the door?”

“We won't live here forever,” Chris solemnly assured me. “We'll make a better life for us and our baby. Things will turn out; I promise.”

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Juggling words

I'm still deep into revising my novel and it's hard slogging. One issue is I have too many similar days, so I've been combining a bunch of them.

At one point I worried I'd made my main characters too perfect and threw in a fight. I've spent ages trying to make this fight sound like two people who simply got frustrated and snapped at each other. But, instead they sound like bad actors following a script. Walk in, fight, and walk off. So now I'm scrapping that whole section. Which means the tail end of that section, where they flip through the baby name book and choose names, has to get shuffled to another part of the novel. That's what I'm doing now; rewriting an entire conversation to fit a discussion on baby names.

That part has the main characters hanging out with a friend of theirs named Darcy. I figured it would be appropriate for Darcy to give some baby naming advice, that begins and ends with "don't name your baby after someone famous because he or she will never hear the end of it". The thing is, while I know there's a character named Darcy in a famous old book, I can't remember which old book. I really love Google, I don't know how many times it's kept me from looking like a complete idiot. And I'm sure it'll step up adequately again. Thank you Google! "Darcy character novel" brought up Pride and Prejudice. So I'll be doing a bit of online reading. Maybe I'll have Jessica read the zombie novelization of the book, she reads a lot.

I feel like my novel is going the same direction as my diet. Each time I think I've cut out a page, it comes back. I don't have nearly as many pages as I did when I typed my last sentence and thought "there... that's done" but for all the editing I'm doing, I keep finding myself constantly hovering around 444 to 447 pages.

I wanted to head out for a walk today but my son's making a working elevator out of lego and I figured this is a good time to write. Hopefully I'll get across the street for a walk after dinner.

And I'm back to writing again...

Friday, 9 September 2011

Icarus Revisited

This is the first poem I've written in years (the background photo was taken off our balcony a few evenings ago)...

Monday, 5 September 2011

A decade ago...

I've been reading a lot of "a decade ago" comments in the past few weeks. Most are aimed at the tragedies that occurred a decade ago next Sunday.

For me though, I'd never been to New York or Washington. I know no one who was personally involved with the events of that day. It was a tragedy but it wasn't the defining point of that year for me. I ran into the father of one of my daughter's classmates yesterday and, while reminiscing about what they were like in grade one, it struck me what my memories of that year were.

2001 was my first year as a single mother; my ex husband and I separated permanently in January. It was my first time taking my children camping. My first time lighting a campfire (I found out later all the wood was wet... clouds of smoke weren't the only blue streaks wafting around that site). It was the year my little boy started school and my little girl went into grade one. We also started attending our local Unitarian-Universalist congregation that September.

Their first day of school pictures show a lot about what both kids were like. Daughter's first day of grade one came first. She picked her favourite pretty outfit and fretted for a month in advance about what school would be like. Would she find the washrooms? Would she know her classmates? When I said she was going to school every day, did I mean weekends too? Was she was going to sleep there overnight? Son bounces along beside her, a bit confused about why he wasn't wearing a backpack too (he didn't understand my explanation that he was going to school that year but on a different day than his sister). Daughter carefully holding his hand to keep him safe.

Son couldn't wait to get to school. He'd prepacked his lunchbox several weeks earlier with about a dozen Fruit to Go bars and half a dozen cheese sticks (I repacked for him) and he couldn't wait to finally get inside the classroom. He'd been trying to get into school for two years, sneaking into the lineup while daughter and her classmates tattled on him. When he was let into the classroom for the first time, he stared at the teacher then looked around the room in amazement with the biggest grin on his face. No one had kicked him out... he could stay!

When you look at the picture, take note of son's feet then look up at his forehead. That beige patch above his eye is a huge bandaid. Not two days earlier he'd tripped over his own feet while running and cracked his head off the sidewalk. I spent the next day teaching him how to hold his hands up when he fell. Apparently he somehow missed that instinct. Note his arms are up in the shot. He was a fast learner when it came to learning how to keep his head from contacting with the ground!

Back then it felt like my whole life was raising two small children. Like it would always revolve around playing in the backyard, bath time with lots of toys, multiple bedtime stories, and listening to piping voices talk about their day. Every day much the same as the day before.

But a decade has gone by and the little changes day by day have added up. Son just started high school this week. His voice is deepening and he stretches taller every day. He's currently about 5ft 9in and in mens size 11 shoes. I'm expecting that to change within weeks. Bob the Builder and Thomas the Tank engine have long since faded away. Now he's fascinated by YouTube, especially instructional videos. Yesterday he informed me that our desktop couldn't go online because our firewall was blocking it. Then proceeded to fix it.

Daughter also towers over me at about 5ft 7in. She's now in grade 11 and trying to figure out what she wants to take for post secondary education. She's long out of Barbies and listening to "Mommy's music without words". These days she's got blue hair, multiple piercings and listens to groups like BlackVeil Brides. She also volunteers at the local Humane Society.

And here I sit, feeling not much different than a decade ago, looking at the two of them and marveling how quickly time has flown by. So while everyone else looks back at all the people who died and the heroes who rushed in to save them; I'll be flipping through that year's photo album and remembering the year our lives changed.