Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Retail Rudeness

I was shopping at Costco this morning when I overheard an employee talking to a co-worker about a particularly horrible customer.  This conversation took me back a few years to my college days in retail.  Having been on both sides of the retail fence I can honestly say that IMHO, customers were by far a lot ruder than clerks.  Here's why.

First, does this mean that there aren't clerks who are rude or one-Coke-short of a six-pack?  Of course not; there are plenty of them.  However, in retail there is an unspoken rule that “the customer is always right”.  Those who work in retail would add “except when the customer is wrong”.  Customers are wrong plenty of times.  They often mistakenly assume that the item they want will be there in two or three months, so they don't need to buy it now; they misread the ads; they often confuse what they have seen in which store.

Second, there is an unspoken assumption that the clerk is there to serve the customer, which is true.  However, those customers who are prone to being condescending or just plain nasty assume that “clerk” = “slave” or “whipping boy/girl”. I remember one particular customer who was incensed that his small kitchen appliance was not working properly and used every four-letter word and various combinations thereof to let me know it.  I held up my hand and said, “Sir, I'm sorry, but I can't listen to this kind of language and if you continue then I can't help you any more and you'll need to go to Customer Service and ask for the manager.”  To his credit, he apologized, but many of them don't.

Third, many customers are clueless about the retail cycle.  The retail cycle is actually 2 - 3 months ahead of the calendar season, hence the reason why you see swimsuits in March and Christmas decorations in October (September in some stores).  I remember another customer who was irate because she couldn't buy a fan during a heat wave in mid-October.  I tried to explain the retail cycle to her but she said, “Well that's just f – ing stupid!  It's California after all!”  I really wanted to say, “No, you're stupid because you're the jack-ss who waited until a heat wave to buy a fan!” And don't get me started about the customers who wait until the day of a wedding to look over the gift registry and are shocked that “only the expensive stuff is left”.  Please.

Rudeness can be found on both sides of the retail fence, but it's different in customers.  Nothing witnesses to this rudeness and sense of entitlement more than the three-ring circus known as the holiday season.  It always bothered me that at this time of the year, I often saw the worst in people.  To this day, I still don't like to shop during the holidays; I prefer to shop online.  It seems to me that if more people, customers and clerks included, remembered the Golden Rule, everyone would be much better off.

Friday, May 21, 2010

When "Good Enough" is Really "Half-Assed"

It's a bit of a challenge trying to convey to my children when "good enough" is OK and when it's not.  I've had to think of times in my life when I've settled for good enough.  Sometimes it was with relief or pride and other times it was tinged with guilt or defiance.  So, I came up with a loose definition of "good enough" based on my experience.

Good enough is good enough when you have run out of time and resources, yet you still use what you have to make a workable solution until you're able to replenish your resources.  In other words, you're able to make do with what you've got.

Good enough is half-assed when you clearly have the time and the resources, yet apathy and/or laziness take over your motivation.  You may produce a workable solution, but it does not live up to your present level of capability nor does it take advantage of your resources.  In other words, you could have done better but chose not to.

Works for me.  Now if I can only break it down so that my kids will get it.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Shorthand Hell

You've seen them.  I know you have because they're everywhere.  They're inescapable and they can be annoying or amusing depending on your mood.  Here is just a small sample of them:


I use some of these.  Frankly it's easier for the writer to use shorthand, but sometimes readers have to rack their brains to decode them.  Well, at least I do, so maybe it's just me.  Every time I see “ROFLOL” in an email, my brain automatically translates it to “Rolling on the floor laughing out loud”.  I get it; I really do.  Shorthand saves on space.  Nobody wants to type "Rolling on the floor laughing out loud" in response to every good joke.  Seriously, it takes up too much space, too much time and it's just not cool.  Sometimes though, shorthand can be overused or overdone.  For example (to be read with a sense of humor):

BTW, just FYI, your BFF is an OCD SAHM who IMHO is ADHD or maybe PDD-NOS, but definitely ASD  with IBS because of the IRS or DS and DH. OMG, seriously TMI!  Which may leave some of you thinking: WTF or WTH?  

If you need help translating the above shorthand, or you just want to expand your savvy coolness, then check out Netlingo.  IMHO, parents of texting tweens and teens should check it out.

PS: I'm so glad that "IMHO" doesn't have an "A" in between the "M" and the "H".  That could be awkward.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Confessions of a Gluten Free Backslider

I feel better when I eat gluten free.  Not only my body feels better but my mood is better when I'm gluten free.  I don't have to deal with the debilitating abdominal pain, the flatulence that can power a small car, and the never-ending diarrhea.  I'll spare you the gory details.  The problem is that I don't always experience these symptoms whenever I choose to eat “regular” bread; at least not at first.  I could say that it's a crapshoot, but that would be too obvious.  Let's just say that these symptoms are unpredictable.  Life is definitely better being gluten free.  But...

The sad truth is that where taste is concerned, gluten free foods often just don't measure up.  This is especially true of gluten free bread.   And quite frankly, the price is often prohibitively expensive.  Don't get me wrong: I love the Tinkyada pasta, the Glutino pretzels, and the Kinnikinnick donuts.  But the bread...not so much.  Even homemade gluten free bread is just shy of being disappointing.  I've gotten to the point where I can make really good gluten free muffins, coffee cake, cupcakes, and pancakes.  However, really good gluten free sandwich bread eludes me and this annoys me because I love bread.  Especially sourdough bread. I have yet to find a gluten free bread that even approaches sourdough.  Herein lies my problem and my confession.

Fairly recently a new restaurant/bakery opened up near where I live: Boudin.  It just so happens that Boudin's specialty is San Francisco sourdough.  San Francisco sourdough.  Be still my beating heart.  To make matters worse, we get coupons from Boudin.  Buy one get one free coupons.  On the one hand I say, “Get thee behind me, Satan!”  On the other hand I say, “Honey, do you want to go to Boudin for date night? We have a coupon.”

Pathetic?  Yes.
Deserves every symptom I get?  Absolutely.
Willing to give up sourdough?  Not quite there yet.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Moms: Most are Awesome, Some are Special

Mother's Day is this Sunday.  Already?  I'm looking forward to a BBQ and spending a semi-relaxing day with my family.  I love watching my boys grow up, especially my youngest.  He has made such progress.  He started out life by surviving a near-fatal brain hemorrhage shortly after birth.  He has had to grow and learn despite being legally blind, unable to talk, having mild cerebral palsy, and up until five years ago, seizures.  “Special” has taken on a whole new meaning.

I'm willing to bet my next bowl of ice cream that at some point most moms of special needs kids have read one or both of these essays: “Special Mothers” by Erma Bombeck and “Welcome to Holland” by Emily Perl Kingsley.  They are uplifting and they shine a comforting light into a seemingly dark tunnel.  But after reading them for the first time, I was torn between wanting to say “Thank you” and “Screw you”.  At the time, I felt that while they contained much truth and encouragement, I also felt that they were a tad patronizing and a little too sugar-coated.  This was how I felt.  In no way am I assuming or implying that every mom felt this way.

As the years have passed I have gained experience and a changed perspective.  Consider this: I'm willing to bet another bowl of ice cream that many women have said something like this during their pregnancy, “I don't care if it's a boy or a long as it's healthy.”  I know I did.  It's only natural; I mean why would you want for a baby to have a long-term illness or a disability?  Most normal-thinking people would not wish that on another person.  Still, this statement can sound insensitive.  How could I love him any less because he's not “healthy”?  Because, I mean, come on.  Seriously?!?  I love my special kiddo not in spite of or because of his disabilities; I love him because he's my son.  Have I ever wished that he was a typical kid?  You betcha.  Am I glad that he's in my life just the way he is?  Double you betcha.  Not one shred of his progress or milestone achieved has been taken for granted.

I know some wonderful, fantastic, dedicated moms of special needs children.  And there are plenty who I don't know.  Ladies, here is a shout out to you: You are awesome!  Even when you are feeling your worst but especially when you're at your best, which is more often than you might think.  Happy Mother's Day!


Update 10/22/2010: If you haven't yet seen the blog Uncommon Sense, I encourage you to visit and read the entry entitled "Amsterdam International".  To me, it wonderfully describes the arrival to Holland.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Let 'em Work for It

I'm so proud of my 10 year-old.  On Monday his school was the beneficiary of a fundraiser held at the local frozen yogurt shop.  So after finishing his homework he took his wallet, which contained his own money that he worked for, got on his bike and rode to the yogurt shop with some friends so that they could buy a yogurt and support their school.

Now, I'm not deluding myself into thinking that the only reason he went was to support his school.  I'm well aware that it was a chance to go “somewhere” with his friends.  However, as he was getting ready to leave, I noticed a slight air of confidence in him as he put the money in his wallet. He doesn't have to ask or beg for money from mom and dad.  He has his own.  He gets to enjoy the fruit of his labor at a carefree time in his life.

Having his own money has also greatly reduced the “Can you buy this for me?” when we go shopping.  In fact, dare I say that it's almost non-existent. On one rare occasion he forgot his wallet.  He so desperately wanted to buy a package of Hot Wheels that with tears in his eyes he asked if we could go home so that he could get his wallet and then come back to Target.  It was a moment of truth for me: do I play hard ball and say “No” or do I have compassion and say “Yes”?  I said “yes”.  Why?  Because I have gone grocery shopping only to realize that I had forgotten my wallet and had to go all the way back home.  I said “yes” because I was proud of him for asking to go back to get his own money instead of asking me to buy it for him.

He has been receiving an allowance since he was 6 years old.  We started him off at  $1.25 per week for doing the same two chores each day.  In the beginning I put a chart on the refrigerator and marked off when he completed a chore.  Then every evening after dinner we would go over the chart and I would pay him.  Now that he's older, we no longer need the chart; he has different chores; he gets paid more; and payday is every Friday.  This method works for us because kids with Asperger's like rules and they like knowing what to expect.  He is learning that he is expected to work for his money because that's what he's going to have to do when he goes out into the real grown-up world.  Paying him for his work also puts pressure on me (in a good way) to ensure that I have the money every Friday.  It's like a contract or an obligation that I'm less likely to flake on.

We've started this process with my youngest son.  Even though he needs assistance from us, he feeds the cats every morning and gets paid $0.25 per day, or $1.25 per week!  What a bargain!  And the cats are so happy that they are finally being fed the same time everyday.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Tools of the Trade

I admit it: I was once a gift snob.  A blender for Christmas?  Are you kidding me?!  An appliance timer for my birthday?  Seriously?!  I'm not proud of my snobbery, but there you are; the past is the past.  It's not that I was completely ungrateful, it's just that I perceived these types of gifts to be less personal, for the "household" and not for me.

A few years ago, when my husband joined an apprenticeship program to become an electrician, he always asked for tools or gift cards to Lowe's or Home Depot for his birthday, Christmas, and Father's Day.  His reasoning (after viewing our budget) was that many of the tools that he needed were expensive at the time and that if other people were willing to buy them as gifts then that would be one, two, or three less things that he had to buy.

It's only been in the last few years that my attitude towards being a SAHM has changed from being a lifestyle choice to being a job.  That's right I have a job.  It's a non-paying job, but a job nonetheless.  (I even take a lunch break too.)  My only defense prior to this attitude shift is that I felt more like a case manager and therapy provider than a mom.  When you have a child who, from the moment of birth, has special needs and requires many early intervention services in conjunction with having an older toddler with Asperger's Syndrome, life can be kind of hectic and frankly a bit of a blur.  Thankfully, things have calmed down a bit.

Since my attitude adjustment I've started thinking about the kinds of tools that I need for my job:
  • an extra set of stainless steel measuring spoons
  • an appliance timer
  • some nice Pyrex serveware
  • a Le Creuset roasting pan (in my dreams)
  • cake decorating supplies
  • an extra crock pot
  • an iPhone (kidding)
Like anything else, the tools of my trade can become worn out from constant use and need to be replaced.  So, from now on, housewares and gift cards to Williams-Sonoma, Sur la Table and Macy's...I mean Target, Kmart and Kohl's are welcome gifts.  Actually, they always have been welcome gifts.  But a new attitude and a new outlook has made them all the more appreciated.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

So, Why Not Sew?

To say that my sewing skills are bad would be too kind. On a scale of 0 – Sucks my sewing skills would fall somewhere in the middle. When my oldest son came to me the other day and asked me to mend a small rip in his pants I said, “Um, sure okay.” Then I left the pants on the counter for a couple of days. After much anxiety and guilt, I did manage to fix it so that it looked barely passable. Fortunately, my son is not too picky about his clothes.

Nevertheless, I came away from this wondering why I am so apprehensive about learning to sew properly. It's not that I am afraid of learning or doing new things. If anything, living la vida frugal has taught me that doing it yourself can save a lot of money and build a lot of confidence. I have painted the entire interior of my house; tiled the floor in our house with the exception of the bedrooms and the family room; learned how to bake gluten free; and I've even taken a cake decorating class just so I can decorate gluten free cakes and cupcakes. But the skills needed to sew remain a mystery to me.

I don't necessarily think that my life would be any better or worse if I learned how to sew because it's not something that I would do everyday. However, when the need arises I find myself thinking, “Why haven't I learned how to do that?” Maybe I should just admit to myself that I don't have the patience, I don't want a sewing machine, and quite frankly I can't be bothered. There, I feel better. At least until the next time I have to sew something.


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