Friday, August 31, 2012


The one vice about television that I would admit in an open forum is my love of all things Nightline.  However, that love can rarely be overcome by logistics;  my eyes just don't cooperate at 10:35pm, so I have to record all of the shows to be watched at another time when caffeine is running through my veins and the sun is shining.

Literally, this week, while Mike was traveling, I caught up on two week's worth of shows.  I got to see the escalating reporting from Tropical Storm Isaac all the way through Hurricane Isaac landing.  I viewed reporting from the RNC before it was in session through to the acceptance speech Ryan gave.  And, I got to see an interview of a college graduate living at home with his parents.

Let me stop right here and make one thing perfectly clear:  when my kids go off to college, they are NOT coming home to their childhood bedrooms to live with us for an unspecified amount of time.

I will welcome them with open arms if they want to hang with us for a bit and then jet off to their own apartments.  I will prepare lavish meals for them to enjoy at holiday time.  I will even, with their permission, come to wherever they live and make big pots of food to leave in their refrigerators, on our dime.

But, I will not live with grown adults once they are supposed to be responsible for themselves.  I didn't do this;  Mike didn't do this;  our children will not do this.

The preceding rant was brought to you by a Mother who is currently living with a son who is going through puberty.  Any statement made by said person may or may not truly be what she will mean, do, or feel in the future.  But, at the moment, this is the GOSPEL TRUTH.

Now, I will give credit where credit is due to Nightline:  they are a "news" program, highlighting stories of current interest, and they do a darn fine job of reporting.  But, sometimes, the people they choose to interview to prove their point is just bizarre.

Take the college graduate living in his parent's basement they recently interviewed.  He came out of a four-year program with a major in theater and a minor in philosophy.

And that explains why, if you felt a horrific bump beneath your house last night, you thought there was an earthquake.  My jaw hit the ground so freakin' hard that it sent an aftershock across Dallas.

Dude.  No really, D.U.D.E.  Were you smoking dope when you declared your major?  Did it not occur to you, four years ago as the economy took a nose-dive, that this was a pipe-dream?

And, Nightline producers?  Were you smoking with Dude when you decided he was the BEST EXAMPLE OF A COLLEGE GRAD WHO COULDN'T FIND A JOB?  Do you mean to tell me there isn't an accounting major out there you could have interviewed, one who is busting his hump to get his first real, post-college, paycheck?

I don't have a horse in this particular race, but I certainly have an opinion (SURPRISE!):  This is a failure of society.  This is lack of direction from parents.  This may even speak to lack of direction by high schools and guidance counselors.

Have we gotten so far away from reality that we are willing to pay copious amounts of money, not to mention time, for our children to go to college and earn worthless degrees?  Or worse yet, to turn a blind eye to them taking out student loans for said degrees that will saddle them for YEARS with debt that they are unprepared to pay back?

Has our parenting gotten so shallow that we don't get into conversations about what colleges our children should attend, what marketable talents they possess, and what course of study they should pursue?  Or, are we afraid to hurt their self-esteem by suggesting a logical path that will lead to a reliable paycheck?

Have our guidance counselors stopped telling the truth, that the hard work of pursuing a degree isn't just about following a dream but figuring out how to support ourselves when we leave high school?  Are our high school students so woefully unprepared for college-level work that they don't step up to a degree with a bit more teeth?
Where were these folks when this young man decided to devote the better part of 800 days to pursuing what could best be described as a dream, fantasy, or celestial goal?

Now, when it comes down to brass tacks, Dude is responsible for his own life.  He is an adult.  He needs to figure out how he is going to afford his own place and buy gas and groceries and insurance.  To do otherwise should make him feel ashamed.

And, frankly, his parents have some part in this, too.  They are enabling him by not allowing him to do the hard work of becoming a man.  Whether they believe it or not, it is time for some serious tough love.

We were never, not once, ever told that work was going to be fun.  Frankly, work can be as side-splitting as a root canal.  It can be painful.  It can suck eggs.  It can be the last dang thing you want to do.

But until we live in Eden again, work exists.  It is a reality that money follows work.  And money is how you pay for the things you want and need.

If you CHOOSE to earn a degree that has limited potential, you get limited potential.  Unless, of course, you are one of the .000000000000000000001% of people who are fortunate enough to be "discovered".  And, in the meantime, you probably should buy lottery tickets because if that happens you will probably win the lottery, too, because you are really, really, really lucky.
Don't get me wrong:  I'm all for pursuing degrees that interest you.  I'm all for people following their dreams.  I'm all for people choosing a path that will make work as fun as possible.

What I'm NOT for is people who only pursue their interests and have no Plan B in place.  Or, who complain that Plan A isn't working out for them when they've studied "Bowling Industry Management", "Blacksmithing" or "Comedy Studies" (all "real" degrees, check it out if you doubt me).  Or those who refuse to start at the bottom of an industry because they think they should be paid $125K out of the shoot, when all their resume proves is that they can control a drive through at Steak and Shake.

Maybe it is time to throw some cold water on the graduates of tomorrow.  Maybe it is time to wake them up to reality before they are being tucked into their dorm room the weekend before college starts.  Maybe it is time to remember what it means to work in this country.

If you don't agree, be ready to house your kids until you die.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Lesson Learned?!

This year, Mike and I are trying to something new at the beginning of school:  we are accepting failure as an option.

Yes, you read that right.  FAILURE.  It is on the table.  As an option.

See, in years past, we have done just about everything but stand on our heads to encourage our children to do the right thing when it comes to school.  Though not exhaustive, here is a list of what hasn't worked in the past:

1.  Screaming
2.  Crying
3.  Reasoning/Logic
4.  Bribery
5.  Loss of privileges
6.  Earning of privileges
7.  Time Outs/Grounding
8.  Forced exercise (to promote/encourage focus/get the willys out)
9.  Explanation of the dynamics of budgeting and the impact of the cost of private school
10.  Drinking (by us, not them)

Literally, over the summer, as the days progressed and seventh, fifth and first grades loomed in the not-so-distant distance, we started to have little mini-attacks that generally ended with us tucking in the kids around 10pm and eating ice cream in bed to comfort ourselves.

At some point we decided dairy wasn't the answer.  We needed to take action.  And we seriously considered hiring a $60/hour "academic coach" for one of the kids.  We figured we could leave the heavy lifting to him/her and wash our hands of the whole thing.  And, in the process, free ourselves up to deal with the other two and their homework loads.

There were delays upon delays getting the coach situated.  And then the big phone call came with matches that fit what we asked for at times that were completely insane for our family.  Since school had already started and our level of physical, emotional and spiritual pain was still pretty low, we declined to sign on the dotted line.

Through a series of brutally honest conversations with each other, we figured out what was/wasn't working in our kid's afternoon routines.  We made some tough decisions.  We prayed over the situation.  And we decided what hills we were willing to die on and which we would just crawl over.  We figured out that our previous way of doing things was probably doing more harm than good.  And we had a good, old-fashioned family talk over dinner and laid out our plans for school year 2012-2013.

Sure, there was some griping.  Sure, there was gnashing of the teeth.  Sure, not everyone agreed with our plans.  But, Mom and Dad weren't backing down.  And as none of our kids is independently wealthy,  moving out wasn't an option.  So, onward and upward we went, together.

The first week of school, I have to admit, has been crazy pleasant.  Partially because the seventh graders had a reduced schedule, partially because I am not looking at the clock every ten minutes to see if it is 5pm and I can get a drink to calm my nerves.

The way I figure it, God had been watching from the sidelines for many a year, shaking His head in wonder that we still hadn't heard His whispers.  He knew things like medication and academic coaching and another new school weren't the answer. 

He had a much bigger plan in store for us.  It was called "the hard work of parenting".  And, of all crazy things, He wanted us to parent our OWN kids and do what felt right to us, which was what He would have done were He on earth doing the dirty work for us.  Once we figured that out, the rest kind of fell into place.

Now, I'm not proposing that this year is going to be without bumps and bruises and uphill climbs.  I know that is coming.  But, I also know that a kinder, gentler, easier spirit is residing in me right now.  One that knows that I'm not being mean by putting my kids to work on their homework right after school and a snack.  One that limits all electronics to a time after everyone in the house is finished with their school work.  One that will gladly pass the buck to the teacher for a judgment call, instead of trying to force the issue at home and losing my mind trying.

In other words, we are letting the chips fall where they will.  If one of the kids interprets the instructions to "cut and paste" as "cut only", guess who is getting an email?  And, if that means double the work to make up for the inability to understand very clear instructions, then so be it.  A extra bit of hard work never killed anyone I personally know.

Life is about these types of lessons.  It is about forging our way on our own path but figuring out that ours isn't the only path that matters.  It is about interpreting ideas and directions and projects and deciding how you are going to tackle them;  sometimes, you'll get tackled back in the process.  But, I can assure you, the next time, you'll know better.

And that is really the crux of this year:  letting our children determine HOW to approach school and letting their leaders correct them when they go off course.  If, in the process, grades fail or privileges for recess are rescinded or Saturday school is assigned, good.  Better to learn how to follow the leader now than in your twenties, right?

So, I guess I can conclude this post with this one statement:  I may be a parent, but I don't always have the answers and I don't always get it right and I don't always figure it out promptly.  Eight years into school, this is what I finally know:  the school of hard knocks can be tough, but coming home should be the place where the warrior can lick his wounds, dress his injuries, and recharge for the next day.

Funny how we had it backward all these years.

Funnier still how right it feels now that we think we have it right. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Babe

My back-to-school blogging wouldn't be complete without a little effort trying to encapsulate the youngest of our brood, The Babe.  His nickname is so far from original that it hurts my brain, me who likes to think in allegory and simile and metaphor.  But, honestly?  By the time you get to your third child, you are sometimes just tired.  And, hence, the moniker that stuck seems to be almost redundant, until you consider the following:

1.  Have you looked at that face lately?  And did you grow up in the 1970's?  If so, the term "babe" is spot on.  He is just so dang cute that you can't help but fall head-over when he smiles that smile.

2.  Have you seen him dance?  CRAZY skills, no doubt, from Mike's set of genes.  Literally, he about stops my heart when he comes into the kitchen and starts dancing around.  Move over John Travolta cause you got nuttin' on my baby boy!

3.  Have you been charmed by him lately?  If not, hold onto your wallet because boyfriend has an entitlement complex when it comes to Legos.  And, I can assure you, he'll con you into driving him to the closest Lego-selling store under the premise that he just "wants to look" and you'll end up walking out with a 300-piece, $100 set that was on sale, a "bargain" he convinced you was a steal.

If I hated him, I would push him towards politics, where he would somehow manage to mend fences and barter negotiations and balance the budget, all in his freshman year.  He's THAT good.

On the opposite hand, brother has a serious frost button and can go all John Gotti on you if he doesn't get his way.  We are working on that.

But, with all that stuff aside, he truly is a sweetheart at the core.  He loves himself a little bit of Jesus.  He gives the biggest hugs and kisses and still holds my hand when we walk together.  He truly worries if he hurts some one's feelings or accidentally injures them and he has a very soft place that is easily injured by rejection of his friends.

He builds Legos for hours on end.  In fact, that is practically the only toy he has ever enjoyed playing with.  When he thinks about moving on to a new past time, he immediately gets sucked right back into those bins of blocks.  The assortment of different creations he has conjured up convinces me we need to steer directly toward some sort of architecture/building/engineering career.

Babe also has an affinity for animals.  Blissfully, this year, his classroom teacher is a collector of all things in the small animal category, from lizard to rat to fish, so he is surrounded by fur and gills and scales all day long.  When he comes home at night, he likes to tend to his two hamsters and new (unnamed) red fish.  And, currently, he is bucking for more in the animal department.  We are running out of shelf space (darn).  Maybe another good career choice would be in the veterinarian sciences?

This morning, I realized that brother is getting really good with his reading, despite a rocky start a couple of years ago.  When I compare my preschooler/kindergartner, who had trouble identifying the letters of the alphabet for three school years in a row, with the boy he is today, as a first grader, I am astounded at this progress.  He is coming into his own with this reading thing and getting more and more confident each day.

My prayer for you, Babe, is simple:  That He would use your learning differences to teach you about persistence and perseverance and goal setting.  That you would share your infectious personality with others and teach them that different is cool.  That you would be a light for Christ for all of your days.

Enjoy this year, buddy.  Pet and hold every animal in your classroom daily.  Build every Lego invention you can dream up.  Keep dancing and holding my hand (please!).  Take on new challenges with gusto and without complaint.  Love even the unlovely.

And never forget that you are my skit-a-marink, a dink, a dink.

I love you!!

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Back-To-School Prayer for Parents

Lord, as we enter this new school year, whether our kids are entering preschool or graduate school, cover us parents with peace and confidence.  Help us remember that part of parenting is entering new phases of life, taking on new roles, and shepherding our children toward independence.  Bless our days and nights, whether they are spent mostly with our children or without them, and guide us on the journeys you have laid out before us.  We ask these things in the mighty name of Jesus.  Amen.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Hooman got his nickname because his older brother was Zachadoo and I needed a rhyming, fun name to call him that matched.  So, he became Harryhoo early on in life.  The Hoo part of it has just kind of stuck and, thankfully, so far, he isn't complaining.

I fully expect, any day now, I'll call "Hoo!" to get his attention when he is with his friends and I'll be accused of being the "most embarrassing Mother in the entire Universe and in Universes we haven't discovered yet".  Because male hormones lead to wicked bad logic, crying jags that could win Academy and/or comedy awards, and butt acne.

But, I digress.

Actually, this post was supposed to be about how amazing Hoo actually is.  And, let me tell you that brother is crazy cool.

He has managed to make it an entire summer doing the Justin Bieber hair swish and not contract whiplash.

He earned third place at the national Taekwondo tournament and finished his first kid's triathlon, too.

Child practically has a six-pack abdomen.  And, after much practice, he mastered this a week ago..and I had to pony up $10 because he met the challenge.

He's funny.  Kids got timing.  And when I try to pass sarcasm across the table to Mike, often Hoo will start cracking up before Mike does.  He just gets it.  And me and my wicked, warped sense of sarcasm and humor.

He is also contemplative.  When we explained that a relative was likely going to die of cancer in the coming days, he began to truly think about Grandma Joyce and what she went through.  And how much he missed her.  And what Heaven was like.  And wonder if it was going to hurt to die.

And, before yesterday, it was interesting that he was going into fifth grade but, frankly, we'd "been there, done that" with Nickels just two years prior and it wasn't novel.  Until we entered the room.

I had forgotten that last year's desks had little cubbies underneath the desk top for storing stuff.  This definitely relegated them to "child" status.  This year, the desks are like those you'd find in a college classroom with just a small shelf under the chair.

The boys and girls he attended school with last year looked young.  Their voices were young,  They weren't all that tall.  Those same kids went through some crazy, hormone-driven growth spurt this summer.  They still have a gawky, semi-socially-shy attitude, but some of them can practically look me in the eye.  Though, of course, they have a hard time with eye contact because every tween thinks they will turn to stone if that occurs.

I hadn't put two-and-two together and figured out that Hoo was moving across campus to the fifth through seventh grade pod of classrooms.  He is further away from the office, closer to the football field, and swimming in the sea of almost being at the top of the grammar school.  Walking up the long incline to his classroom, I realized I am on the verge of being the Mom to TWO teenagers.  It just wasn't that long ago I considered it strange that I was about to have two in school.

Time is flying at lightning speed.  I don't have time to regret what has passed, only time to remember to make now special.  Because pausing to mourn things I wish I had done is a waste;  it is a closed chapter.  There is no time like the present to look ahead.

And, for Hoo?  I see a future that is bright.  He has expressed the desire to be a writer, which makes my heart go pitter-patter.  He is building a cadre of friends that is deep and wide.  He is growing toward manhood in a way that it promising and exciting.

I will always adore you, Hooman.  From our rocky start when you were a baby with an undiagnosed milk allergy to a learner who learned differently to a super athlete and friend, you have been the roller coaster ride that made me giggle and throw my hands up and yell "AGAIN!"  You are a big part of why Mom and Dad knew it was a good idea to try for another sibling.  Thanks for being your authentic you. 

You truly are my sunshine.  Even when life was the most grey with you, I was always delighted to be your Mommy.  I look forward to the day you have your own children and can understand how much I really, really do love you.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

How Did THAT Happen?

Tonight, I tucked in my Nickels for the very last time as an elementary student.  Tomorrow he will wake up as a seventh grader. And, as if to add insult to injury, in a matter of fifteen days he will become a teenager. 

I'm still having a hard time wrapping my brain around the concept that summer is over for us this week.  But, it is even harder to believe that my little boy is knocking on the door of manhood.

He is in that awkward phase where he desperately wants to run toward independence but still needs to be able to turn around and have us reassure him it is going to be OK.

He is well beyond needing us to help with his bedtime routine, but he wants us to tuck him in and say prayers with him and remind him he is loved on a nightly basis...and to help him find Lamby if it has gone MIA.

He wants to control every aspect of his life, from completing school work to picking movies and music to what flavor of toothpaste to use, but he still needs our guidance so he will make the best of the best of decisions.

This is all new territory for us, this see-saw from wanting to needing to wanting and back.  From moment to moment it is impossible to determine where he is, as needy child or as capable young man. 

And, as his Momma, it is very difficult not to try to rescue him from decisions he wants to take control over that I know may not be the best.  That is the tightrope act I am walking as his parent right now:  somewhere between completely saving him from awful judgments and allowing him to get a bit hurt to learn an important lesson.

So, I imagine, that partially explains my nervous anticipation as my baby ventures into the territory of junior high.  My own vivid, not-so-great memories cause me to doubly pray that he builds remembrances that are richer and fonder and worth looking back on when he is in his forties, raising a teenager himself.

I want to cup his little chin in my hands and repeat until it sinks into his soul and mine:  "I have always held tight the reigns, but I am willing to loosen them when you think you are ready.  Just keep in mind that I will never completely let them go until we both know it is right."

Yet, I know he won't hear me.  He'll hear "I hold the reigns".  So, I try not to make analogies and lecture him and hold him back from moving forward.  I simply let the reigns slip down a bit, allow a little more slack, and hope he doesn't trip over the freedom.

But, for all my concerns, I've seen a boy stretching his wings and making great decisions.

I watched him struggle as I outlined his schedule with two extracurricular activities and the burden of seventh grade homework.  I waited as he determined, all for himself, that he needed to place time for his school work above his outside activities.  I listened as he explained his decision to choose school and Taekwondo over football.  And his logic wasn't only sensible, it led him to the absolute, 100% right decision for him.

He knows who he is, that boy of mine.  He has a strong sense of self.  He doesn't worry so much about what others think but tries to be true to himself.

And I love, love, love him for that!  At 46 I am still trying to learn what he has partially mastered at 12.

As I let the reigns looser and looser over the next several days, weeks, and months, I pray that I will see he is capable and ready and trustworthy.  That I will embrace this new freedom he craves and give him pieces of it in due time and at the right time.  But, mostly, that I will loosen my hand without worry or fear, but with gratitude that he is ready for the responsibility that he will ask to receive.

Momma is very proud of you, Nickels.  You are growing into a fine young man who makes wise decisions and who knows who he is.  I can hardly wait to see what God has in store for you this year.

Go blow the top off seventh grade, baby! 

And, in case you ever wonder, I truly do love you more....

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Can We All Just Agree?

I am a Republican, Conservative Woman....and there are a ton of myths out there about me.

Because my husband owns his own business and does well for himself and my children attend private schools, I've been labeled rich and out-of-touch with the regular guy.

Because I attend church and support Christian causes, I've been labeled old-fashioned.

Because I choose not to picket against certain businesses or sign petitions for causes or walk in rallies, I've been labeled uncaring.

Because I apply Biblical truths to situations, I've been labeled a bigot, homophobe, and a hater.

Because I choose not to wear my giving on my sleeve, I've been labeled a non-giving tight wad.

Because I think that sweeping social programs often end up in corruption and sometimes do more harm than good, I've been labeled cold and heartless.

Because I believe there is an economic limit to the spending our government can do without harming the overall health of our economy, I have been labeled greedy.

Yet, I am none of these things. These labels have been thrust on me by people who don't even know who I am or what I stand for. They have never once walked a mile in my shoes.

They affiliate me with the negative stereotypes the talking heads and news anchors and talk show hosts sensationalize for their own agenda.

They throw me under the bus, call me names, create divides between me and others and curse at me and those who share my affiliations.

But they don't know me.  They THINK they know my "type".

They have never asked once WHY my children attend private schools.  They assume I am an elitist that feels my children are "above" a public school education.
They don't know the sacrifices we have made to own our own business.  Or the extra burden of taxes or paperwork that we deal with.
They don't know that I love Christ with all my heart and desire to walk in His path, a path that is love and peace and forgiveness.
They've never once seen where I donate my time, talents, or tithe.
They don't know that I've worked with the poor and read studies about the ills of social programs and debated over where the line should be drawn.
They don't know that I have a degree in economics and understand what this country is going through financially.  They assume my opinions are based on my greediness.


So, today, I'm putting this line in the sand:  you don't know me.  I don't know you.

If we can agree that, politically and socially, we probably aren't going to come to terms, then let's shake on it and stop trying to beat each other up.

We aren't enemies by nature, we just disagree.  That doesn't make either side bad.  So let's agree to bless each other, no matter our political, religious, or economic background.

Let's agree that people who want to divide us can only do it with our permission.
Let's be critical about what we say and how we say it, trying to avoid being hateful and ugly.
Let's seek to understand those who are different than we are.  Let's be open to having our views and opinions respectfully questioned.  Let's seek to encourage understanding, even if there might not be complete agreement.

In a word, let's seek peace in this war.  Let us come to the table with an olive branch, not a hammer.  Let us seek to encourage honest debate in an effort to work together.  Where we see unnecessary branding of the "other side", let's stand up for truth, not lies and half-baked claims that don't hold water.

If we can't agree on anything else between now and November, can't we at least agree on THIS?

Monday, August 6, 2012

How to Ruin a Customer's Opinion and Drive Your Business into the Ground in a Few Emails

Email from me:

I have a Groupon that we need to schedule for late August/September, if possible.  Anytime the week of August 27, starting time before 1pm and anytime the week of September 3rd (excluding Monday, of course) starting time before 1pm works.

My Groupon number #**-**

Thanks, Jill Nowell

RESPONSE:  What is it for?

Email from me:
The 2-Hour Detox

 RESPONSE:  Did we discuss extending the expiration date for you?  Also, there was a bonus of clients being able to receive a massage at 50% off, along with a complimentary body scrub, giving you discounts on top of discounts.  Since the voucher has expired, we would probably need for you to do this.  It is a very awesome deal and everyone who took us up on the offer enjoyed the services a great deal.  Gratuities need to be based upon full value.  Also, we will need to get a valid MC or Visa to reserve your space, required of all clients, voucher or not, prevents no shows & last minute cancellations, standard at nice spas.  It's good to know that you can come in during the weekdays. 
Off email commentary by me:
Yes, we did discuss extending the expiration date, twice on the phone, in fact.  The first conversation was quite pleasant, you took my phone number and told me you'd call me back.  I finally called your company back and the phone was answered by an employee in between sessions who was extremely busy-sounding and who told me to send an email;  that is what started this chain of emails to begin with.

I was told of the bonus deals but not told I would "probably" need to do this during our second conversation.

Clearly, Groupon states that gratuities are based upon full value.  I appreciate a good deal, especially when (as in this case), the deal was a gift.  I tip generously.  Almost to a fault, if you ask my husband.

Fine on the credit card.  Standard, I agree.

I'm sure you like weekday clients because I realize weekends at a spa are hectic.  Win-win.

Email from me:

I called before the expiration date to schedule and was lost in the system.  My time during the week is somewhat limited so I would like to do just the detox.
I will be glad to provide a credit card number over the phone or at your location.
You can reach me at 214,762,5706.
Sent from Yahoo! Mail on Android
Off email commentary by me:
Um, this sounds a bit like financial blackmail.  The person who gifted this to me paid for a service you packaged together.  Now, in order to use it, because we've been unable to schedule something, I have to buy MORE to get the original deal?  HMMMM.

RESPONSE:  Jill, you were not lost in the system.  I personally remember calling you several times and have written notes at the spa; was not able to reach you and the calls were not returned for whatever reason. 
Although most places that I know of don't do this, we were willing to extend the voucher expiration date if people asked prior to the expiration.  It's no problem with us honoring it, just to give you the benefit of the doubt.  However, since we are compromising with you and we now are taking care of not only our regulars but other people from various specials as well as daily deal vouchers, we would need for you to also compromise and help our therapists out by allowing them to at least earn a little something.  Otherwise, we are no longer doing those treatments, everyone has come through already, even those where we extended the vouchers.  There was good reason why we had an expiration date in the first place, so that we could space our specials out and take care of everyone properly.  Again, this was a really awesome deal by itself, valued at $270 I believe, and with the discounted massage and complimentary body scrub, this takes you up to at least $400 in savings!  I don't know what more we could offer and still be in business if we only had this offer going.  So at the very least, we feel it to be fair if you'd go ahead and do the upgrade and I can guarantee that you will thoroughly enjoy that massage, also the free body scrub with vichy rainshower.  If you don't have much time then schedule on the weekend; although we are more busy then, we would be willing to compromise there too, to allow you to not have to rush.  It's only 1 more hour than the 2-hr detox package itself.  It does not take long to do a body scrub but it feels so nice with the rainshower and after all the heat of the wrap & infrared.  This way you would leave with a much cooler body temperature than you will with just those heated treatments.  Please - we packaged those treatments together for specific reason and I know that you will enjoy them all.  You (and your health) are certainly worth these treatments.  Also, most places would never dream of giving customers discount on top of discount and then multiplied like that. 
So all we're asking is for a little compromise on your part for our staff, while at the same time, you're going to reap all the benefits from doing so.  Just go ahead and treat yourself well.  Please make this easy and beneficial for us all, including yourself.  Thank you very much.   

Off email commentary by me:
Wow.  Thanks for giving me the "benefit of the doubt".  When I read that I could tell you value your customers, who are clearly liars and cheats for the most part.

Your therapists earn "nothing" on a Groupon?  I mean, I was going to tip...and you received some cut from Groupon.  Sounds like you need to share the wealth.

So you are "no longer doing these treatments"?  What were they, cheap?  Not well received?  Generally, you offer your BEST during a Groupon to entice people to come back for more.  

Also, if you "packaged together those treatments", and my original Groupon only included half of them, was the original Groupon "incomplete"?

"Please make this easy and beneficial for all of us, including" myself?  Well, that should be easy.  Keep reading....

Email from me:
(Albeit, a bit testy, I felt as though I was being attacked by the previous email AND railroaded into doing something that I didn't have time to do.
I have NEVER.  NOT ONCE, been treated this way when trying to book at ANY spa I've ever been to.  This was incredibly bizarre to me.
So, I decided to add some clout/teeth to the conversation.)
I have been to spas all over the world.  I am keenly aware of the benefits you are mentioning.  I have also I have mentioned..lost in the shuffle.
Clearly we are not going to come to terms nor to a mutually agreeable date so I will excuse myself from booking with your business.
Sent from Yahoo! Mail on Android
And I've been working in this industry for 20 years, having worked at some of the finest.  This, and also what you're saying, is meaningless, however, when it comes to our discussion herein.  This is a unique & customized package that we created ourselves to achieve certain synergistic benefits.  It, by the way, is NOT offered exactly this way in other spas of the world, no matter what spa you've been to.  Also, keep in mind that our spa specializes in detoxification, more than you probably know because not everything is on the website.  We don't undermine anything that we do and ask that you also not do this.  After all, with my 20 years experience, multitude of licenses, and the unique experience of other staff members, we ARE some of those very same therapists who have worked in spas all over the world. 
It is only you who is stating that clearly we are not going to come to terms or find a mutually agreeable date.  In my last email I clearly stated that we would be willing to do this treatment for you even on a busy Saturday or during the week; either would be fine, I said.  So where you got info opposite of this, I don't know. 
It does not appear that you've appreciated nor acknowledged the fact that we are also willing to extend the expiration date for you.  In that massage, we would have even given you a little more time, COMPLIMENTARY, if desired.  This, along with the FREE body scrub/vichy, plus 50% off on the massage, doesn't this speak for something, that I'm really trying to work with you and please you?  I've even guaranteed your satisfaction because this is how good we all are.  EVERY single one of our therapists are highly skilled, excellent at what they do.  We have other clients who've gone to spas all over the world but they come out of our treatments, especially massages, saying that it was the very BEST massage they've had ever!  I would never guarantee this if it were not the case, believe me.
Lastly, you speak of being lost in the shuffle...I have no idea of what you're speaking of.  Again, I personally made attempts to contact you on at least 3 occasions that I remember.  You never responded.  We can't just keep on calling and calling and not serve other customers.  And obviously you have not been trying to reach us during all this time because these few emails are the only time since you first called that we've even heard from you.  I don't think I'm being unreasonable in anything that I'm asking of you, while also trying to GIVE all kinds of goodies to you, and yet it seems like you're impatiently drawing conclusions and giving up on receiving what could be at least one of the very best experiences you've had in spas.  I won't beg you, however, but the courtesy is being extended, nevertheless, and we will do our very best work, as usual, for you too.  Lastly, I'm sorry if you felt that we didn't care about you, this is not the case, but I cannot just allow you to say untrue things that imply we never made attempts to contact you and get you scheduled.  And even regardless of all that, assuming if we had not served you well, the fact is, I'm now extending loads of kindness to you.  It is up to you to now.  We'd love to have you as our guest but either way, it's fine with us.

Off email commentary by me:

I wouldn't completely ignore a customer who has said multiple times they felt "overlooked", even if I "remembered" leaving them three messages.  I wouldn't expect them to kiss my shoes for extending a date BECAUSE THEY COULDN'T ACCOMMODATE ME BEFORE THE EXPIRATION DATE.

It is really hard to totally isolate a customer, write in lawyer speak, spit venom, AND use shouty caps in an email, but she accomplished ALL OF THIS!
Needless to say, said spa is not ever going to get my business.
And, dare I say, the owner is darned lucky I decided not to out the name of her strip center, dime a dozen, day spa.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Race Day Results

You know how a juicer takes the center of a lemon and just grinds it back to nothing but the peel?  How the contents just pour out all over the place?

That's how I feel now that the boys' triathlon is finished.  Poured out.  Done.  Physically exhausted.

You'd think that I, PERSONALLY, did the entire race course.

I didn't realize how much I had vested in this thing until last week.  And the build-up to this week has been nothing short of volcanic in nature.  Pressure.  More pressure.  Too much pressure with no way to escape....

UH OH.  THERE SHE BLOWS! I blew the gasket of worry and anticipation and expectation right out of this world sometime during the last ten minutes of the boy's races. 

I watched each of them give the swim everything they had.  I cheered like a banshee for every kid that exited the pool while I waited.  And I took too many pictures.

I waited nervously for each biker to make his way back to the transition area, hoping they would rack their bikes in exactly the right position.  And I held the sign that our neighbors had made, that announced we were proud of the boys and encouraged them to keep going.

I cheered my guts out as they hit the field and made their way around it.  Every boy found that superhuman strength that defies logic in the very last few yards.  And they each made a mad dash for the finish line.

And then it was all over.  They were wearing their hard work on their faces.  And they were all beaming.

I'm not entirely sure it has struck any of them, this thing they accomplished.  But, it was certainly not lost on me.

This is big, this persistence.  This hard work, three or four times/week, for six weeks.  The early starts.  The heat.  The humidity.  The muscle aches.

There is so much more than finishing a race.  There is appreciation for three individual sports.  There is appreciation for bundling those sports and adding another dimension of hard to the equation. 

And there is pride.  Not haughty arrogance, but appreciation.  For what they have done and what they know they can do again.

And me?  I just can't stop smiling when I think about it all.  I am proud too.  Proud for them.  Proud of them.  Proud because of them.

This is one of those perfectly ripe, golden days.  A day I'll hold up as an example to my boys, whenever I need to remind them of the value of dedication and persistence and not giving up, even when it is hard and stressful and quitting seems the most logical conclusion.

And, as you look back on today, I pray that you remember:
There is no harm in stepping out on a limb to try something new.  That is where passion is often found.
 When the going seems tough, you are almost at the finish line.
And, maybe most importantly:

When you set your mind to something, there is nothing that can hold you back! 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Giving Back

When you are afforded an education that others so desperately need, even some in your own family, you really feel drawn to give back.  And, I'm not talking volunteering for the annual fund or ponying up lunch for teacher workdays.  It goes way, way beyond that.

There are precious few Preschool through 12th grade seats at Shelton, under 900 to be exact.  And I know there are other children who desperately need the seats my kids occupy.  So, moving the boys through the system and getting their skills up to snuff quickly is paramount not just to us, but to another family.
Beyond the space issues, and more to the point of our boys, I also am firmly in the camp that remediation of learning differences, when possible, is the best solution.  If you were to ask any representative from Shelton, they would echo that sentiment.  In fact, when they initially worked with us as both boys entered the school, they were very sure to let us know that the average child receives three to four years of schooling at Shelton before they are ready to "mainstream" back into the public school system.

From go, if there was any way that we could partner with Shelton to compensate for gaps, we tried it.  From nutrition to incentives for extra work to eye checks, we tried it all.  But, by far, the biggest bang for our buck came from two places:  Shelton and the Texas Reading Institute in Houston.

With Hooman, we were ultimately successful after four years.  Now, with Babe, we are seeing the same partnership (Shelton plus a program from the Texas Reading Institute headed by Dr. Eldo Bergman) skyrocket him to success that wasn't previously possible. 

So, quite by God's great plan, I was skimming through a magazine and happened upon a charity that I've fallen in love with.  From the first moment I read the bio of the founder, I prayed that his organization would pass the high financial hurdles I have for companies to which Mike and I send money. passed with flying colors!*

The fact that CEO Charles Best is a former educator warmed my heart.  The fact that he is directly impacting school teachers, who often spend their own hard-earned money on classroom needs, made me giddy.  The fact that the site supports projects big and small, as varied as PE to biology, and that you can contribute a small amount to a big project put a huge smile on my face.

My first order of business was to find a "matching" teacher for the same issues Hoo and Babe had dealt with, specifically reading disorders under girded by phonemic awareness deficits.  It took me all of two seconds to find teachers in impoverished counties with kids who need this help but don't have the classroom tools to make a program work.

I funded a teacher in Pennsylvania, who needed a kit from LakeShore Learning Center (amazing place, if you've never been) for this school year.  The kit will be directly shipped to her school.  The principal will be notified when it is on its way.  WA-LAH.  Direct help to the classroom!  I felt like Superwoman in that moment.

And stories like donors sending $574,605 to Joplin, Missouri after the tornado last May, warmed my heart.  That amazing amount of money represented 5,272 people who gave so classroom furniture, first-aid kits, technology, musical instruments and books could be donated to help 95,256 students.  Talk about First Responders!!  And, the beauty of partnering with people you will never meet who share a common cause, to assist those in desperate need, is kleenex worthy.  It is what makes American great.

With as little as $5, you can assist teachers/their students all over the United States, making this a GREAT project for teaching our children about giving to others.  How much fun would it be to let your child decide which project they like (science, math, art, music...) and have them give a bit of their "giving money" to unselfishly help someone they will never meet?

As you can tell, I'm all giddy about this website.  I hope you check it out and find yourself hooked on giving, too!

*Note:  two different links, one to and another to their page on Charity Navigator, my go-to for making sure the program I'm giving our money to isn't using 45% of  it to raise funds or pay excessive salaries.