Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Family Time

Last night I asked my husband to take the kids out to eat so that I could pull the gifts out, compare piles, and start wrapping.  Ended up that my oldest (because she was in sweatpants, and won't be seen out in public in sweatpants) stayed home with me to help with the massive task of converting our Christmas Card list to email format.  After receiving several texts from the diners assuring her that everyone in the restaurant was wearing sweats (my husband actually asked the man at the table next to theirs if he could take a picture of his sweats...), we enjoyed the relative peace and quiet of watching a crime show side by side while wrapping and swearing at the computer.

What came of the evening, besides a realization of how much I still had to do, was a report back from my spouse on our youngest's soul-bearing over dinner.  This kiddo (who we thought was just intent on getting to the unwrapping part of Christmas) shared his worry that our family was coming apart.  First triggered by his oldest sister's engagement last week, and learning that she planned to change her name, his sense that things were changing made him very sad.

Bemoaning the fact that I'm always on the computer, his dad's always at work, his brother doesn't want to hang out with us, and his other sibs are rarely home...he reminded his fellow diners that Christmas is about being together.  And then his dad came home and shared this story with me.  And now I'm sharing it with you, before I prepare to bake cookies, sing carols, and decorate the tree with my family. That sounds pretty good.

Out of the mouths of babes...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Telling Amy's Story

Over the past several weeks, I've thought long and hard about what is most meaningful to me. The realization that sharing women's stories has always been my motivator has helped me refine MidChix, create MADHENS, and commit wholly to a redefined mission of helping women find their wings, and change the world, one woman at a time.

Watching Telling Amy's Story last night, I was humbled and heartened by, and most importantly, reminded of, the sheer power of a single woman's life.

I hope you will continue on this journey with me, and ask some friends along as well.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Rich & Skinny?

A couple of weeks ago, I took my 16 year-old daughter on a rare shopping spree. It was Nordstrom's Half-Yearly Sale, and I am a big fan of Nordstrom. The first time I ever stepped foot into one was in White Plains, New York over fifteen years ago. A new mall, The Westchester, had recently opened and was not only head and shoulders above the old Galleria Mall, in terms of cleanliness, decor, parking, and shops - but also had Nordstrom as its flagship.

It only took one visit to the children's shoe department for me to be hooked. It didn't take long to discover the women's shoe department as well, and that was a dangerous thing...

So when Nordstrom opened in Cherry Creek a few years ago, less than half a mile from my front door, I knew this could be trouble. And, in fact, I resisted setting foot in there for over a year. But one day, my shoe fetish got the best of me, and that was the end of that!

Last year, my friend Judi, a fellow chick on MidChix, introduced me to their personal shopping service, and the best personal shopper ever, Reinelle Apodaca. This was the icing on the cake. So when 16 year-old Nicki needed some new duds, and a new attitude about getting dressed and feeling good, I headed over to Nordstrom and Reinelle. All in all, the day was a great success.

Mornings suddenly weren't so bad, as Nic could find things in her closet that fit and felt good! Never doubt the importance of feeling good about how you look (especially when you're sixteen)!

So it was with dismay, while picking up laundry a week or so later, I spotted a crumpled pair of jeans on the bathroom floor with the tags still attached. Picking them up, I glanced at the price tag and was shocked to see these not only had not been part of the half-yearly sale, but had also been more expensive than any pair of jeans I've ever owned. Realizing that the fact they were crumpled on the floor indicated that Nicki had tried them and decided they didn't look right (or as she prefers to say) that she couldn't 'work' them, with relief, I smoothed them out and folded them to return. That's when I saw the label.

Rich & Skinny

Oh man. Made in the USA. But, of course. What other country would have the audacity to name their company Rich and Skinny. How about Poor & Skinny? Or, a more authentic logo for American-made jeans, marketed to Americans might be Rich & Obese.

I'm glad she didn't like them. Not just because I'll get $150 credit back on my card, but because God forbid I ever support a company that makes its cash by covering ass with such a reprehensible logo.

I still love Nordstom, and Reinelle. But Rich & Skinny can go to hell.

Monday, November 22, 2010


That's the number of women that came to the Wardrobe Exchange benefiting Safehouse today. Actually, it was 9, but two came to be supportive-bless them- not to actually exchange.

It isn't that I'm not appreciative of the gals that came, or understanding of those who said they would, but didn't. It's just that I'm tired. Discouraged. Pensive. Flummoxed.

How can anybody possibly make an impact, make a difference, or even make a gesture, in a world so overrun with demands that 300 invitations result in 200 unopened? Even after eschewing Evite for the more costly, but ostensibly classier, Paperless Post.
Even when the event ran from 9AM to 9PM in an effort to accomodate all schedules. Even though we planned for the Monday before Thanksgiving rather than the Monday after (when holiday demands multiply).

Thank goodness for the kind souls who did show up.

I met two new friends, Astrid and Vicki, and that made it all worthwhile. It was also a powerful reminder of the lesson I learned from James Pond a few weeks ago. One girl at a time.

One woman at a time. One connection at a time. THAT is how we... will, can , must make a difference.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Matchmaker, Matchmaker Make Me a Match

Okay, I'm not going to say for who, but I just did a little snoopin' around on the infamous It's a pretty cool site. Who would've guessed that 1 in 6 marriages are a result of meeting through an online dating service? But more and more often, when I ask couples how they met, online is often the answer. It appears to serve a pretty broad range of folks, though it does seem to be more directed to folks near my age than seniors (one profile question asks which comedian you're most likely to find funny, and the choices were pretty limited). I mean what if you find old Erma Bombeck columns funny? Or Bob Hope reruns? Thank God that Betty White is still going strong!

Okay, so maybe you've figured out who I was doing this nosing around for based on the clue that she is more apt to guffaw at Erma Bombeck than at Jon Stewart, Jim Carrey, or Ellen DeGeneres. Heck, this certain someone has no idea who any of those comedians are! But she does have a sense of humor. So, although I hope she doesn't figure out (i.e. read this post) that I was searching for a decent chap for her, I'm sure she would laugh right along with me at some of the winners I found.

Of the first thirteen men who popped up in my search of guys over 70, not a single one had a maximum age range that fell above the 60s, and most of them are trolling for gals anywhere from 7 to 20 years younger! My favorite is the 85 year-old fellow looking for romance with a much younger woman, 18-35 to be exact. He describes himself as athletic and toned. Oh yeah, and dark blonde. Now that is funny.

I can't pick on all of them though, as there's one open-minded 70 year-old who put his match's preferred age range as 60-110. Bless him. And you can't help admire the octogenarian who's headline simply reads "still kickin". Maybe a good match for Betty!

This obsession that so many men seem to have for younger women isn't news to me. My husband (one of a rapidly declining number of men I know who are still married to their first wife), determines the acceptability of his divorced friends' dates by employing the "half your age plus 7 rule". Hmm. This sounded like some of that "new math" to me after his first explanation, and so naturally, I googled it; lo and behold, this rule's even recognized by Wikipedia!

Guys. Come on. It's one thing when you're 20 and she's 17, or even 30 versus 22, but after 40 it actually starts to be kind of pathetic. With more than 20 million men over 60, and many looking for love with someone in their 30s or 40s, no wonder Viagra is over a billion dollar a year business...

Now I know that occasionally, a May-December relationship can be wonderful. One of my dearest friends is married to someone more than 20 years her senior. And a beautiful marriage it is. But listen up to all of you other Lotharios out there, your mid-life crisis should be over by now. You're swimmin' in that river we like to call denial. And you have the nerve to call women in their 30s and 40s 'cougars'. Get a life.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

New and Improved!

In two weeks, MidChix will migrate to a new and improved site and raison d'ĂȘtre as a social networking community for women who are curious and concerned about social responsibility.

Fourteen months ago, we launched as a boutique social-networking site for women over 40, with the knowledge that mid-life women have a firm grip on more than 85% of the consumer marketplace. During our evolution, we've come to realize that beyond just purchasing power, we make a significant philanthropic impact too. Reminding the 'powers-that-be' that politics is about people, women are making strides in the political arena as well.

A first wave of feminism, the 70-year battle for women's suffrage (1850-1920), was followed in the mid-1960s by a second wave precipitated by publication of Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique and President Kennedy's 1963 Report on the Status of Women, which documented women's economic inequalities. The growing recognition of a third wave taking shape, as described by Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D. in her 2005 visionary call-to-action Urgent Message from Mother: Gather the Women, Save the World, is evidenced by the growing knowledge that women and girls aren't the problem, they're the solution.

Up 'til now, we've devoted an area of the site to featuring and fundraising for nonprofit organizations; now MidChix is re-launching as a niche social networking site specifically geared towards women curious about social change. We hope to educate and empower women by raising awareness about alternatives for allocating our individual resources, and the ability to affect change through activism.

The Mid in MidChix refers to Middle. In the middle of our lives, we have arrived at a place with a view very much like that from the center span of a bridge. We can see things from a unique perspective that makes us a little different from those gals closer to one end of the bridge or the other. We also serve as middle(wo)men in myriad relationships: between father and child, young and old, doctor and patient, teacher and student, conservative and liberal, gregarious and shy, rich and poor, producer and consumer...all often depend on our painstakingly-acquired skills of communication, cooperation, and collaboration.

Chix is our way of saying "hey, in case there's any doubt, we're cool". Plus, birds are pretty perfect representatives of women. With 10,000 living species, they have unique characteristics and universal charm ;)...

New and Improved. That's Me. And You. Okay, Us. After 40 years (give-or-take) becoming who we are, it's a rare bird who can't be called new and improved!

So MidChix, we welcome you. Please visit our wire, add your voice to our song, and celebrate because together we just may change the world!

(You can start today by reading about National Call-in Day -Wednesday November 17th)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Write your book!

I'm jazzed about writing my book, and have finally started taking some steps. I call it my book in blogress. Hope you'll start reading and keep me writing!

Guest blogger Lisa Schultz published her first book, Speaking Your Truth, just a few months ago. Today, she and Andrea Costantine launch their guide to writing and self-publishing. From what I can see, they know what they're talking about!

Five Stellar Reasons to Write Your Book This Year

Are you a part of the 81% of the population who says they want to write a book? Then isn’t it time to forge ahead and move into the small minority who actually puts pen to paper and gets a book on the shelf?

Here are five stellar reasons to write your book this year.

There’s no better time than now. It seems it should go without saying that there’s no better time than right now to do anything that is on your list of goals and dreams. Yet, so many people put off their dreams until the time is “right.” There’s not right time to do anything. If you want something, you’ve got to make it the right time. If you don’t write your book this year, ten years from now you could find yourself in the exact place you are in right now. No book and wishing you had one.

Credibility. This is a fun one. It’s hard to explain the sheer bliss that comes with having a finished book in print and on the bookshelf, with your name on it. It is by far one of the biggest satisfactions in life and a goal that is tangible, that you can touch and feel. Not only does it boost your own confidence level, your credibility will also go through the roof. Having a book in print puts you at the top of the “credibility food-chain” –beefing up your list for potential clients, business partners, and even your family will think you are cooler than before.

Share your message with the world. Do you have a message that you are eager to share? Whether through fiction or non-fiction a book can touch and inspire others in a tremendous way. If the burning desire is there to reach others through the written word – write that book. You just never know who will be reading it on the other end, and how many lives you can change.

Create an extra income stream. An extra source of income never hurts. Having a book is a great way to create an alternative or extra income. Through your website, speaking engagements, bookstores, or online – do your marketing and sit back and enjoy the royalties.

Use it as a platform. A book is by far one of the easiest and fastest ways to build a platform. As a speaker, workshop leader, coach, or other service provider – your book will be the gateway for bigger and better opportunities to knock upon your door.

And if you are ready to take the leap and write your book this year, then check out Andrea Costantine and Lisa Shultz’s latest book…– Grab your copy today and receive two months accountability and writing support in their monthly mentoring group and other bonuses valued at $150.

Friday, November 5, 2010

More of It Gets Better

My friend, Zach Page, posted this beautiful reflection on Facebook today. It's too important not to share...

It Gets Better

I want to first of all extend a thank you to all who were involved in my project. It means so much to me that we can gather enough people to start a movement. A force. Something bigger than bullying. Something that can bring change to the world.

To Jeremy Make, thank you SO much. Without you, this project would not have happened. If it wasn't for your absolute commitment, dedication, and passion for this issue, I wouldn't of had such a perfect glossy product. A million thank you's to you for everything.

To John Moore and Kirk Montgomery, thank you so much for helping me spread this word through the media. Without you, it wouldn't be getting half the attention it is getting.

And to my father, thank you for everything. Thank you for giving me life. For giving me smiles, laughs, frowns, cries, and anger. Thank you for teaching me that it's okay to have feelings and for teaching me to love who I am. This started with you. Without you, I could not have done this. Without you, I would not be who I am and I am eternally grateful to be blessed with an absolutely flawless father like you. I really love you.

This project, though it has only been in the making for three weeks, has been something I have felt needed to happen for a long time. Several people have asked me what my personal views on bullying are and what this video is about. I personally believe bullying is a direct result of neglect in the bullies life. People bully because it's easy and because they can't find somebody to love them in their own lives and they bring up these angers, pains, and scars to hurt others. This video is to prevent this from happening. To show that everyone is loved be them a bully, a bullied, an adult, a teenager, a child, a homosexual, a heterosexual, an African American, Asian, a woman, a man, Hispanic, Jewish, Catholic, Mormon, Caucasian, someone with glasses, braces, acne, anything. This video is to show them they are loved. Everyone is loved.

If we start in our households, that will branch out into our community, which will branch out to our country, which will branch out to the world. One individual has the power to change the world into a place of tolerance, acceptance, equality, and hope. I encourage everyone who is reading this to volunteer with organizations, spread the word, share this video, help anyone in need, and ultimately, this world will change.

I am humbled I have the chance, at eighteen years of age, to be able to be a part of this. I am absolutely grateful that I have people supporting me in this endeavor because I know that I am not alone. I know I have a purpose and I know that together we can make a change. I may only be eighteen, but I already know it gets better. I know it gets better because I have family and friends who support and love me and that for me is satisfaction enough to live every day with pride.

We can do this together. We can all hold hands, spread positive energy, and do something for the better. One of the quotes I live every day of my life by was said by Mahatma Gandhi.

"Be the change you wish to see in the world."

It speaks for itself.

Now please, enjoy It Gets Better: a message from the Colorado theater community.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Radical and Reasonable

Last night I attended an incredibly moving event. James Pond, founder of Transitions Global was fulfilling a promise he had made to two girls, survivors of human trafficking, to give them the opportunity to tell their stories. Neth and Liya were in their early teens when they became victims of sex trafficking in Cambodia. Neth was sold to a brothel by her mother for $300. Liya was tricked into going to one by girls who were already victims and who were now being forced to recruit other girls.

The story of this horror doesn't come to an end when girls are rescued. There is so much to recover from, it seems nigh impossible that they could ever emerge whole. In fact the success rate for most aftercare programs for victims of sex trafficking hovers around 20%. This is not only because the girls don't learn skills that enable them to support themselves, but because they never have hope for a future of their own choosing. So, inevitably, most of them must return to prostitution in order to survive.

Transitions Global shifts the paradigm; in their words they deal "in the business of dream restoration". After establishing this center, James determined that he must do the same thing for the girls who came to Transitions Global, that he would do for his own daughters. He encourages them to dream, and then helps them achieve those dreams. Based on the belief that every girl is unique, and, working girl by girl (rather than in large numbers), TG's model is seeing unprecedented success in graduating strong, empowered, capable young women, many of whom are now working to help others who are emerging from the nightmare of trafficking.

Neth and Liya are two shining testaments to TG's work. Shy, giggly, sweet teenagers, they enjoy friends, shopping, books, and even boyfriends. They've also both completed over 800 hours of yoga instruction, and currently teach yoga to trafficking survivors and young children. These young women, once labeled throw-aways, have lives and futures. They are remarkable.

At the end of the evening Brad Riley spoke. President and Founder of iEmpathize, Brad has been a nonprofit innovator and leader for 20 years. It was easy to see why. He defined for us the difference between sympathy and empathy. The first is passive, the latter active. Which sounds better to you?

What about radical and reasonable? Ahh, here's the catch. It doesn't have to be radical versus reasonable, it can be radical + reasonable.

Radical describes the actions of the Pond family in 2005, selling their house, cars, furnishings, and moving their family to Cambodia to help young victims of human trafficking.

Reasonable, is the request that each of us become involved in some small way...organize a shoe drive, write an article, make a speech, send a check, volunteer with local groups fighting human trafficking, the list goes on...

What suddenly strikes me is how the efforts of these two men converge. One encouraging girls to find their unique gifts, the other urging us to support the first by using our unique gifts. By combining the radical commitments of rare people like the Ponds' with a multitude of reasonable contributions of people like us, it is possible to harness enough people power to actually make and sustain change.

My shoe drive begins today.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Times are Changing

I was so relieved a couple of years ago when they added a few weeks to Daylight Savings Time...even though most of my kids had passed out of the trick or treating stage, I'm still happy to keep daylight as late as possible. It's easy to understand why alcohol plays a big role in places where it's dark for much of the day! Just sayin'...

Time is a chameleon. When the kids were little, "the days are long, the years are short" summed up the excruciating pain and pleasure of parenting. Similarly, weeks can seem to vanish (unless you forgot to put out the recycling). Thus I love reminders that things actually happened, especially when I feel like I'm running in place. It's one of the reasons I keep writing the mass Christmas letter I said I'd never write but started writing back in '94 when four kids under six made individual cards a pipe dream.

I found some of these stats from the Back Story of NewsWeek's July 26th issue fascinating enough to share. First and foremost: blogs. Guess I'm not the only one who's jumped on the blogging bandwagon...ten years ago there were 12,000 active blogs, today there are 141 million (maybe 142, since that issue). How bout Google? In 2000, they had 100 million searches a day, in 2010, 2 BILLION! Whoa. Daily E-Mails went from 12 billion to 247 billion. Apple is sittin' pretty: from 0 to 10,000,000,000 in in a single decade.

Although it's now over a year old, one of my favorite demos of how much the world has changed is this incredible little video about the social media revolution .

Gina Shrek sums it up perfectly: "To people who say they don't do technology, I tell them that's like saying you don't do electricity." I say "If you can't beat em, join em!" MidChix will soon give all members the ability to have a blog hosted on the site! Ladies, stay tuned...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Let's Make Sure All Kids Know It Gets Better

When I called the house on Friday night, to say I'd be home soon, my eleven year-old son sounded a little upset when he replied " I have some news for you".  Knowing his flair for the dramatic, I didn't panic.  "What's that?" I casually asked.  "Squirt isn't a boy." he replied.  Squirt is the rabbit that our animal-loving neighbor had bought Cameron for his birthday almost three months ago.  Squirt was just a tiny baby bunny when he-I mean she- first came to live with us.  Now he-I mean she- is bigger than the smallest breed of dog.  Apparently the reason the nearly invisible testicles were hard to see back in August is because they weren't actually there.  Squirt, now known as Trixie, was a girl all along.

This story resonated as we've had other experiences with gender issues. When our oldest son insisted that a Barbie was all he wanted for his third birthday, we got one for him, along with a fire engine and a kiddie basketball hoop. At age four, we struggled to find a boy's Halloween costume that he would wear.  When he was five and a half, and wished out loud that he were a girl, I found a therapist who specialized in "gender identity disorder".  I wouldn't have recognized the term reparative therapy back then, but I'm guessing that is what was really going on.

It wasn't easy to parent a gender non-conforming child, and I know damn well it wasn't easy to be one.  Now I believe the best therapy for kids like mine is therapy for those individuals who make their childhood hell.

When our fifth child, at the age of two, showed signs of taking after his brother, I was a lot better educated, but just as anxious as I'd been six years before.  That doesn't mean that I tried to change him, but his first therapist did.  No wonder he began to shut down.  Can you imagine getting the message that something is wrong with you not just at school, but from a doctor as well? We tried desperately to understand him, and to help him to understand himself. It's confusing to be a boy who thinks like a girl.  No wonder both my older and younger sons wished they were girls; girls don't get taunted for playing with dolls, loving princesses, or having long hair.

Three years ago our newer therapist gently broached the possibility of transgenderism.  The word is so rarely used, that my computer has underlined it, indicating that it doesn't exist.  Funny, the notion that a person's brain and body could possibly not match up in terms of gender identity is novel, and to many people, impossible.  Before I began educating myself on the topic, I was pretty ignorant, too.

The fact is,  the same way that other things can go wrong during fetal development, so can gender identity.  When some kids announce they were born in the wrong body, they're right.  What a terribly difficult thing to grapple with, especially in a society as sexually and psychologically stilted as ours.

After joining a listserv for parents of gender non-conforming children, I was horrified by some of the stories of I heard.  Children being threatened, pets being murdered, families being stalked.  No wonder my child was guarded and reticent to leave the house.  He already knew what the world thought of people who were different.

My oldest son told us he was gay at age 15.  Fortunately for him, and for so many other GLBT teens, he attended a high school where, for the most part, it was safe to be out.  It wasn't until recently I heard about some of the bullying he'd experienced in middle school.  But I guessed that bullying would be a problem for his younger brother at that same private school and pulled him out after second grade.  At his new school, he wasn't bullied, but he wasn't included either. What's worse: being left alone or being left alone?

When I talk to GLBT adults, I hear more childhood stories of isolation than I do of bullying.  Most of them survived those hard, lonely years and emerged into happy adulthoods where they have found welcoming gay-friendly communities. For gender non-conforming children and teens today, however, bullying seems to have trumped isolation as the biggest issue and because of it, more and more of them aren't ever making it to adulthood.  Whether driven to suicidal desperation or victims of homicidal homophobia, bullying is the common theme in a rash of  GLBT deaths over the past decade.

What can be done to stop this tragic trend?  Two things.  Address the bullies. We should insist that all  public schools provide a program such as Challenge Day to all students in 6th grade and up.  Read more about how this powerful program has changed lives in Denver.  Address the bullied. Let's follow the lead of writer Dan Savage, creator of the It Gets Better Project and make sure we tell desperate kids that the future is brighter.

Yesterday my daughter's best friend, Zach, came up with his own spin on the  It Gets Better Project. He filmed a public service announcement featuring nearly fifty members of the Denver theatre community to get the word out that gay is okay. I hope it gets lots of attention.  The more we can make the topic safe, the more people will talk about the topic.  The more that they talk, the more they will teach, and learn.

Many people have expressed shock and, occasionally admiration, when they hear that our oldest son felt safe enough to come out to us at 15.  Mostly, I think people are surprised that we talk about him so openly.  I hope and believe the thousands of videos that have been made for the It Gets Better Project will bring hope to LGBT or questioning teens; I also hope and believe that sharing my story will bring hope and education to their parents.

As he approaches puberty, it seems that our youngest son is more likely to be gay than transgender. But no matter what his adulthood turns out to be, having watched his brother, and witnessing our whole family's support of him and other members of the GLBT community, he now knows it does get better and that the rest of his life stretches out before him...with open arms. I pledge to try my best to make sure that other kids like him know this too. I hope you will join me.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Remember when ...

I said something wonderful is going to happen today? Well I said it again this morning, because the most wonderful thing is about to happen. The recycling truck is coming!  When we missed putting our bins out two weeks ago, my husband and I looked at each other and groaned.  With pick-up only occurring twice a month, and our family recycling everything from empty toilet paper rolls to any glass/plastic/metal container that passes over our threshold (except for- I CONFESS- peanut butter jars), we knew it was going to be a rough couple of weeks.

It was my friend Jill, once upon a time, our cleaning gal, who turned me into a rabid recycler.  We went from five overflowing trash bins every week, to two.  I even tried composting for a few wasn't so bad-until a mouse emerged from our rodent-proof Garden Gourmet one morning.  Now that the City of Denver is providing weekly compost collection, maybe I'll try again...

The last time we went a month between recycling pick-ups, was the year of the holiday blizzards.  Maybe you can imagine the remains after we hosted the office holiday party, celebrated my husbands 12/20 birthday, cleaned up from Christmas morning and prepared the huge holiday dinner, threw a New Year's Eve party, and added that all to the assortment of empty wine bottles, compliments of a dedicated chardonnay connessieur.

Towards the end of every December, I can be found stalking our alley watching for the sainted souls who pick up our trash every week and our recycling every other.  I pass out twenties to whoever I can intercept.  Those guys earn every penny of it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"I'll Vote for The First Person Who Stops Calling Me."

This was Kirsten's line, but I liked it so much, I borrowed it...with her blessing. 

I don't answer the phone much anymore, but occasionally do indulge in cheap entertainment by checking caller ID.  Some campaigning politicians have taken to using the same trick I've tried (to get more clicks on the MidChix newsletter).  They disguise themselves.

Yesterday, I was about to hop on the elliptical to work up a little sweat, when the phone rang; I glanced at the caller ID, and it read: "Laurie Romer".  For a second, I hesitated, as I have a new friend named Laurie, and I thought "oh, maybe Romer is her maiden name", and almost picked up the receiver.  Luckily my new resolution to exercise daily 'NO MATTER WHAT' prevailed. When I listened to the message a little later, all I heard was the pre-recorded "This is Senator Chris Romer", before I hit 7 to erase.

Of course, then I thought I'd better listen to all the other recent messages that have been left on voice mail since I stopped picking up the phone.  The next one was from Barack Obama...apparently dialing for Michael Bennett.  Now don't get me wrong, because I happen to be one of the dwindling number of former Barack fans who still is a Barack fan.  And I'll take Michael Bennett over Ken Buck any day of the week!  But that doesn't mean I want any of them calling me.  Especially when it really isn't them that's calling.  As my family will testify, I am not a phone person. And I'm especially not a pre-recorded phone message phone person. If you want to talk to the live me, then you had better be the live you, no matter which party you belong to!

While working out, I usually zone out watching the telly.  But these days, every commercial break is filled with ads of one candidate slandering another.  Or worse yet, a carefully crafted message from one of the many self-appointed groups who are apparently charged with saving Colorado from imminent disaster.  Imminent disaster is the only possible result if the wrong guy or gal is elected, right?  Believe me, I understand that the consequences of certain legislation are dire. (I even forwarded an educational email about 60,61, and 101 to my husband in an attempt to better educate him). I also get that the election of certain individuals would make such legislation more likely.  What I don't get is how fiction and non-fiction in political advertising have become so irritatingly intertwined.  As Sgt. Joe Friday used to say, "we just want the facts, ma'am"

I'm a Democrat.  My husband is a Republican.  Often friends ask how we manage that.  Well, we manage that by respecting each other enough to be cordial and open-minded.  We also acknowledge that our differences lie in our philosophies about the role of government.  Does that make him selfish or me stupid.  No.  It makes us human.  And by the way, that's not just what he and I have in common, it's what we all have in common.

Fancy a society where the only people vilified were the real villains...those folks that dreamed up calling tree autodialers and the answering system hell that replaced our good old-fashioned receptionists!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Community is the Heart of Pomegranate Place

Thank you to all who wrote to the city or stopped by Pomegranate Place to show support.  The city is reviewing the situation and we are hopeful that Pom Place will prevail!  Please hold off on letters for now, until we have heard from them.  Many thanks to you all!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Plan B

I spent all weekend mulling over my out of control MidChix to-do list.  Email has been kicking my ass. As somebody said, it's like drinking from a fire hose.  But after stepping back to gain perspective and some advice from my better half, this morning I was rubbing my hands together in eager anticipation of wrestling back control. Then two minutes after the door had closed behind my kids as they headed to school, it opened again.  "Mom, I have a flat tire."  Deep breaths.

Although it's been less than four weeks since Nicki got her license, and I got freedom, the old hand-me-down car has now twice challenged me to a duel.

Out to my car and off to school.  That was forty-five minutes shot.  Doesn't seem like much, but funny how the domino effect arrives, invited or not. When I was supposed to be working out, I was walking the dog.  When I was supposed to be talking with a gal from a non-profit I want to highlight, I was squatted on the ground trying to use a bike pump to inflate the tie enough to drive down the street. (I was afraid Triple A would blackball us if I called them one more time).  When I was supposed to go to pilates, I was picking up the kids.  When I was supposed to be at The White House Project  event, I was driving to the airport to pick up my older daughter since my younger daughter had no car.

Plan B is pretty much my middle name.  In fact it explains my last 21 years so perfectly, I decided to write a book about it.  Labors of Love...21 Years of Plan B.  A chapter at a time via blogger-more on this soon!

In the meantime, Plan B means this is posting two days after it was supposed to.  When a Type A person lives a Plan B life, mental and emotional stability can be a bit iffy.

Tell me about your Plan B days.  Misery loves company.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Stepford Tellers

If there is anything worse than a company getting so big they lose touch with their customers, it's a company losing so much touch with their customers that they hire people whose primary job is to touch (not literally, although that may be next) every customer that walks through the door, by greeting them with a booming and cheerful solicitousness that rings so false you could stuff your Wonder bra with it.

Note to Wells Fargo:  When I'm rushing into the bank to make a deposit and praying that the check I wrote next door didn't bounce yet since you have a nasty habit of bouncing checks and collecting fees faster than green grass through a goose, the last thing I want is a greeter.  This isn't church folks, it's the bank.

Most of us find banking tedious, stressful, and  inconvenient, but sadly, unavoidable.  After I reach deep down to my toes to come up with a polite smile back to the greeter's irritating cheer, he asks if he can help me with something today.  Well, of course he can help me with something, that's why I'm there.  But he can't actually help me with anything.  All he can do is greet (and then gesture towards the teller line), which shockingly, I'd already seen.

When I finally do get to the teller, I realize that she is saying the exact words to me that I heard her say to the customer in front of me, and the same words that the teller next to her, and the one next to him, are saying too!  I hypothesize that these were probably all perfectly personable young people before systemized brainwashing by the human resources department. Now they are THE STEPFORD TELLERS.  The 'casual' inquiry "how's your day going so far?" bewilders me. That's a question that I will occasionally allow from my husband, when he is actually paying attention. It's not the kind of question that you ask to every single solitary customer with whom you briefly interact. It makes me tired just to think about answering... and I know darned well they wouldn't have the slightest idea how to respond if I actually did lay out the trials and tribulations of my day.  My question is why don't they just use the tried and true "How are You?" which is both easier to field and to fib.

Believe me, I am a nice person.  And I appreciate friendly small talk.  But not with automatons. The next  innocently posed but pathetically scripted question, is similarly unanswerable: "Have you had a chance to enjoy the weather out there today"? Meanwhile, I am glancing at my phone (aka watch) to make sure my meter doesn't run out as another parking ticket might put me right back in the same spiral! Do they really want to hear about my my brisk bike ride, the skin cancer I'll probably get scraped off my nose, or that a newly-acquired agoraphobia prevents me from leaving the house (except to head off a bouncing check)? I think not.  As I try to nail down exactly what it is about these mundane inquiries that I find so irritating, my conclusion is that the questions are worded in such a way as to be overly personal.  I'd be fine with someone asking "is it still hotter than a chili pepper out there?" I don't mind people being friendly, I just mind them asking me questions that imply we have more of a relationship than a two minute business interaction.  Especially when they ask the exact same thing to the guy in front of me and the gal in front of him.

If Wells Fargo really wants to appear to be friendly, how bout they hire a few telephone operators and chuck the voice messaging system.

Last Friday, I stopped into another bank.  I'd received an offer that would help support a charity I cared about if I opened an account.  I figured it would be a good chance to move my dinky personal account while checking out a smaller bank.  The gentleman filling out my paper work told me that every single employee in that branch office, had once worked for Wells.  He also confirmed that Wells employees are scripted.  I knew it must be true, but still had to shake my head in wonder. ( I mean even my eleven year- old knows how to make polite small talk without being told what to say.)

This branch manager was helpful, humorous, and human.  When I later called the main branch to confirm some information, the phone was answered by an actual person. Today I'll be moving my business account over there as well. My two little accounts probably don't mean much in Wells World, and convincing my husband to change banks would involve a battle I'm not yet willing to fight, but next time I head to the bank, I won't have to brace myself for the superficial interaction that has come to characterize this bank turned behemoth. I miss the good ole' Wells Fargo Wagon!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Spiders! eek!

My sixteen year old just killed a "gigantic" spider in her bathroom.  AND she said it was the second one this week.  I wonder if she starts counting the week on Sunday.  Otherwise it means she killed two today.  Or that she exaggerates. But either way, my skin has been crawling for the past hour.  I know there may be some of you who are those creepy-crawly loving nature types.  But as Camp Experience t-shirts say " I love nature, as long as it doesn't get on me".

When I was a kid, if I saw a spider in my room, and my Dad was asleep, I would go sleep in the bathtub.  No wonder I have chronic back pain.  We lived in an old house, and there were plenty of those little brown guys. I didn't find out until years later that my Dad was terrified of spiders too! Now that's what I call a good father.

When we moved to Denver, the finished basement of our first home (dubbed The Nightmare on Elm Street) was a big draw for my husband.  He had grown up with one, and so the idea of a home theater, pool table, plus bedrooms for the boys was just what he pictured as Home Sweet Home.  It was just what I pictured as Home Spiders' Home.  I'm sure my two oldest sons are scarred from me suddenly giving up the tucking in routine, after I realized that spiders like basements, finished or not!

While I loved the early Halloween years, when we would get super-creative and caught up in the hoopla, I dreaded the appearance of those reality-show worthy black plastic spiders that would topple out of goody bags from school parties and give me daily heart attacks throughout the week.

When this same 16 year old was eight, her third grade class took a field trip to The Butterfly Pavilion.  Sure, it sounds wonderful.  Who doesn't love butterflies?  When I volunteered to chaperone the trip, little did I know that the kids are encouraged to try holding Rosie. I blanch to think that I once considered naming that eight year-old, Rosie.  In case you haven't guessed, Rosie is the name of the resident tarantula at the Butterfly Pavilion. If this link doesn't make your skin crawl, then we're not friends anymore.

So Terminex is coming in the morning.  Terminex and I have had a  long and complicated relationship.  The first time I called them, we lived in Westchester NY, and I had just spent 6 hours frozen on my bed after spotting a rat meandering across the kitchen floor when I made the 2 AM journey to the fridge for that same child's bottle. Are you sensing the same theme that I am?  Did you notice that all of these encounters were prefaced by something with Nicki ??? Hmmm.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

It Works!

Saying "Something wonderful is going to happen" actually works!

The Seed Connect Summer Social was yesterday's something wonderful. Founded by Erin Seabold, the Seed was created to unite women and resources around the world with the vision of providing education and connecting women-in-business with the resources they need to succeed.

Erin's gift for connecting people is unparalleled.  I came away so jazzed from meeting Nancy and Jen, the super cool founders of Trendz Boutique, Danita "Zilla" Nixon of ScrappingZilla, with her fabulous digital scrapbooking services, and Charlotte Spraggins, authentic, savvy, and passionate rep for  one of the smartest-ideas-I've-heard-about-in-years team! Network diva, Christina Schulz shared with us all the acronym FORM to ease our off-line social and business networking encounters. At your next networking event use this quickie tip to ward off wallflower syndrome:  F is for Family or you have a family? are you from here? O is for occupation...what do you do? R is for Recreation... what do you do when you're not working? and M is for -oops can't remember the exact words, but pretty sure it was Make a plan to follow up (within 48 hours). Such good advice, I am going to give Christina a call and do just that!  Louise Walsh and Josanne Cossio from the Denver Downtown Chapter of American Business Womens Association (ABWA), Nancy Walsh from the Colorado Women's Chamber, along with a cadre of other fabulous women and a few very smart men 
(hey, they must have heard Adrienne Rich proclaim "The connections between and among women are the most feared, the most problematic, and the most potentially transforming force on the planet.")

You couldn't have asked for a better setting than the The Hilton Garden Inn at Highlands Ranch or a better pick-me-up than Zebra Vodka. Am happily downing my complimentary swag bottle tonight!

And, the best part of this whole Paving it Forward thing? I get to do it all over again tomorrow! I urge you to join me...just click your heels 3 times and repeat after me: "Something wonderful is going to happen today".  And let me know how it goes.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Camp Experience of a Lifetime

Something wonderful is going to happen today. That is what I said to myself when I woke up this morning. This is what author and speaker, Elisabeth Fayt, refers to as a powerful pre-pave.  She was one of several phenomenal keynote speakers, workshop leaders, and panelists who shared their hearts, souls, and time with 200 women campers at Camp Experience in Copper, Colorado this past weekend. 

Sunday was the second time I've had the incredible good fortune to hear Elisabeth speak; the first was at Camp Experience's one day workshop back in February. Now that I think about it, it was just after hearing her explain the laws of attraction seven months ago, that positive things began happening in my life.  As she explained then, people spend more time choosing what they are going to wear in the morning than they do choosing how they will connect with people, how they will feel or what they will accomplish. By choosing what we will focus on, we can create the energy to achieve anything!

It was a good time for a reminder.  Like many of us, I had fallen into the habit of being so busy and being so stressed, that I forgot I have the ability to choose how to be.

When I'm meant to learn a lesson, it's funny how many teachers suddenly appear! I had to chuckle when I recently read about  Melanie Mills and her 'best job in the world', which she translates as "Restoring hope to people by reminding them what they already know." I already knew I had the power to choose how to be, I just needed someone to remind me.

While we can choose how to react to the world's external signals, we cannot choose our brain's internal signals. Ten years ago, Sharon Underwood's letter to the editor roundly defeated the myth that sexuality is a choice. The kind of love demonstrated by moms like Sharon, and Jeanne Manford, founder of PFLAG, is the kind of love that we do have a choice about. It is true love, in its purest form...

The challenges of mothering prompted Betsy Henry's self-reflections about the nature of nagging; they reflect another kind of brave love with which so many women can identify. It takes a boat-load of discipline to express your love by keeping your thoughts to yourself!

Jean Guyton describes a rare love as well. When she and her husband embarked on their Ayurvedic Journey to India last December. The image of this well-traveled and well-educated American philanthropist being brought to tears by the respect and reverence of the young Indian woman kissing her feet, is one that will stay with me, and resounds another echo in the theme of choosing love.

A desire for a more balanced life with less stress is the number one reason that people downshift their lives, according to writer Michael Bloch of Green Living Tips.  Hmmm, that seems to lead me full circle back to the fact that I have the choice to assert that "something wonderful is going to happen today".  I owe my gratitude to each and every one of these people for reminding me that love is a choice, and that I have the power to choose!

I may just have to tie a little string around my finger so I never again forget to pave it forward.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pain: You Can Feel Mine if I Can Feel Yours

Last Saturday I attended the 2010 Denver SOBCON event.  SOB does not stand for bawl loudly; it stands for successful and outstanding bloggers (though I would have been equally intrigued by the idea of openly bawling all day).  There were several savvy speakers, each with a message or two about the importance of goal-setting, strategy-shaping, and the ins and outs of social media. I learned a lot.  Despite the brain damage I suffer every time I take a day or two away from the computer, 90% of the time, I learn stuff that is powerful.

One of the lessons that really resonated from this event, was taught by....Jonathan Fields who boiled marketing down to this: You cannot make money unless you're solving someone else's problems. To do this you have to live inside their head; listen, and learn your customers' (or potential customers') pain points.  And then find a way to resolve them.

Well yesterday I was too busy feeling my own pain to worry about yours. I'm talkin' prescription-strength pain. No, really.  Prescriptions are my pain point.  We have a family of 7 battling everything from ADD to acne, not to mention generalized anxiety disorder which may or may not have genetic roots, but is surely exacerbated by the stress of having ADD and acne, or for that matter, a mother who blogs about your ADD and acne.

Managing our many prescriptions in today's paranoid pharmaceutical landscape is enough to drive one to drink - as for that, no prescription is required- and yes, that is my official excuse.

Explain to me again the point of HIPAA? Isn't it something about protecting my privacy?  If so, it isn't working. We've had to switch doctors and insurance companies so many times, that by now half of all folks employed in the medical industry know every sordid detail of our bodily functions and dysfunctions?  Not to mention that, as a blogger, I've pretty much thrown privacy to the wind, anyway.

I'd love to get my hands on the wise guy who decreed that all controlled substances (re: ADD medications) must be handwritten and delivered in person to the pharmacy. For any Forrest Gumps (or cruelly clueless bureaucratic legislators) reading this, that means: call the doctor, wait through the "push the number" game, get put on hold, speak to a disinterested receptionist, drive across town to the office to pick up the prescription while praying they didn't close early for their two-hour lunch hour, take the paper to the pharmacy, wait in line (behind the stanchions-to ensure you don't impinge on the privacy of the customer ahead of you), sign the HIPAA papers (yes the same ones that you've signed 456 times), fill your cart with stuff you don't need while you're waiting 20 minutes for the prescriptions to be filled, wait in line again to pay. Then go home and get a call from your daughter saying that she is out of her ADD medicine and needs it ASAP as exams start Monday.  So you get to do it all over again...but this time you add in a stop at FedEx.

Frankly I don't give a damn if every Tom, Dick, and Harry in the country finds a way to get their hands on Ritalin,   I only care that our family members who need it, get it, without me jumping through hoops every single month.

Okay, I showed you my pain, now you show me yours...or better yet, you be the marketing genius and figure out a way to resolve mine-and then I'll actually have some freed-up brain space to identify and resolve yours!

Monday, September 20, 2010

My name is Gretchen and I'm a Coffeeholic.

This morning I rolled over and admitted that without coffee, there was no reason to get up.  This is a sad state of affairs, I know.  But I'm sadder that I can't have coffee than I am about being a coffeeholic.

I often put off scheduling those medical tests that require you to fast. Even though I eat very little in the morning, it's just the idea of not being able to, that makes me want to puke (or stab the doctor with a fork when he's 45 minutes late for the appointment, and I've been starving since midnight).  But this time, not only no food, but no caffeine as well, AND the test isn't until 4:00 PM.  Now that's not right.  And the scheduler took exactly zero pity on me when I began to howl like my dog when he's left alone.

Several months ago, I wrote a smug post about my ability to jump out of bed in the morning.  I take it back.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Everybody Loves a Party

The balloons reminded me of another party; fifteen years ago, we hosted a backyard cocktail party at our home in New York.  My five year-old niece had been diagnosed with a fatal genetic disease. Living in a different state, with four kids of our own, it was impossible for us to do much to help out on a regular basis.  One day, I had the brainstorm to have a party and raise money for research.  Despite the doubts of many, that first event raised nearly $22,000, and served as a catalyst for a whole bunch of fundraising parties with a purpose.  Over the course of ten years, our extended family raised over $250,000 for research into Batten Disease.  Tragically, we still lost our beautiful blue-eyed, blonde-haired Betsy.  But not until she had touched tens of thousands of lives, and the research done on her behalf had helped researchers pinpoint the wayward gene, develop carrier and fetal tests, resulting in the birth of a healthy baby brother. 

I will always remember the night of that party.  It was a huge endeavor, and I had never felt so passionately about the power of love and friendship.  The outpouring of support for this little girl was staggering, and I think it's the only thing that saved my brother's sanity as he and his family walked through the valley.

Last night, the feeling that I had walking through the rooms of Pomegranate Place , was very much like the one I'd felt those many years ago, as scores of women, some of whom I'd not even met, mingled, and shopped, and laughed, and shared, and embodied the soul of MidChix.

We were blessed by the generosity of Tom Curcio at Happy Canyon Wines, the musical grace of harpist Lily Kellogg, save-the-day server recruitment by mascot chick (she's barely over thirty!) Ally Ryan, plus the tireless efforts of Mama Holli, Lise Amos, Kirsten Heckendorf, (who had to miss the fun as her daughter endured a third knee surgery), and event planner, Denise Smith.

Everyone was in a festive frame of mind!  I connected with friends I hadn't seen in months, women I'd never met, and experienced that powerful somethin' somethin' that comes from seeing people you like connect with other people you like... hey, that's what MidChix is all about!

Our vendors were spectacular and made the party extra special-who doesn't like to go home with a little trinket?  EveyK had her usual unique pieces and accessories that make her boutique such a hot destination.  Both FORSSE, the coolest new on-call personal security app for Androids and IPhones, and Girls Fight Back, the beneficiary of our event, wowed the crowd.  Chix loved Joni's Silpada jewelry and Beckons Organic Clothing. Ophelia's Oracle was a wonderful find!  A book loved by girls and women alike.

I bought a lil' bit of BodyBark, and have worn the boy shorts all day with not a single adjustment!  Going to invest in a few more... Kate's Sweet Pea Pockets were coveted by all; my new one made the rounds with me today. It was a struggle to choose among the many one-of-a-kind Anne Franklins Designs, and Tastefully Simple's easy to prepare and delicious meals were exactly what busy chix like us need to help get the fam fed. Diane Lather Belfour's Works of Light are beauty in the purest sense of the word, and the perfect gift for someone special. Elizabeth Cuckson and Barie Joy added the perfect finishing touches with their rare gifts of intuition and Tarot.

Donations by Pure Barre and Dr. Christine Rodgers enPointe added to the evening.

It was a night to remember, as, like that night in 1995, it was just the beginning of what promises to be a powerful and extraordinary movement of connection, and isn't that what life is all about...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Kudos to Standard Parking and Denver International Airport-Parking Division

I'd never seen a money order before; wasn't even sure what it meant...until
yesterday afternoon, when one arrived in the mail, along with a thoughtfully written letter of apology and explanation from Herald Hensley, the Airport Parking Manager at Denver International Airport!

Not only was the $14.00 promissory note that had been given to me 12 days ago excused, but the $40.00 parking fee I'd paid at the time was refunded!

Hensley's two-page letter referred to my earlier blogpost , that had ripped both Standard Parking and DIA, as well as the NYPD, and our friends at TSA. This response was not the only surprise I received after my loyal MidChix team tweeted my foaming at the mouth for all the world to witness.  I also received a response right in the comment section of my post from Justin Brunner, Corporate Communications at Standard Parking promising to follow up with the folks on the scene...which he evidently did!

I want to give both Standard Parking and DIA's Parking Department a round of applause. Not only did they acknowledge my complaint, but instead of going on the defensive (a natural reaction) they addressed and resolved it.  Their willingness to forego $54 bucks and mollify an irate customer is even more impressive given that I'm a captive's not like I can just protest by never again parking at Denver Airport!

The good will engendered by such an unusual and admirable act may be hard to put a value on, but I'm convinced that good deeds are contagious and imbued with karma. Hats off to these folks who actually read about my experience, and responded as principled human beings as opposed to administrative automatons.

Brunner's comment on my post also speaks to Standard Parking's social media savvy. I'm guessing it's because they're tuned in to Twitter that the honchos there heard about my blog rage in the first place. Whether businesses like it or not, social media tools like Twitter are going to hold more and more of them accountable...too bad these tools weren't as powerful a few years ago when an obscene number of banks, and other lenders were having their way with our economy.

Having just finished reading Bob Garfield's The Chaos Scenario, on the flight prior to my parking fiasco, I was inspired by the result of his Comcast Must Die blog and the website that evolved as a result of his rant.  In fact, I was so inspired, I bought the domain name shortly after posting my previous blog.  Stay tuned for this coming site where victims of travel hell can share their stories, and maybe even find avenues for recourse.

Terrorists have complicated world travel, but technology is ensuring word travel...and that may just take us further anyway.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

My Passion for Compassion

When I was flying to NYC last Sunday, I couldn’t help but marvel at the elderly couple sitting across the aisle from me. An unrelated young man had the window, then wife in the middle, and husband, in the aisle seat. When I travel with my husband, if we can’t land two aisle seats, I often end up in the middle due to his extreme claustrophobia…so it didn’t surprise me that the man had the seat by the walkway. He rooted for me as I tried to wrestle my new rolling tote (which I’d  purchased that morning expressly for that purpose) under the seat in front of me, giving me an early glimpse of his kind-heartedness. 

About halfway through the flight, I realized that he was sitting there to better care for his wife. I watched him gently assist her out of the row and down the narrow passageway to the lavatory. Now I could see she was shaky, frail and unsteady on her feet.  It was a lovely and touching glimpse at what must have been a long-lived and loving relationship. An hour or so later, as he escorted her again, this time up the aisle to the gateway, I reflected on other moments when compassion's trumped ego..

How about the grace shown by both wronged pitcher Armando Gallaraga and the mortified ref who stole his no-hitter with a bad call back in June?

Who wasn’t moved by the story of Michael Oher, the subject of Michael Lewis’ book, and subsequent 2009 award-winning film, The Blind Side?

It's always telling to watch dads as they return to their cars following the first grade’s Fathers’ Day Breakfast…there are those that pull the lovingly decorated paper tie from their necks, and those who don’t.

One of my personal favorites happened more than nine years ago when we shepherded a gaggle of fifth grade boys to a local alley for pizza, soda, and bowling to celebrate my son’s eleventh birthday.  When his best buddy spilled cola all over himself and was fighting back embarrassed tears, Will, in an unusual show of solidarity, picked up another super-sized Coca-Cola and poured it over his own head.  It was hard to protest this natural instinct to make a friend feel better...

What stories of compassion have moved you recently?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Forget The Tipping Point, Let's Talk about The Breaking Point

My left eye began to twitch.  Or was it my whole face?  I was twitching and blinking and wondering if it's possible to develop Tourette's out of the blue. One of my sons had bouts with it, so maybe this was some latent form of the disorder passed up from child to mother.  Or, maybe not, as just then the volume of my voice began to rise.  Incredibly it went from zero to eighty in less than two seconds...decibels, that is. The recipient of my twitching, blinking, shrieking rage? Yasir A, Badge # 234372 of Standard Parking Company, with the memorable tagline "ambience in parking". What do you think that means?? Yasir had come on over to the toll booth at DIA to play 2 on 1.  Yasir + Markos the non-English speaking cashier at Denver Airport's parking garage = 2 against me, 1.

Despite, or rather, due to his lack of English, Markos had a hard time understanding my explanation of why I didn't have my parking receipt.  Mind you, I had just spent 20 minutes in line at the main parking office inside the terminal to ensure that this lack of parking receipt would not be an issue.  And that is what I had been assured. ("We have cameras that photograph your license plate when you enter so we know exactly how long you have been there and so there is never a charge for a lost parking receipt") So when Markos tried to charge me $54 for 45 hours of parking (which, by the way, has a MAXIMUM rate of $36), I said no.  Not only was I beginning to become irate since I had just jumped through all of the hoops to avoid this exact issue, I was also becoming irate because it was so clinically, cynically, salt-to-the-wounds dispassionately cold and inhuman to try to fleece someone who's just been fleeced!

Whatever happened to interactions between humans that are based on shared human experiences. Why was it that, despite being the victim of a crime, I had yet to be offered one ounce of compassion, understanding, or assistance? (correction, the gals at  the United counter, who helped my husband find a way to leave an envelope with $40 for me-so I could pay my $36 parking fee, were lovely, helpful and appropriately empathetic. They had not turned him away and said "that's not allowed", even though it wasn't allowed.  They had used their noggins and their hearts and had also, appropriately nodded with approval at his foresight and devotion.)

I just read up on Standard Parking's website and have decided that Yasir and Markos must have played hookey on training day.  The website clearly states: Standard Parking's reputation for outstanding on-site management is built on a comprehensive, award-winning training system.  The process identifies and develops the skills and attitudes required to enable all of our employees to perform up to our stringent expectations.

HUH?? I'd like to know exactly what those stringent expectations are... perhaps a basic command of the English language for employees whose job it is to interact with  customers?   And what exactly would you call the 'attitude' that had good ole Yasir staring me down, refusing to call a supervisor, and insisting that I pay $54 for less than 48 hours for which the maximum fee is $36.  Never mind  the reason I don't have the flippin' parking reciept is because it's in my wallet which was stolen!  Along with my money and that driver's license that Markos kept asking for...

If you had the good fortune to read the post before this, you're  already half-way caught up on the story.  If not, go ahead, I'll wait.  Okay, with me now?

Last night I sat with my son on a wall fronting a Sixth Avenue office building, across the street from Radio City Music Hall, snacking on coffee and dessert from Magnolia Bakery.  As we were chatting, a young woman with a foreign accent, toe ring, and New York Magazine folded to the Club section, asked us for directions since the magazine had apparently taken to just posting general areas (Madison 8) and not exact street addresses.  As Will looked up the address on his phone, I glanced down at the big red bag by my feet, and being a bit suspicious by nature, nudged it a little closer to me since it held my beloved Mac. Young lady thanked us, and headed off in the direction he'd pointed her.  We visited for a few more minutes before our bear hug and kiss goodbye.  

I called home, to check in, while walking east. It was ten minutes later when nearing Grand Central,  I realized that while the red bag was heavy as ever, the small purse hanging from my shoulder was sickeningly light.  My wallet was gone.  Neurotic as I am about constantly checking and re-checking my purse, and always keeping it strung across my body, or in my lap when I'm in New York,  somehow I had blown it.

 Well, there I go already blaming myself!  Those cops must have rubbed off on me.  After pulling off to the side of a Park Avenue office building to dump and frantically search both bags, I realized I was screwed and began swiveling my eyes for signs of a police car.  What do you know, right up 48th Street one was idling by the curb. I figured, hey, they must have some protocol for this kind of situation, this is New York, tourist and travel capitol of the world. As I neared the passenger window, sounds of the Yankees game drifted out. I quickly told the officers my story; the first thing they asked was if my purse had been unzipped.  As if that was the issue. Hmm.  Maybe that should have been the first red flag.  I mean the second; the girl with the accent asking directions was the first.

When they said "aw shucks, we'll drive you back to the airport hotel, I thought,"boy, NYC cops aren't nearly as bad as I thought"... but when the driver began heading in the wrong direction  until his partner reminded him where the Triborough Bridge was located, I began to have my doubts.  The Yankees game was turned up, and they warned me not to tell anyone they had driven me to Queens, as leaving their borough is apparently a no-no.  And I would've kept my promise if I hadn't found out an hour later after being passed around to three different "customer service" reps at the airline, that without a police report, my ass was grass.

(Don't let me forget to mention my failed call to the Transportation Security Administration,  that icon of warm and fuzzy safety ( TSA),  whose headquarters unexplainably keep bankers hours despite the department being created specifically to protect our 24 hour a day/ 7 day a week transportation system.)

Proving just how suspicious and neurotic I am, I actually keep a "terror" kit in our basement storage room filled with essentials such as flashlights/batteries/peanut butter/candles, a crank-up emergency radio and, that dinosaur, the corded phone. I also happen to keep a xerox of my driver's license and credit cards there.  Beast.  So my beleaguered spouse, who had his own 8 am flight to make out of  Denver, headed to Fed Ex/Kinkos at 9:00 pm and faxed the hotel every identifying piece of paper he could find, including not just my credit cards and license, but passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, and social security card.  He even threw in his own birth certificate for good measure!

With my alarm set for 5:10 (the airline folk advised me to get to La Guardia as soon as it opened), I curled up briefly only to hop up again to close the AmEx account. After a few minutes more passed, I realized my credit report would need a fraud alert.  Half an hour later, my heart sank as I realized that the piece of paper I carry with all the kids' social security numbers was in the wallet too.  Not to mention the parking receipt from DIA. Damn. 5:10 arrived about a minute after I had finally fallen asleep.  Time to stumble from the bed, to the shower, to the lobby, for the 5:30 shuttle; which today had left at 5:29.  Deep breaths.  It was just a ten minute walk...sure it was on the edge of several highways in Queens, NY... plus the sun wasn't up, but figuring there wasn't much left to steal, I hoofed it over to the terminal.

Turns out that although I had flown out on Frontier, my flight back was on United.  The guys behind the ticket counter chuckled at my assortment of identifying papers, pronounced them overkill, and good-naturedley scooted me along to security. There, it was a different story.  Ms. Brown, 'Lead Officer' was summoned by Ms. Devila. (I think they got the name tags mixed up, as Brown was clearly the Cruella of the two.)  She took a cursory glance at my reams of papers, briefly peered at my face, and declared " Well, I can't tell that's you".  She was enjoying that view from high up on the seat of power, and wasn't going to give up this golden opportunity to make me quake too quickly.  When I offered to show her my photograph with name caption on the WomensRadio website, she scoffed and said "I'm not holding up all these people for that." I was the only person in her "special treatment" line.  At last she scribbled CCCC twice on my ticket, pressing down hard as a third grader as she furiously underlined the mysterious letters, and then grudgingly allowed that I could go to the "frisking and bag toss" station for another twenty minutes of inane search.  

This story has gone forwards and backwards, kind of like my last 24 hours.  But the final kicker is only sentences away so hang in there.  The text that I received this morning from my duly knighted spouse was to tell me about the $ in the United Service Director's office,  and also relayed that he had (mistakenly) left his Visa at the FedEx/Kinkos last night, and that they were holding it for me.  So this afternoon, I left early to pick up our daughter from rehearsal, headed to Cherry Creek North, fed the stupid parking kiosk, obediently went back to my car to put the slip in the dash, then headed up the steps to Kinkos.  I pulled out all of the copies he had made last night, explained the whole thing all over again to the gal behind the counter, fully expecting that since I was back in the'hood, all would be good.  But 'lo and behold, the tenets of sound reason  have been replaced by those of senseless rule. Even after pulling up the actual text on my phone that described the situation, our Visa card remains tucked away in the drawer  of Kinkos, while Phil is in California until Friday, my ATM card and credit card accounts are all closed, and I'm wondering why the hell the world is upside down.

This is the longest post that I have ever written, but why stop now!

My dear friend, Laura, long ago introduced our family to the spectacularly comprehensive phrase "stop the nonsense!" which is not only contagious but also covered all kinds of situations arising among our (combined) 10 children.  But, as of today, I am hijacking the term for use in circumstances like those described above.  

America, stop the nonsense!  Stop being drones. Stop being dehumanized. Stop being dictators in the name of democracy.  

Start using your heads.  Start using your hearts.  Start being human.  

Frankly, I'd rather die humane, than live inane.  This is not the end of this topic, just the end of my evening.  Stay tuned, there is more to come!