This blog chronicles my life as I try to balance healthy lifestyle habits with my husband's penchant for pizza rolls and my daughter's desire to watch iCarly 8 hours a day. It contains a mostly humorous, kind, and somewhat spiritual look at everyday life and the people who live it.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Beth vs. Bob, The Reconciliation

In the interest of truth, accuracy, and the American Way I am reporting that Bob's has finally properly credited my account. I still have not received the receipt in the mail so American Express won in the race with the postal service. Frankly I may never receive a receipt which makes no difference to me since the account was credited.

The Battle is over. They were heavy losses on both sides...okay, well maybe there weren't losses exactly, and I doubt that anyone in the Bob's Discount Furniture company is even aware there were sides...but I know that I triumphed and scored one for the little guy. I have no doubt that had I not persisted in pursuing the refund I would have paid for a chair in which I never even got to sit.

I can't say for sure that I'll ever patron Bob's again. I was happy with the sales staff. Happy with the delivery guys. Happy with the merchandise. But I spent so much time and expended so much effort to correct an accounting error that should have been a no-brainer -- and I never even got the satisfaction of a decent apology from the company. If I would do business with them again and something similar would happen I would feel like I should have known better. It's something about which I'll have to think long and hard.

Customer service, a dying art.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Grace #24 Walking as Meditation

As part of my ongoing effort to take 10,000 steps/day I have begun taking a morning walk. Again. I used to walk all the time, then winter came, then I joined a gym, then I hurt my foot, then I moved, then I started wearing a pedometer and so here we are again, back to the morning walk. I suppose one can walk at anytime of day, but I seem to prefer the morning because I a) actually get in the walk and b) it seems to set the right tone for the rest of the day.

The truth is that I actually enjoy my morning walks and get far more than exercise out of them. I am nosy: I love walking the neighborhood and checking out my neighbors' landscaping, exterior paint jobs, and porch furniture. If someone actually has a lit interior such that I can see inside their home I unabashedly look right in and assess the decorating. Like I said, I'm nosy. Also I sometimes bring my iPod along and it's always nice to just listen to your favorite songs and let your mind wander. The most important thing I get from the walk is the rhythmic pounding of my feet on pavement that ultimately leads to a meditative state.

This morning as I was walking I noticed that the sun, which has been noticeably absent this summer, was shining on a glorious morning. Now my brain always knew that the sun was present and merely obscured by cloud cover, but my soul had begun to doubt. I started thinking about God: I know God is always present but sometimes I want to see Him. Our sun is a constant source of energy from which all manner of good things come. It's easy to take the sun for granted. Too much sun isn't good for you, it can give you headache or burn your skin. Too little sun is depressing and can lead to a vitamin D deficiency. We can't always see the sun. We're not supposed to always see the sun. We have faith that even when we can't see it - it's there and continues to provide its life sustaining warmth and energy and even if that energy is currently being directed at another side of the Earth we are still benefiting and will get our share.

God is a constant source of energy from Whom all good things come. It's easy to take God for granted. Can you get too much God? I believe you can. I believe that it's not really God if it's too much, it's probably human-made bureaucratic details or discussion points that are bogging you down. I run as fast as I can from people who want to share with me their relationship with Jesus and quote the Bible. Anyone looking particularly fevered or angry when they speak of God makes me nervous. I would far prefer to hear about some one's spiritual moment had while hiking than a sermon. Of course if you can have too much of something you can also have too little. We've all known people with too little God in their lives: they are people without self esteem or reverence for life, people without a compass who seem to just bounce from disaster to catastrophe again and again. They are the people who will throw a cigarette butt into the Grand Canyon, toss a rock at an animal, or slowly destroy their bodies with drugs and alcohol. They may not need more religion, but they certainly need more God.

Time after time I have seen proof and more proof of God's existence and yet...and yet...still the doubts come. I don't actively question "Is there a God?" but I will find myself worrying about things, wondering if everything will be okay, afraid of the future, or not trusting my own gut feelings. I may not say I don't believe in God but sometimes I act that way. Sometimes when things seem to not be going very well for me but seem to just be flowing right along for everyone else I wonder am I getting my share?

And then, just when I am getting caught up in all sorts of unimportant minutiae I am inspired to begin walking again. Through the pounding of my Asics on pavement and the pounding of my heart as I gasp my way up the hills I am soothed. I am quieted. In that quiet I hear the truth that my worrying voice was drowning out: it's okay. You're safe. God is in you. You were the cloud obscuring the sun but you can move anytime you want and let that sun shine through. All is well.

Take a walk. Take a moment. Trust in yourself. And may God be with you.

Beth vs. Bob, the Saga continues

Bob called me back! Well, not Bob personally, but Bob-ette, or whatever the store manager's name was. Her phone call was a tad less perky than the other Bob-lings with whom I had been dealing but far more effective. She said I should receive in the mail a copy of the new receipt showing my credit card has been properly refunded. I shall eagerly await this correspondence. It is now a race to see who will show the refund first: American Express via their online card management, or Bob via the paper receipt.

If this truly is the end of the correspondence then I am both grateful and a little let-down. While I was gearing up for a face-to-face-public-showdown with the manager, the manager was slightly apologetic but mostly just businesslike. And while businesslike is what you expect when dealing with a doesn't help with those feelings of annoyance, irritation, disbelief, and disappointment that had been building during my previous 10 conversations with the store.

Let it go, Beth, just let it go...

And I will. I will let it go. I will move on. Assuming the credit card truly is properly refunded.

But if it's not, I'm going to freak out!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Beth vs. Bob, cont.

Just to keep you up to date, I am on Round 10. I asked for a manager, spoke to a manager and now the manager is the one supposed to be calling me back. I don't want to sound pessimistic, but I've been here before and my belief that a manager will call me back is not very high.

The next step is to go into the store and speak, rather loudly, with a manager about why this is taking so bloomin' long. I say loudly not because I intend to shout, merely to be heard by any customers in the store. Sometimes stores work a little faster when it's no longer you and them on the phone but a more public forum.

I don't have on my avenging cape, but I am wearing an apron and wedge sandals circa those scary pictures of the vodka-tonic-swilling-bright-red-lipstick-wearing-hair-marcel-waved '50s housewives that are lovingly depicted on old Coke memorabilia. I just hope it's enough.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Beth vs. Bob

New house. New floor plan. New room sizes. New furniture, right? So off we went to look for a chair to "fill up" the Great Room. We looked in at least 5 different furniture stores before we found Bob's. Bob's was a little different as furniture showrooms go: huge fish pond in the middle of the store, ice cream parlor in the back, great furniture, and really laid back salespeople who worked on commission but didn't hover. It was like heaven. We didn't stop with just one chair, no sirree, we bought 2 chairs, a chaise, 3 counter stools and matching desk chair, a desk for Steve with matching Barrister bookcase, 2 end tables, a coffee table, and 2 bean bag style chairs for the basement!

Bob's hit the jackpot with us that day. The prices were good, the salespeople were helpful, and the delivery would take place in 3 days. So far, so good.

For the record I was a little worried about the delivery because the movers we had hired had not been all that great and they took a "bang and toss" approach to getting our furniture in the house and I wasn't sure my nerves could take another crew with a bad attitude. My nerves need not have worried because Bob's delivery guys were great. They came in a Bob's truck (as opposed to the mysterious unmarked van in which other furniture stores have delivered furniture) wearing a uniform with name tags and they carefully unwrapped each item, helped us to inspect the item, and then gently loaded it into our home. I was so amazed I actually called the store to compliment them on their delivery personnel. It was during the inspection of one of the chairs that the damage was noticed: the fabric on the arm of one chair was pretty unravelled. "No problem" said the wonderful delivery guys "we'll take it back with us now and you can either arrange to have a new one delivered or be credited for the return."

We decided that the room would be too crowded with the 2nd chair and to simply have our AmEx card credited.

That was when the trouble began.

We called Bob's and they were extremely pleasant: sure we'll credit your AmEx card, no problem, so sorry that happened. I check AmEx, no credit. I wait 3 business days. No credit. I wait 5 business days. No credit. I call Bob's: sure we'll credit your AmEx card, no problem, so sorry that happened. I wait 3 business days. No credit. I wait 5 business days. No credit. I call Bob's: my goodness we don't know what went wrong ma'am, we'll credit your card immediately. The next day I receive a credit card receipt in the mail showing they have credited an AmEx card with the correct amount. Unfortunately the card number is wrong. I call Bob's: sure we'll correct the error, no problem, so sorry that happened. I wait 3 business days. No credit. I call Bob's: the office manager is out today but we'll take care of it tomorrow and call you back. Tomorrow comes, no call. I call Bob's: the office manager is working diligently to correct the error ma'am. No, she isn't in the office right now but I'll have her call you back with the status of your account in an hour. I wait all day, no call.

Now for those of you keeping count I have called Bob's a total of 6 times so far regarding the same issue and it still isn't resolved. Nearly 3 weeks has elapsed. I spend about 10 minutes of time each day checking my AmEx statement online for the credit then calling Bob's to find out why they haven't made the credit. The time is adding up and soon the amount of time and energy I have put into getting the credit will exceed the price of the chair! So I ask you, why? Why can a store charge money to an account within minutes of the purchase but it takes 3 weeks (and counting) to get a refund for merchandise that never even entered my home? Why is it that the salespeople and delivery guys can be so great but the business office so inept?

It's the Battle of Beth versus Bob and right now Bob is winning. He's wearing me down. I find myself becoming more and more reluctant to call Bob's yet again. I feel the drag of apathy and I am fighting against it, I mean this is real money folks! I can see why this tactic works: it is draining to battle the polite-and-helpful-and-apologetic forces of evil. I have actually wondered a few times if I am somehow to blame for all this. Tomorrow will be Round 7. I'm down, but not out. My fingers are bloody from dialing their number again and again and my head aches from their chipper-yet-completely-ineffective-apologies but I feel confident I will prevail. Truth and justice are on my side.

I may not be a big franchise or have a cute bobble head doll representing me but with my Rocky theme song playing in the background I will win! I will get my AmEx card credited!

But just in case, maybe the next time I call them I should wear a cape?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Shouldn't we "Race To Prevent?"

The SPAM filter in my email is working overtime: must be getting close to registration time for the Race for the Cure, Light the Night, MS Walk-A-Thon, etc., etc.

I have done them all. I believed in them. Walking, wearing the T-shirt, organizing the Brownie troops to get out and support the event I felt virtuous, I really did. What changed?

I know what changed: I began to notice that everyone was focusing on a cure, new drug therapies, new surgical techniques, and improved hospital stays. Why were we accepting that you had to get the disease at all? Why is it okay to go through the pain and terror of the diagnosis as long as there is reasonable hope the "cure" will work? I can define prevention with no problem, but how is "cure" being defined? Is radical, invasive surgery a "cure"? Is taking toxic medications that cause your hair to fall out and your stomach to heave a "cure"? I know, I know, it's my Pink Ribbon Rant all over again.

I am stepping up onto my soap box now, so hold on to your hats:

I have been there. I have been told "you have a tumor. It appears inoperable. The MRI dye is lighting up showing what could be cancer but we won't know for sure until we run more tests. This is very serious." I know the sheer terror that accompanies the diagnosis. I know the agony of gauging how soon the tumor will kill you versus how dangerous the surgical procedure. I can attest firsthand to the misery of lying in an intensive care unit while mysterious and scary-sounding drugs are fed intraveneously into your body. The fear of post-surgical infection, fever, or swelling. I had to sign a paper that said that I understood that the surgery I was about to have carried a high risk of stroke, coma, or death, and that I still gave the hospital permission to proceed. I have kissed my only child goodnight knowing that it may be the last time I ever see her, yet not knowing any other option. I have climbed up onto an operating table while a team of nurses prepared the bone saw and head clamp that would be needed to access my brain. I have been there and I wouldn't wish those experiences on anyone else -- ever. Yet many would clap me on the back and say "Yes, but you're cured!" Aside from the $28,000 my insurance company paid for the surgery, what was the cost?

So now I find myself angry. I am angry that hundreds of thousands of dollars are raised by extremely hard-working, well-meaning, altruistic people so that a cure may be found for xxxx (insert your disease of choice here) while companies who know better put forth no money for prevention. I am angry that companies can sponsor various walk-a-thons and fundraisers while knowingly putting carcinogens in their products. I am angry that our society does not force these companies to help us keep our bodies and planet healthy. I am angry that pesticides, food additives and preservatives, air pollutants, insecticides, and dangerous drugs are accepted as part of life in the United States yet billions of dollars is spent trying to "cure" the diseases these things cause.

I cannot be complacent. It is not okay for only the rich to have access to organic foods, clothing, and bedding. It is not okay for our food to be irradiated so that later our tumors can be radiated. It is not okay for our children to be given mercury in their vaccines and filled in their teeth. It is not okay for our foods to be laden with antibiotics and hormones while our children suffer from antibiotic-resistant strep, our boys are sterile, and our girls menstruate at age 7.

Do not fool yourselves folks, you are involved in a race: as long as the assumption is that we must be reactive and not proactive we are all racing toward one disease or another. Am I being gloomy? A doom-sayer? Melodramatic? I probably am. I am passionate about this subject and passion usually invites hyperbole.

Then again, I'm the one who saw the bone saw...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Weekly Wellbeing: 10k a Day

The Weekly Wellbeings kind of fell to the wayside as posts but have still been going on in life (kind of). My newest discovery in wellbeing has come from a simple $14 purchase of a pedometer that counts how many steps I take each day when worn clipped to my waistband. I don't have any fancy features on my pedometer, just the basics: a step counter, timer, and distance walked.

Many times I have read in different magazines, books, blogs, and health articles that we should be taking 10,000 steps a day, every day. I figured that I took at least that many steps every day so I didn't really think too much about it. I also read that people who wear a pedometer take more steps, up to 2,000 more steps, each day. So after a prolonged period of inactivity brought on by a recent foot injury, I decided that I would wear a pedometer and see just how many steps I was taking each day.

Week 1: Wow, I am amazing! 19,000+ steps each day! Well, obviously I don't need this pedometer because I almost double the recommended daily amount.

Week 2: Hmm, without having a moving truck and cars to help load I'm only taking 14,000+ steps. Well, that's probably my usual amount, I'll still wear the pedometer a few more days just to make sure.

Week 3: Unpacking finished. Life returning to normal. Normal apparently means sitting around a lot more (especially at the computer) struggling to get to 10,000 steps each day.

It was a shock for me to realize that without taking a walk each day and/or making a concentrated effort to move myself around, I would have only been getting between 6-8000 steps each day. I'm a slacker and I didn't even know it! I find it hard to maintain a continuously active lifestyle because so many of my favorite activities can be done sitting: reading, blogging, surfing the net, watching Seinfeld, talking on the phone -- all sedentary activities! Since wearing the pedometer I have been more aware of doing chores or simply pacing while talking on the phone and I have rediscovered my love of books on CD and so am listening to books while walking. I still sit down to blog and surf but since I'm not also sitting everytime I want to read or chat I'm noticing a difference.
I think I'm going to continue to wear the pedometer for awhile. I like having a simple, non-invasive way to check how active I am. I like having a simple goal each day and a simple way to challenge myself on days I feel like a challenge: today I'll try to walk 12,000 steps, just because. A lifestyle goal, a fitness monitor, and a barometer of how much I am challenging myself all for $14... how can you go wrong?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Grace #23: The Library

Of all the wonderful things that moving into our new house has brought to us one of the best has to be the return of our library privileges. The town in which we used to reside had so mismanaged their money that they had to close the library. The other local libraries decided that if our library couldn't reciprocate borrowing privileges then they didn't want our business. It was a sad, sad day for me when I could no longer borrow books from the library.

Luckily my friend Debbie stepped in and supplemented my Barnes&Noble purchases with boxloads of books sent every couple of months. I looked forward to those shipments like a starving man looks at a tuna sandwich!

My last book purchase was Janet Evanovich's Finger Lickin' Fifteen. I have long been a fan of Janet's but I looked forward to this book release with mixed feelings: her last 3 books had disappointed me and while I didn't want to not read the book, I wasn't sure I wanted to buy it. Finally, just days before my library privileges would resume, I couldn't wait any longer and I bought the book. I justified the purchase by telling myself that the library would probably have a waiting list several months long and I couldn't wait that long. Imagine my surprise when I walked into the library and there were several copies Finger Lickin' Fifteen available!

Ah well, I had already read the book by then and while it didn't blow me away with its depth, humor, and well-crafted plot, it did have its moments and I'm glad I own it.

But back to the library, you may be wondering how a public service that receives funds from the state can blacklist an entire town. Well, I never thought it was all that fair either but let me tell you, those old biddies behind that desk can be downright intimidating when they look over those glasses-on-a-chain-pushed-down-on-their-noses and I never had the courage to buck the system and demand book borrowing privileges. Besides, what does it say about a town that is so mismanaged they can't even keep open a library? Not a town I'd want to live in and I'm glad we moved.

I love books. I love bookstores. However financial and space limitations conspire to keep me from owning every book I wish to read so when push comes to shove (I love that expression, I don't know why) I love libraries.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Oh so that's what we are supposed to do in bed!

New house. New bedroom. New bed including mattress and box springs. Scene set for a night of ...TV watching? The new house also came with another new feature: the wall mount TV bracket. I abhor the wall mount TV brackets on many, many levels as I will detail for you in a moment, but first let me ask: what is it about an empty TV bracket that instantly turns men into beings obsessed with filling that space? We haven't had a television in our bedroom for 8 years and suddenly Steve cannot live another moment without watching the news while he gets dressed each morning. Now I'll admit that with all the "together time" we've had over the past 2 weeks that he was on vacation he probably he fears having to talk to me for any length of time, but I don't know that putting a television in our bedroom will solve this problem because I have no problem talking over the TV.

Now about these wall-mount TVs:
1. The bracket isn't centered over a fireplace or other architectural structure it is in the corner of the room just like in a hospital. With our green-painted walls and white bedding the whole hospital look may just be too much for anyone but especially a recovering hypochondriac like me.

2. The television is ugly. It is a blank black box. It is not aesthetically pleasing. It cannot be masked, mounted in the corner as it is. It is an aberration in my beautiful, peaceful room.

3. First comes the TV. Then he'll need TiVo. Then a DVD player. The corner that was supposed to house a beautiful chair for relaxing, reading, and looking at the mountains will become a shrine to technology. It is inevitable.

4. Sleep and sex. That's all I need to do in bed. I would prefer not to do either with a laugh track playing in the background. (Although studio audience applause, if well placed, could be kind of encouraging...)

5. Feng shui says this a definite no-no and y'all know how into Feng shui I am.

But...I don't live alone (for which I am thankful) and I don't have complete control over the contents of my home (something which I am striving to change through nagging), and I suppose that anyone lucky enough to live in a home with a view of the mountains could perhaps, just perhaps, be graceful enough to suck up having a television in the room.

Then again...if nagging works....

Monday, July 6, 2009

Grace #22 Princess the Cat

I am not a cat person. Don't get me wrong, I always liked our cat, but I would not have considered myself a cat person because I'm allergic to cats, I don't like hair on my furniture or clothes, I despise emptying a litter box, and I think cat food stinks. Our cat Princess came to live with us four years ago as a kitten. Steve and our then-6-yr-old-daughter went to a shelter and rescued her. My requirements for the cat were that they pick a litter trained, short haired, female. I didn't have any breed preference. I didn't have any color preference. I didn't even go with them to pick her out. Our daughter instantly fell in love with Princess, even though the cat bites if you try to pet her, runs if you try to hold her, and basically ignores us except when it's feeding time. Did I mention that I'm not a cat person?

Correction: wasn't a cat person.

During the move we had an almost tragedy: Princess went missing! We had put her in a storage room so she wouldn't get scared or run outside while the movers were going in and out of the house. Then we made the poor decision to let the movers put some boxes in the storage room figuring that Princess would hide and they wouldn't even see her. Then the movers left. A few hours passed. Where was Princess? We looked everywhere inside, everywhere outside, called her name, rattled her food dish.

Still no Princess.

A day went by. A day and a half. I'll admit, I lost faith. I thought she was living in the woods behind our house and either having a great time or scared or worse. I found myself incredibly sad at the prospect of not seeing her again. Her presence in my life had quietly become a constant, a feeling of all being right in the world. Somehow, in the past four years I had to come love the cat that I couldn't pet without getting hives. The cat whose litter box I bemoaned emptying each day. The cat whose food smells "icky." The cat whose fate I now worried about, cried about, and for whom I found myself constantly looking all throughout the day. I loved our new house but I couldn't fully enjoy it because it felt like gaining the house had come with a terrible loss. The whole family was in mourning.

Then I heard a faint meow. Steve and I quickly looked all around the backyard. We called. We searched. We rattled the food dish. No Princess. I figured I was now hearing phantom meows because I was missing the cat so much and so feeling more than a little foolish I decided to check the storage room once again.

Out strolled Princess! She had been in the storage room the entire time. She had gone into deep hiding, just as all her little cat instincts had told her to do. She was back! My world was set to rights once more. My family was complete.

Don't ask me how this small bundle of shedding fur who rarely gives me the time of day and makes my eyes water and my skin itch when she does touch me became a source of joy in my life, I just know that she did. Her presence makes me feel happy. Makes our house a home. She is with us where she belongs and I am grateful.