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.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Perfect Marriage

If you've been reading this blog you know that Steve and I have the perfect marriage: we laugh a lot, we fight a lot, we have very little in common, and we love each other a lot. When we attended a wedding back in August we received a rare and wonderful compliment: the DJ asked all the married couples to come to the dance floor and asked us how long we have been married. When he got to Steve and I and we answered "18 years" the woman next to us gasped and said to her husband of 38 years, "I would have sworn they were newlyweds! Look Ed, look how in love they are!"

It's quite possibly the nicest thing anyone has ever said about us as a couple.

So recently as we stood in the kitchen arguing over my choice of song on MY iPod I wondered what makes us work.

"It's the most wonderful, romantic song in the world! I love this song!"

"Turn it off, that song is stupid, even our 10 year old doesn't have that song on her playlist!" "It's my iPod, I can have whatever I want on it!"

"Great, then don't play it through the speakers. Use your earbuds."

He turned it off. He turned on the football game. I turned on the mixer. And the blender. He took 3 days to confirm me as a friend on Facebook. It took me a whole day before I mentioned I had taken a teaching job without consulting him. He buys his own Christmas presents in October. And November. And December. I spend $6 on butter because it's organic. He likes music where the girls are slutty and the guys are confused. I like a sitcom that hasn't made a new episode since 1995. He said that last night's dinner smelled like dirty sweat socks and looked like dog food. (He was kind of right about that one...) I make fun of his haircuts even when I like them.

And yet, when I hear that song, my favorite-most-romantic-song-in-the-world song, I only think of Steve. This song is sung with such feeling, such depth, such beautiful orchestry I feel warm inside just thinking about it. Steve's romantic song choice: Smooth Up In Ya by the Bullet Boys.

My choice: Kiss the Girl from the Little Mermaid soundtrack, sung by Sebastian the Crab.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Kudos to you, Arbella!

In the interest of full disclosure and giving kudos to those who deserve them I want to report today's conversation with Arbella Insurance.

After discovering my blog entry, Lynn from Arbella called me. The fact that Arbella was interested enough in resolving a customer service issue to research who I am and then call really impressed me. They put their money where their mouth is, so to speak. Lynn was calling simply to apologize. She didn't discount my bill or refund me any money she simply apologized. I am completely satisfied with that. Arbella doesn't need to bribe me to do what's right: pay my bill on time, accurately report our interactions on my blog -- all they needed to do was to accept responsibility and apologize.

Kudos to you, Arbella! Well done on the customer service. I feel confident that should I (God forbid!) ever have a claim that I will receive top rate service.

And if not, well, I always have Lynn's number and a blog!

Grace #25 Freedom of Speech

I have been very lazy about my graces lately, but I have a found a show so worthy of being a Grace that it has pushed me out of my laziness enough to blog about it. I give very little thought to my basic rights in this country because I don't have to think about them. I was born unto them and thus far haven't felt significantly threatened that I'll lose them. A Penn & Teller have a new-to-me-who-takes-a-long-time-to-discover-stuff Showtime series called Bullsh*&t.

In these 28-48 minute shows they take a topic, any topic -- Prostitution, Sleep, Global Warming, Pet Lovers -- and they decide whether or not the commonly held social beliefs or governmental laws about that topic are, well, bullshit.

I like this show because it's funny. I like this show because it's actually very well researched. I like this show most of all because it makes you think. It's entertaining, adult, thought provoking TV and that to me is when TV is at its best. Through Netflix (also a Grace, as you may recall) Steve and I have watched Seasons 4,5,and 6. One of the seasons had a show on Porn. Both sides of the Porn issue were debated: is it addictive, dangerous, morally corrupt, women exploitive trash OR is it harmless adult entertainment. (The show was only dealing with adult porn, not child pornography about which there is no debate: it is criminal and all people related to the making, selling and buying should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and then killed - just my opinion). There was an "expert", a professor at some university in the southwest, who kept equating the viewing of pornography with acts like rape, objectification of women, and immoral behavior. She kept using the term pornography to be interchangeable with adult and child. She referred to consensual adult pornography as rape because some porn apparently does depict rape fantasies. What I liked about the show was Penn's response that words mean something. Tossing about the term rape should be not casual. It should be not the punchline of a joke. It should not be used to scare your audience into believing your point of view. The professor admitted that there wasn't any research to back up her claims so she resorted to confusing her audience by drawing conclusions such as viewing pornography encourages rape and viewing adult pornography encourages viewing child pornography.

These types of scare tactics have become common place in our media where words really don't mean anything. Slow news day? Throw some statitistics around scaring people into believing that they will die from H1N1 if not vaccinated by a new and largely untested vaccine. (Could it be that the makers of the vaccine who stand to profit greatly are influencing the media? Hmmm...) Not sure if a criminal sounds scary enough? Call him a terrorist or say he has terrorist ties. Maybe throw the word "serial" into a description of his crimes, that'll get the viewer excited.

Penn is right: words do have meaning. I use exaggeration, hyperbole, and humor all the time on this blog. AND I choose my words carefully. I want them to have meaning. I don't want to just spew more bullshit.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Arbella - Get the Insurance You Need, Then Get a Big Bill

Uh-oh, I feel a customer service rant coming on...

I can't help it, I must wax poetic (or at least annoyed) about this situation. I haven't been this annoyed since I went 10 rounds with Bob's Furniture to get my account properly credited. In the first corner wearing the white collar we have Arbella Insurance. In the second corner wearing a startled expression and holding her checkbook we have Beth. Who will win?

Well, Arbella won. Let me elucidate:

We have our car insurance, homeowner's insurance and we had our renter's insurance with Arbella. This is not uncommon in New England where Arbella holds a substantial share of the insurance market. They are not the cheapest on car insurance but when you look at the overall cost of all the coverage we have, they are very competitive. Things were going along swimmingly until we bought our house.

First Arbella sends us a bill for the first year's homeowner's insurance. I thought we had paid it with our closing costs but hey, I couldn't find the closing documents and I certainly didn't want to be in arrears so I thought I'd pay first, ask questions later.

Then the refund checks began to arrive. First a check for $68.00. We weren't sure why Arbella refunded us $68 and there wasn't any accompanying documentation so we figured it was an overpayment of some kind. We cashed the check. Then a check for $493.00. I believe strongly in a provident universe but this seemed a little too provident so I called Arbella.
"Why did I get this refund?"
"I don't know ma'am. Your accounts are all paid up. Have you made any recent changes to your accounts?"
"Yes, we added a car and a house and dropped the rental. During the month of June we had 2 cars and 2 houses on the policy."
"Ah, that explains it ma'am. The refund is probably the result of discounts being added to your account and the unused portion of the renter's insurance."
"Okay, excellent! So the money is really mine?"
"Yes ma'am."
"Thank you!"
"Thank you ma'am. Is there anything I can help you with today?"
"Okay ma'am. Have a good day."

That was a lovely little exchange, wasn't it? Very polite. All questions answered. I cashed the check. A few weeks later another check comes, this one is the exact amount of my homeowner's premium for the year. I call my local agent this time. She walks me through my closing documents and helps me to find where I already paid the premium with my closing costs. "Is the money really mine?" I ask. "Yes." Great, I cash the check. Last week Arbella sends me a letter saying that $1,255.00 was applied to my account in error and would be removed. They apologized for any inconvenience this may cause me.

I call Arbella.
"What does this mean?" I ask.
"It means you owe us $1,255.00 by December 22" they reply.

Whaaat??? Why????

The polite-but-not-apologetic-agent informs me that there was an error. A glitch. It showed my balance paid in full when it really wasn't. They found the error, now they want the money. "But I called!" I wail, "I asked if the money was mine and you said yes!" "Sorry ma'am, we don't have a record of that call and you're the one who cashed the checks," says Miss-Professional-but-by-God-I-won't-apologize.

We went round and round. You owe, yes but you said I didn't, Yes but now you do, yes but you should have said that when I called, Yes but we didn't so you owe, etc., etc., etc.

I called my local agent and they went a few rounds with Arbella but the answer is the same: you owe, regardless of what we may or may not have told you in July, you owe.

I am not looking to profit from a clerical error. I owe. Okay, I already scheduled the payment through my bank, but I am looking for some decent customer service here, is that too much to ask? Would it have killed them to say "well, we'll write off the checks for $68 and $493 because she called, she gave us the opportunity to discover our mistake, we didn't, we lose." I can assure you that if I made a clerical error and didn't pay on time I would be expected to pay whatever late fees they wanted because I made a mistake and sometimes when you make a mistake it costs you a little. Would I be allowed to say "I'm sorry Arbella. I've had a data entry error in my Microsoft Money bill paying software. It showed that I've been paying you when I haven't. Since this is a clerical error you won't charge me any late fees, right?" I think not.

Yet that is exactly the courtesy I extended to Arbella.

"Well ma'am, if you wish to continue your coverage you'll need to pay by December 22."
"Yeah, thanks. Your generosity overwhelms me."
"Yes ma'am. Is that all I can help you with today?"
"Sigh. Yes. If you believe you were helpful, that is..."
"Okay ma'am, good bye."

(This is where I miss the old fashioned phones. Hitting end just doesn't have the satisfaction that slamming down the receiver used to have.)

SLAM! (there, that felt better).

Friday, November 6, 2009

My favorite time of the day

A couple of days ago my daughter asked me "Mom, what's your favorite time of the day?" I gave her an answer, a simple answer because I knew she didn't want a dissertation on the subject, but the question got me to thinking: what is my favorite time of the day? The answers are many:

After the alarm goes off and Steve has gone out to run but I get to lie awake, warm and comfy, and think my morning thoughts uniterrupted.

When I first wake my daughter for school and her face is still so like a baby's in sleep and she smells of warmth, innocence, and sleep.

After I've dropped my daughter off to school and I get back home with my whole day spread before me and usually some quality phone time with Debbie and/or Chellie coming soon.

After I've worked out and I'm just about to step into a warm shower. I'm pleasantly tired yet energized, sweaty yet about to be clean.

When I pick my daughter up from school and she is bubbling over with what happened in her day, the injustices inflicted upon a fifth grader: rumors, hard tests, unreasonable teachers, and yucky cafeteria food.
When we first sit down to dinner and Steve is bubbling over about his day and the injustices inflicted upon a 40 yr old: rumors, hard problems, unreasonable co-workers, and bad coffee.

After my daughter has gone to bed and Steve and I sit down on the couch together to read, watch TV, or even occasionally talk!

When I first get in bed each night to read. My teeth are brushed, my face is washed, my pajamas are comfy, my bed is warm, and a good book is waiting. I am tired and almost ready for sleep but not quite.

As I look back on all my favorite times I am humbled by how truly blessed my life is.

And one more favorite time: as I sit down at my computer, a blank composition box in front of me, to express all the triumphs and injustices inflicted upon a human being each day...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I've survived another October

October has typically been a month signifying big life changes for me. When I was 12 I had my first period in October. Steve and I got engaged in October. We moved into our house in Cinci in October. My daughter weaned from breastfeeding in October. Steve lost his job in Cinci in October. I was diagnosed with a brain tumor in October. We met our good friends here in Massachusetts in October. I quit my kindergarten "temp" job in October.

So I suppose it's not really hard to understand why I greet each October with a mixture of fear and excitement. Fear for what might happen. Excitement because life is exciting, you never know what's on the next page, but every single event large or small has put me where I am today and where I am is pretty darn good. I've never known in advance what the big life change will be but I have a pretty good idea in which month it will take place. Some would say it's all coincidence and that I could make a pretty good case for almost every month signifying big changes if I really sat down and listed all my life's events, and they would probably be right, but for some reason it's always October that seems to stick out in my mind.

We have a cluster of birthdays for family and friends (a total of 11!) in March and I've heard other people tell similar stories of such clusters of birthdays, anniversaries, or big life events. Perhaps we are drawn to people who are walking similar paths to ours.

I also have an affinity for June: my birth month, graduations month, month I started my "career" job that I kept for 9 years, our daughter's conception month, month we closed on our new house in Massachusetts. Still, it's October that plagues me. I tend to be more anxious in October. My usually-dormant-but-always-present hypochondria is more active in October (of course the fact that the entire month has been co-opted by pink ribbons probably doesn't help). Problems that I handle with ease in August seem monumental in October. I always greet the beginning of November with a sense of relief: I did it! I survived October!

I don't understand Numerology very well but I know that October distills to the number '1' and '1' signifies individuality, new beginnings, positivity, and leadership. I don't know exactly what a "chart" is as used by numerologists, but I would like to imagine that some or all of those qualities would appear in mine. Every event that ever occurred in my life in October ended up being a positive new beginning -- even if it didn't seem so at the time.

Oh yeah, and speaking of positive new beginnings, I started blogging one year ago in, of course, October. Happy Birthday Eye of the Beholder.