Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Gambling...In More Ways Than You Think

I haven’t been on a trip in years.  The boy is 19 years old and I haven’t been away from home without him since 1997.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the boy.  He pitches in, he’s relatively respectful, sometimes even nice to be around – he can be really funny sometimes.  And it’s not like he’s home all the time.  He works a full time job, a part time job, goes to the gym just about every day and has an active social life.  But…I haven’t been away on a grown up vacation in 17 years.  Enter my wonderful aunt, godmama and friend.  A couple months ago she asked me, out of the blue, if I’d be up for a little gambling trip.  Nothing extravagant, just a couple of hours north to one of the casinos here in Wisconsin.  Of course I emphatically and resoundingly said “YES!”  Reservations were made and the countdown began….and now it’s less than 24 hours…!!!!

So, I’m not a gambler.  My mom took me to the local bingo/casino for my birthday once, like 8 or 9 years ago.  She gifted me $100 and we set out toward the slots.  A couple hours later we left, no richer nor poorer than when we walked in.  It was an experience, I enjoyed playing and I even won enough on one pull of the arm to require security to stop by to refill the machine.  Of course, I fed it all back until I was only left with what I started with.  Previous experience aside, I am completely and totally excited to be going tomorrow.  I have saved and worked overtime to afford a bit to gamble with.  I joke that I have extremely high expectations of coming home rich.  I know better….I know the odds.  And that leaves me conflicted about the money I’ve saved.  A large part of my brain is saying that I have worked and saved this “extra” money and now I should do something responsible with it, like pay down the stupid hospital bill that I got as a going away present after my surgery last year.  Nah.  I just decided to let go, gamble with the bit I’ve saved and f*n have fun!

And that brings me to the second issue.  This will be the first time (except for when I was in the hospital a couple years ago) that the boy will have the house all to himself.  The house comes with specific responsibilities.  There’s the dog; her monthly heartworm and flea and tick treatments are due on Friday.  I have two diabetic cats that need daily insulin injections.  I’d also like to return home (wealthier) to a house in the same condition that I left it (or better, *hint, hint* if you're reading, boy).  Oh, he has already threatened to host a party to rival Project X….then burst out laughing and said, “By Project X, I mean, me, my girlfriend and a few of the guys, sitting around, probably playing Pokémon.”  First of all, yes, these 18 and 19 year old “men” still play Pokémon.  I guess it’s a generational thing, I try not to laugh too much about it, I don’t want to make him feel bad.  Hell, it could be so much worse, do you know what some 19 year olds do?  Second of all, these friends of his are pretty good kids (I have to eventually come to terms that they aren't really kids anymore, I mean, I saw a group pic of them on Facebook the other day and one of them has a full-on lumberjack beard).  I know he’s feeling weird about being home by himself.  He has plans to save up so he can move out some time next year (fingers crossed!) so, what better primer for that than a few days home without Mom.  I know I won’t be there to make sure he wakes up for work on Friday or to make him pizza (frozen) or a salad (literally opening the bag of salad mix, putting it on a plate, pouring on some French dressing and sprinkling on some shredded cheese) when he gets hungry.  I am confident that he will survive.  Besides, I have to see if I have raised someone who can actually be self-sufficient.  I know it’s only a few days…but it’s a good test, right?  At least that’s what I keep telling myself, over and over, in between the self-assurance that the house won’t be set aflame in my absence.

Well, this time tomorrow, I’ll be on my mini-vacay with my awesome aunt.  I agreed that I’ll even join her in having a cocktail (I don’t drink…like not even at a restaurant or on holidays or special occasions).  I did not, however, agree to have an additional drink for my friend…sorry, Linda, I have to draw the line somewhere (and don’t worry…I’ll stay clear of the Naval Room).

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

My Excuse to Stay Fat and Sedentary This Week

This is NOT a post about weight loss.  This is NOT a post about how to get fit.  This isn’t even really about health.  It’s just a rant about the idiocy and hypocrisy of the “health and diet” industries.  Is it really appropriate or progressive for weight loss supplements to be in gummy form?


Is that like when you join Weight Watchers only to realize that the local meetings are held in a strip mall next door to a Dairy Queen?  Or your neighborhood SNAP Fitness shares an entryway with a pizza joint?  Why does it seem that so many health and fitness trends set you up for temptation and almost goad you into failure?  Oh yeah, because if the people this industry shames into wanting to lose weight become successful and keep it off, then the industry would eventually see a decline in profits.  Since when do multi-vitamins have to taste good in order for adults to take them?  Hell, even when I was a kid, Flintstone chewable kinda tasted like shit (my apologies to anyone that loves them and wants to eat them by the handful, I thought they tasted awful) but Mom made me eat one a day anyway because they were good for me.  Vitamins and supplements tend to be in tablet or capsule form so you can swallow them without having to taste them; we are supposed to take them because they benefit our health, not because they are yummy.  I wonder how many kids (or “grown-ups”) have made themselves sick by eating too many Viactiv Calcium plus D Caramel soft chews. 

Who do I get to blame for my ingrained belief that healthy food isn’t as tasty as junk food?  I have been on enough diets to know that food that is good for your body can not only taste good but it can even taste better than processed, sugar filled convenience food.   And where can I get more information on whose fault it is that I can spend $100 at the grocery store and walk away with eight bags full and a week’s worth of unhealthy crap OR two and a half bags full and a few days’ worth of fresh fruits, vegetables and proteins?  When I’m in the mindset to put forth the effort to make healthy dishes sometimes my budget won’t accommodate it.  Ever try juicing?  I never thought I’d drink, let alone enjoy, green juice made from spinach, kale, ginger, cucumber and apple but it turns out it tastes amazing and makes me feel pretty damn good.  Now ask me how many times I had to go to the store to replenish my stock of produce.  It was easier and a bit less expensive in the summer months when I could pop over to the local farmers’ market but in the colder months, not only is the price incredibly high but the quality is completely hit or miss.  And don’t even get me started on organic versus regular and grass-fed protein in comparison to “cheap” proteins. 

But I digress…..this post isn’t really about health.  I’m sure that a bunch of people could tell me all about how to “be healthy” on a budget.  But it’s not about that.  It’s about the condescending attitude created when a company puts out the idea that fatties will stay fatties unless they cater to their inner fat kid….with crap like gummy supplements and Cold Stone Creamery next door to the gym.  Or that fatties should want to lose weight at all, isn't that an extremely personal decision to be made by each individual?  That gives people who are already full of preconceived ideas about fat people more reason to shove health in their face and then immediately shame them afterward, “Well, why don’t you go to the gym instead of Cold Stone, it is right next door?” and then “Well, how can you expect to see results if you’re just going to get Cold Stone after the gym?”  It’s similar to people who love to say “I really give ‘bigger people’ credit when I see them at the gym, it’s like, at least they’re trying,” but then turn around, sneak photos of them and post them to social media with derogatory comments (or perpetuate those action by sharing “funny” memes of the like while claiming “Well, it’s not like I took the picture).  If we decide to go to the gym, or take a walk or buy healthy food at the store, we don’t need your encouragement.  Whether your comments are well-intended or not, keep them to yourself, thank you very much.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Hi, I’m Sandy and I’m an Internet Quiz Addict

What did the world do before there was a BuzzFeed quiz to tell them what career they should have?  How foolish I was, as a child, to have aspirations of growing up to be a senior medical insurance claims examiner when, all this time, I was destined to be a surgeon.  And now that I’m armed with the knowledge that I am Mr. Potato Head from Toy Story, nothing can stand in my way from becoming Dr. Mr. Potato Head. 

Being Regina George definitely has its advantages although it conflicts with my inner Veronica Corningstone.  Don’t get me wrong, the Sophia Petrillo in me is really looking forward to my big move to Washington State, where I really belong but my internal Cookie Monster feels like there may not be enough there to challenge my scientific hidden talent.  I'm not exactly sure what to do with the fact that if I were a sandwich, I'd be a grilled cheese.

Then my  subconscious Hannah Horvath reminds me that I am an Independent Thinker and quiets the Corgi in my head.  I always felt that I should've been alive and in my prime in the 1940's and now I have the proof.  Of course, because I'm a lady who is only "moderately awkward" with "geeky" tendencies, I won't mention my sex number (or the fact that my "real age" is 42 despite chronology telling me I'm only 38).  By the time I’m settling in as Ness for a long battle against the cast of Super Smash Bros., I take comfort in the fact that I’m “Not an Asshole At All”.  Thank goodness that, as a human, I’m worth $956,028….can I get an advance on that?

Friday, April 11, 2014

If I Wanna Dye My Hair Blue, I’ll F*n Dye My Hair Blue!

Approximately 6 months ago, I made a decision that I thought was out of maturity and convenience.  I decided to stop dying my hair.  Just a quick lesson in my personal relationship with my hair, I’ve been coloring it since I was 13.  I hold true the philosophy that “It will grow”, which allows me to make rash and drastic hair decision.  Long to short?  No sweat.  Black to platinum?  Been there, done that (with chemical burns in the process).  What on Earth made me think that it was the grown up thing to do to stop enjoying my hair?  I have to go back further than that, I think. 

I used to wear makeup, just about every day.  I was good at wearing makeup, I knew what I was doing.  Somewhere over the last 15 years, I just stopped.  Maybe it was during my five year long struggle with mental illness (that’s a WHOLE other story for another time), although there were some days in there that I made my face up in a way that was worthy of RuPaul’s Drag Race.  But we won’t talk about that right now.  At some point, did I begin to feel like it was just too much effort?  Did I feel so ugly that I thought, geez, not even makeup can make this look good?  For whatever the reason, I just stopped.  My baskets and bins of makeup went unused, gathering dust in a cabinet in my bathroom.  Pretty pinks, jewel-tone greens, luscious lavenders, glossy blacks, rich bronzes….all sat like forgotten Easter eggs.  When I packed up to move into my new house last summer, it was like a bittersweet reunion.  Lovingly picking up each item, one by one, turning it over in my hands and wondering if I’d be wasting precious box space packing any of it at all.  Something deep inside of me wouldn’t let me toss those colorful and sparkly pieces of my history into the trash bin.  There was a little voice that whispered, “Maybe…..just maybe.”  I did rifle through those bins around the holidays.  I hastily slapped on a bit of foundation and some lip gloss just in time for company to arrive for the Christmas buffet I’d prepared.  Yet I still never gave much thought to those containers, except in aggravation when I couldn’t put the clean towels away in the linen closet because they were in the way. 

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot online about body love and self-acceptance and, I gotta tell ya’, it’s been throwing me into some unexpected internal turmoil.  At first glance, I mistook this recent revelatory movement to simply be about fat women wanting to feel ok about being fat.  But the more I read, on sites like The Militant Baker and Everyday Feminism, the more I realized that it’s much more complex than that.  Two weeks ago, Vidal Sasson flicked on a night light in my brain with their commercials for their new London Luxe hair color line.  I’ve always been partial to red hair, I think it compliments my complexion.  And this new Vidal Sasson London Luxe Runway Red is screaming, Crayola crayon red….and it was love at first sight.  I ran (ok, I drove) over to Walgreens, bought a box, came home and immediately dyed my hair.  And with the abundance of silver cropping up in my mane, man, did that color take in a most awesome, mutli-tonal way.  And I felt just a little bit better about myself.  I hadn’t realized that the “natural highlights” my biology had blessed me with at the age of 38 was making me feel so old and frumpy.  No hate to the ladies that love their gray and can rock the shit out of it, y’all look awesome; it just turns out it wasn’t my cup o’ tea.  With my new flaming locks, I felt more like myself than I had in a long time.  And I didn't care if anyone else on Earth likes it because I LOVE it!  It didn't even bother me that it was attention-grabbing red, hell, some people were going to look at me sideways anyway because of my size so what's the difference?  I was a little sad that they didn't have the blue hair color.   One step at a time, I guess.

Yesterday, it was like someone turned off the soft glow of that nightlight shining on my inner self and replaced it with an outdoor flood lamp, finally clearing the rest of the fog and spiders.  For me, body love isn’t just about feeling ok at my current weight, it was about loving myself enough to put in a little time in front of the mirror.  I mean, screw what the world thinks about how I present myself, I was tired at looking at my pasty face and under eye circles.  I showered, shaved my legs and blew my hair dry; that wasn’t anything new, I did that daily.  But then, instead of pulling on a pair of XXL yoga pants and an oversized sweatshirt, I decided to sport a pair of jeans (non-stretch, might I add), a black cami with crocheted lace trim and a black cardigan.  I blew the dust off of my contact lens container, rinsed the crap off the lenses and put them in my eyes.  I ran the straightener through my fiery red hair, making it smooth and even shinier than ever.  I rummaged through the linen closet, dug out all of my makeup bins and sat of the floor, remembering when I used to know where everything was.  I finally found the perfect shade of foundation, under eye brightener, black eye liner and blackest black mascara.  So the mascara was mostly dried up and the eye crayon had definitely seen better days, I worked with what I had.  I carefully lined my eyes, taking the time to smudge it with my liner brush so it was the perfect amount of softness.  Aside from the time I spent trying to find the tools and medium, I spent about six minutes on my face.  Six minutes.  And you know what I thought when I was finished and looked in the mirror?  “Wow, she’s pretty.”
I had forgotten that I was pretty.  That brought me a fleeting moment of sadness, which was swiftly replaced by overwhelming happiness and, dare I say, self-confidence, the latter of which has been missing for so long, it had been officially declared dead by absentia.  Before leaving the house, I even opted to leave my charcoal gray cable knit Bobs in the entryway in favor of my athletic shoes.  Just before leaving, I pulled the cosmetic case out of my purse (I have no idea why it was even still in there) and painted on a coat of Too Faced Lip Injection gloss and I was ready to go.  And what was all this fanciness for?  I was going grocery shopping.  I didn’t care that the me of six months ago would’ve thought that I was ridiculous for applying makeup and wearing nicer clothes for running to the supermarket.  I felt damn good about myself.  And when I smiled at the people in the market, it wasn’t my normal “see, I’m friendly please don’t hate me because I’m fat” smile that I usually flash out of a feeling of uneasiness.  It was a “hey, look at my pretty face get even prettier because I’m feeling great about myself” smile.  And that smile feels so much better.
I like the pretty me, I want to hug her and welcome her back.  I have invited her to stay a while…..hell, to stay forever.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Honey or Vinegar: The Customer Service Conundrum

According to the old cliché, you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.  What does that even mean??  It means that people who are nice will get better results than someone who is mean or rude, even if that niceness is fake or manipulative.  But is that true?  As someone who has not only had an overabundance of recent experience as the wronged customer, I have also been on the inside.  I have worked in retail and in the *dreaded call center*.  It's tricky to draw a conclusion about which gets better results so let's look at both tactics and the results they be the judge.

Like I mentioned, I have worked in customer service, both face to face and over the phone.  I worked as a cashier for Target and Kohl's Department Store when I was younger, providing me with an excellent view of humanity, up close and personal (particularly during the holiday season, Merry Christmas and fuck you very much).  Later on, I worked in a call center for a small insurance company which gifted me the opportunity to behold the power of the independent insurance agent, and the ego that sometimes goes with it.  I have also been the consumer in both environments and I'm still not sure which the more precarious position is.  I have had angry customers call me names and scream at me that "the sign on the shelf said it was on sale," or that they "don't give a shit what the computer says, they know they signed that form."  I have also had a customer demand to speak with a supervisor and after verbally berating me and damning the company I work for as a vehicle of Satan, I transfer them to one of my co-workers (yes, a lowly cubicle dwelling customer service rep like myself and NOT an actual supervisor of anything) and the customer is magically transformed back to a mild-mannered inquisitive human with real feelings.  I had a co-worker once that placed callers on a "penalty hold" when they would get uppity.  She said that if the hold didn't give them time to calm down, at least it made her feel better.  I was glad I sat across from her; her bitter comic relief always made it a little easier to brush off those nightmare callers.

As an example of being on the consumer end of customer service, after receiving a new phone number when I moved, I began receiving an abundance of wrong number calls.  The callers were looking for one of two people, neither of which I know.  These weren't your average, run of the mill wrong numbers; they were aggressive collection and legal calls.  I started out simply telling the callers that they had the wrong number, "There's no one here by that name, please update your records," I would say in a friendly voice.  By the six month mark, that got really old.  Finally pushed over the edge by an early morning call for "Roberta Alene", I asked what company the caller was representing.  "American Advance," said a man with a heavy foreign accent.  I asked to speak with his supervisor and he immediately hung up.  That spurned a series of 28 calls over the course of the next 24 hours; late night, early morning, you name it, they called.  It was like a vendetta against me and I was pissed and confused.  In this case, neither honey nor vinegar won.  It was time to change my number.

Changing my phone number was another exercise in customer service.  Don't get me wrong, I have always received friendly, personable assistance from AT&T and, in the end, I have always had my issue or request completed to my satisfaction.  This is where I will almost always take the honey route, even though I can usually expect to spend at least a half an hour on the phone, speaking with three or four different extremely friendly customer service representatives.  Why does it always take so much time and energy to get these seemingly simple things accomplished?  It took three separate phone calls across three days for a total of at least an hour of my time to change my phone number!  In the interim, my phone service was cancelled altogether, a second line added (what??) and I received three emails telling me that I neglected to activate my new service (this was a land line, not a wireless number).  I know that a large population of the general public would think that I have the patience of a saint, the way that I calmly deal with companies in situations like this.  My dad, for example, takes the vinegar route.  And maybe he's entitled, he is 73 years old, after all.  He will often resort to raising his voice and swearing, even just five minutes into a call like this.  And guess what.....he gets the same friggin' results that I get being calm and friendly and patient.  Go figure.

They also say that the squeaky wheel gets the grease.  That's the truthful flip-side to the honey-vinegar cliché.  Regardless of who you are, companies want your money, and they will take quite a bit of abuse before they will turn it away.  In my opinion, I take the sweeter route because it's less stressful for me.  My pulse doesn't shoot up, my face doesn't get red, and I usually end up with what I want...and I don't need a Xanax afterward.