Saturday, September 14, 2013

Random Thoughts at Summer's End

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I find myself slightly melancholy this morning. Eight days from today will be the official start of fall. Where did summer go when I blinked? Indeed, what about 2013?

Don't get me wrong. We are actually heading into my favorite part of the year. Cooler temperatures mean I can break out my deeper-hued clothes again, like the velour shirts I like to wear so much.

And even though our family holiday festivities will be scaled back this year, they still remind me of what's important -- family ties, home. Still, as I see Halloween stuff making its way into the stores (actually, the incursion started around Labor Day), I want to call out, "Hey, Time, wait up! I'm moving slower these days. Don't leave me behind."

I've got to get to my 1972 high school class get-together on October 12. Somehow, I feel a frantic need to see everyone, and don't ask me what all that's about. In my business, I spend my days and evenings trying to help others make sense of their lives. All I want to do is be silly.

The recent bouts of insomnia have been a blessing. I think I'm going to use them to catch up on those writing projects with which everyday life has interfered, including the one I began around the time of the high school reunion, which has been a labor of love.

I have a fear of having too many undone projects being found by my family whenever I pass away. To not achieve one's dreams is a sad thing.

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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Vox Populi!

I love how the internet has shifted the way consumers can make their opinions known about companies and products!

Long before Yelp (and I've forged quite a presence on that site since 2008), there were paper responses. People like me could pour out their hearts (kudos or vitriol), but once they dropped the letter in the mail, they were at the mercy of whomever might respond. Now, with well-placed clicks, they can involve the whole damned world in their fight by making it public. It's a terrific way of keeping the corporate world honest.

My first successful David vs. Goliath spar was in 1983. We had purchased a microwave (EXPENSIVE in those days) with an in-home repair warranty from the now late-great Zody's. Shortly thereafter, Zody's folded, and Circuit City took over the warranty contracts. A repair rep came out one day, and took our microwave into the shop, where it disappeared into the abyss. Calls and letters over several months were to no avail, so I wrote to David Horowitz' show "Action 4," and promptly got a response from Circuit City's corporate headquarters. Within days, we had a brand new microwave. Gee, justice was sweeeet!

Over the years that followed, I honed my complaint skills to a razor-sharp precision. My interventions became the stuff of legend among family and friends. Still, typing the letters, mailing them, following up if there was no responses -- all this took time and energy. I have offered my services online, because my success rate has been very high. See, my Vistaprint website.

Today, I took on Kroger, after some recent experiences at Ralphs. I sent them a brief note on their site, suggesting that their Pet Pride cat litter be packaged in heavy duty bags, rather than the plastic containers. Not only would it be more manageable for consumers with arthritis, but I wonder if production would be less costly, and more "green"? All I know is that Tiggy demands this type of litter, and hauling 20 lbs. of litter in their current containers hurts my hands like hell.

Then there's the issue of crushed pineapple. Dole sells it for $1.79 in cans with pull tabs (which I pry up with a heavy knife). Kroger's brand costs $1.19, but one has to use a can opener. I'm in the process of shopping for a suitable electric can opener, but in the meantime, I bought the Dole brand. Grrr....

The pharmaceutical industry has long gotten it. They have their easy-open containers (like my beloved Aleve), so I think other products should follow suit.

Now, I have to get ready for work. I have to earn the 60 cents times the number of cans I bought of the Dole product.

On Being a Committee of One

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I'm beginning to think there should be another business degree program available -- one that would teach us homeowners effective techniques for the actual business of managing one's home, especially when one is a single individual with limited time.

There have been posts before on my blog about my stepping into the role of running this household, especially since my mother has become totally reliant upon care. As appliances wear out and need repair or replacement, as chores have a sneaky way of piling up, and life chugs along with our household members and our visitors, time doesn't stop.

I've expressed my love of this house, home to (so far) four generations of Cooks and Cascaddens. God willing, I intend to pass it along in due time to my son and his family.

In the meantime, I'm finding the 24 hours allotted to me (and the rest of humanity) each day to be insufficient. My mother ran this place single-handedly pretty damned well, even before my father's 1982 death and then my grandmother's passing in 1996. I'd love to ask her how she managed, even with her demanding nursing job, but sadly, that opportunity has passed with the decline in her memory. And no, she did not have a housekeeper, ever. We entered that era recently, when I engaged a cleaning service for a short time while I healed from my knee surgery. Mom did have a "gardener," someone who came for ten minutes once a week, mowed the lawns, blew the leaves down the street with his blower, and then disappeared. He then began getting careless, and actually destroyed some plants that had been thriving as part of the landscape since 1964, when our family moved in here. I would pitch a fit, replace the plants, and take the cost out of his monthly pay. His response would be to laugh at me. When this decimation continued, I sacked him.

Yes, I do need to reconsider hiring people for this help, but even that would require me being present to supervise their work and render payment. Recently, I also tried to do my own early-morning plumbing repair. The toilet in the tiny bathroom next to my home office was running...and running up my utility bill. So, I got on YouTube and watched some videos of "how to fix a running toilet." At 5 AM, I turned off the water in back of the bowl (a tight fit, even with my small hands), took the lid off the tank, and dutifully followed the steps put forth in the video. Nothing worked, and so I called upon the trusty guy who's been doing our repair work for decades. And while he was there, he also replaced the hot water tank in the utility room.

At times like this I briefly regret not becoming a plumber, especially when I get the bill.

The other day, I found a letter on my doorstep, allegedly from a realtor who wanted to make an offer to buy my home! For a brief couple of minutes, I entertained the idea of mailing it back to the person, with some well-selected, unladylike verbiage added to the bottom. Nah, I didn't want to waste the postage stamp.

My life plan includes continuing my local therapy practice (with flexible hours, and my office only 2 miles down the street), and finding freelance writing work to pursue the craft I love so much. I want to live out my life here, with steady income and choices showing life on my own terms.

This home is my love, with so much history. All I want is to maintain it well, and add an overlay of my own personal style during my lifetime. This will include replacement of the lawn with a display of water-thrifty native plants. I've long been an admirer of the Theodore Payne Foundation, and I've already put in an application with the Burbank's Go Native! program.

I like to think these current challenges are simply opportunities for me to step up and solve them creatively.

Protection Plus

Speaking of YouTube videos, here's one that reflects my optimism: