Saturday, October 29, 2011

Would you like fries and friendship with that?

There's a growing trend in America.  In this downward spiral of an economy, a few companies have gotten a clue as to how to retain their customers.  There are a few banks riding this enhanced customer service wave, as are stores like Publix and Walgreen's.  Publix employees have obviously been trained to go one step beyond "service with a smile."  They always make conversation as they slice deli meat or run the cash register.  It makes it a really pleasant place to shop.  I look forward to going in there and interacting with the warm, lovely people.

And Walgreen's?  Shoot, I KNOW the ladies in Walgreen's.  I mean, we ask about each other's family members, talk about local news, talk about our hobbies and interests.  When you feel like the person who is taking money out of your hand really cares about you as a person, it makes you ten times more likely to go back and hand them more money at a later date.

This is smart business.

So when my three-year-old and I drove up to the bank window the other day, we were greeted by name by a lady we see frequently (Lisa).  Another lady (Susan) heard her greeting us and came over to say hello as well.
Lisa:  Hi, Sam!  Are you ready for Halloween?
Sam:  Yes, I am going to be Michael! (confused look on Lisa's face follows, then short explanation from me - he means Michael the Archangel)
Lisa:  Good for you!
Susan (waving enthusiastically):  Hey, Sam!
Sam:  Oh!  Hi, other lady!

Other lady?!  I said, "Sam, that's Ms. Susan!  And Ms. Lisa!"  Of course, they thought it was hilarious.  Just like it's hilarious when Sam's little friends come up to me and say, "Um, Sam's Mom, can Sam come to my house and play?"  Sam's Mom.  That's my name, don't wear it out.

But in this day and age of impersonal computer interaction and big cities getting bigger, it's wonderful to know that the people you do business with know who you are on some level.  And the small town service that used to be commonplace so many years ago is coming back.  I like it.

I remember a friend telling me about 15 years ago that she was talking to her banker on the phone one day at approximately 4:55pm.  My friend was to take something to the bank, but it would be closed by the time she got there.  "It's okay," her banker told her.  "Just knock on the back door and I'll let ya in." 

In a day and age of struggling to keep shop doors open, all businesses can take a lesson from this.  Exceptional customer service:  it's what's for dinner.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


So my little guy has been busy over the last couple of days.  He says so many cute, funny, shockingly intelligent things, that I can hardly keep up.  I can't believe he will be four in December.

Yesterday, we went to my parents' house and started up the back stairs.  There was a HUGE lizard crawling on the back porch.  Well, y'all know how I feel about lizards.  If you don't, then scroll back a few months and find out.  I looked around the yard and said, "Where is Maggie (my parents' cat) when you need her?"  Sam turned and looked around the yard, too.  Then he yelled, "Maaaaaaggiiiiiiiiiiiie, come heeeeeeeere!  It's an EMERGENCY!"  That might seem a little dramatic, but to me, a lizard actually IS an emergency.

Last night, I heard him getting into the fridge and rooting around.  He knows he is not supposed to do that.  So when he heard my footsteps behind him, he slammed the fridge door shut.  He stood with his back to the door and arms straight out, and he said, "There's nothing to see here!"  Right.  And when I open it the next day, I will find a matchbox car in my yogurt.  That's usually how that goes.

This morning, on the way to school, he started talking about Jesse, the cowgirl seen in Toy Story 2 and 3.  Sam has seen her in the form of toys, advertisements, etc, but has only seen the first Toy Story movie, in which she does not appear.  So asks me, "How come we never see Woody's assistant?"  I didn't know whether to be amazed that he knew the word assistant and used it correctly, or to be upset that he automatically assumed that the female character was the male's assistant.

 A few weeks ago, Sam was a little rowdy during circle time.  His teacher had to take him down to the preschool director's office for a bit.  When we arrived at school this morning, we walked past the director on the sidewalk and said good morning.  Sam turned and looked back at her, waving, and said, "Oh, today I don't have to come to your office!"  Well, we hoped so . . .

I did get a call when school was almost over and I was about to go pick him up anyway.  Something minor occurred which was not really bad behavior, but did require him to be removed from the classroom . . . and he ended up in the preschool director's office again.  While waiting for me to pick him up, he leaned in toward the director with chin in hands and little elbows on her desk.  "You know," he said, "It's really boring in here."

Just wait, buddy . . . being a grown up can be SUPER boring!  That is, until you have a three-year-old to liven things up.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Halloween-related questions to ponder

I get that dressing in a costume and going door-to-door to score candy is fun.  Costume parties are lively, as well.  But I have a few questions.  Maybe you can help me.

Why do 99% of Halloween decorations look so cheap, tacky and junky?

Which large corporation decided to convince us we needed to decorate for another holiday, and thus fund their Christmas bonuses?  Maybe the same ones who invented Grandparents' Day and Secretaries' Day?  Oh, and how many "Occupants" have supported their favorite corporations by buying said decorations? 

Why would anyone WANT their house to look like it's haunted and/or deserted?

Similarly, why would people want to "decorate" their homes with things that are ugly?  Don't we spend lots of time, money and energy trying to make our homes look GOOD?

Don't people who drape cotton all over their houses realize that, instead of looking like spiderwebs, it looks like . . . well, they draped cotton all over their houses?  And that it looks like a teenage prank that occurred while they slept (similar to toilet papering the trees)?

When did the world decide that fear (a negative emotion that people spend THOUSANDS of dollars in counselling trying to eliminate) was FUN?  Perhaps that is perpetuated by the drug companies who make tranquillizers, and secretly funded by psychiatrists?

Why would people think that decorations scary enough to give small children nightmares or make them cry are "fun for the kids?"  I don't remember crying too often or having many nightmares as a child, but I do remember that those events were not synonymous with any type of "fun."

Oh!  And when did Halloween become "sexy?!"  Why is it that all girls' costumes larger than size 4T are trampy and suggestive?  And where are the womens' rights people on THAT one?!  Why are they not all over that?!

In my younger, less mature days, I spent many a slumber party watching the Halloween movies, the Friday the 13th movies, the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, etc, because we thought it was fun to be somewhat scared.  But as I got past, say, age 19, it stopped being fun.  I realized that the real world was scary enough (taxes, bills, interest rates on credit cards, crime, war in Iraq or anywhere else, corruption among government officials, people losing jobs, the list goes on).  Why scare myself on PURPOSE?  I just don't have time for that.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Don't write a book unless you are very, very brave. (This one is serious, so don't read it if you need a laugh.)

It's an emotional process, getting a book published.  From start to finish, you are on a roller coaster.  Oh, the excitement when you begin to write!  But then you're like a raw nerve.  As you write, there are times when you feel like your heart is spilling out onto the paper (or the computer screen, as the case may be).  You become emotionally attached to the characters.  You're surprised when inspiration hits and the story takes a slightly different route from the one you planned.  You wait and wait while people proofread, and brace yourself for the ugly truth (which is never quite as ugly as you imagine).  An editor chops it up and tells you what you need to change (also never quite as bad as you imagine).  Then you wait expectantly for the release of your finished work.  You're elated!  But also nervous.  Will people like it?  Will people buy it?  Ultimately, you are surprised at some who buy it.  And you are surprised at some who don't.

It's a consuming process.  You have a story sitting on your brain.  You have to write and write and write until you get it out.  You wrestle with it.  You sweat and pray over it.  Then the editing and proofing takes longer than the actual writing.  Just when you think you are "finished," you realize that the publisher is going to take however long they take to get the book printed.  People ask you daily, "When is your book coming out?"

It's like having a child.  Simply carrying a child for 9 months isn't enough.  You eat well, get enough rest, try to do all the right things.  But even after the child is born, your job is not over.  It has just begun!  Now you must raise the child.  Same with a book.  Now you must raise your book, too, in the form of marketing.  This, like childrearing, is the hardest part.  Tom Petty had it wrong . . . the waiting is NOT the hardest part!  It's the marketing.

To be a writer, you have to be one of two things:  incredibly strong or somewhat sick in the head.  Maybe both.  You are going to experience rejection and pain.  And you have to know how to keep on keeping on.  Being a writer is not for the faint of heart.

So . . . in a few weeks, my new book will be ready to purchase, and I look forward to announcing it here!  Stay tuned.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dusting off the Cobwebs

Excuse me while I blow the dust off my blog here . . . I have not blogged much lately.  That is mostly because I am on the brink of releasing my next book:  The Ballad of the Shirley T and Other Stories.  It is a book of six short stories, mostly Southern, and several with distinct Lowcountry flavor.  Paperback will be $.8.95 and e-book less than that (yet to be determined).  Check or in the next few weeks!

Getting a book out is hard work and leaves little time for . . . well, writing.  There are proofs and polishing, followed by proofs and more proofs.  And with every round, you never trust yourself completely, so you wait around while someone else's eyes scan and tell you that you forgot to dot an i . . . or that your cover needs an overhaul.

The second reason that I have not blogged much lately is that I have a 3 year old son at home.  Sure, he goes to preschool 3 mornings per week, but when he's home, he requires lots of attention.  If I am not actively engaged with him, I must watch him like a hawk.  Anyone who has ever had a 3 year old boy will understand this.  Just try to go to the bathroom, take a shower, run the vacuum in the next room.  Go ahead.  And when you come back, you will find your son on top of the refrigerator.  Or perhaps he is very proud of himself for having outsmarted the childproof drawer latches and wants to show you the cool icepick he found.

Constant heartattacks.  That's motherhood.  Oh, and the 3 year old tantrums . . . they will leave you questioning everything you ever knew to be true in life and thinking you have gone terribly wrong as a mother.  If you stay at home, you will become convinced that you have ruined him with your bad mothering skills and he would have been better off in daycare.  If you work outside the home, you will wail and beat your chest, thinking your work schedule has caused him emotional problems, and if only you had stayed home . . . but none of these things are true.  All of it is a phase.  Or so I am told.  "The good news is that they all turn four!"  That's what I keep hearing.  Of course, my son is wonderful . . . and so much fun.  But every day is an adventure.  Forget Halloween.  NOTHING scares ME anymore.

So, just try having a 3 year old boy at home with you and trying to get your latest book out at the same time . . . you, too, will be wearing your spouse's sweats because you haven't done your own laundry in so long.  You, too, will be coughing from the dust on your nightstand.

But I wouldn't trade my life for the world.