Monday, August 31, 2009

With All This Talk Of Customer Service ...

A couple of weeks ago, I had an experience that gave me the idea for a post on Customer Service.

I didn't get around to it.

It would have been more of an introduction to a future post, so when it didn't materialize, I just figured I'd mention it in the upcoming one.

Last week, there was an incident that has caused quite a Bad Customer Service discussion and heated debate on the Internet and throughout the Blogsphere.

It was that event, that made me realize my Customer Service story SHOULD be told.

Short Pre-Story - Last week

One of THE most famous bloggers is Heather Armstrong, DOOCE.

She has over 1 million followers on Twitter. She is #26 on Forbes list of Most Influential Women In Media.

Oh sure. I say Famous Blogger, and all the non-bloggers eyes glaze over.

I mention she's on the same list as Oprah, Ellen, Diane Sawyer etc., or that she's been on Oprah, The Today Show, and soon to be coming up on Dr Phil, or that she's written a New Your Times best seller ...

... and NOW I have their attention.

She bought a Maytag washing machine (with warranty). It broke a week later.

After multiple repairs and weeks later, she received NO customer service from them.

After going all the 'normal routes' for assistance, she finally turned to Twitter.

And got their attention.

And a phone call from executive management at Whirlpool.

Her washer is now fixed.

For those interested, I'd highly recommend reading the whole story HERE.

She's a great/funny writer, and it's an interesting read.

One of the heated debates circulating around this event, is whether or not she pulled the 'power & influence & don't you know who I am' card(s), to get the problem solved immediately.

And if she did, should she have?

I missed the whole thing.

I'm not on Twitter.

But personally, (at the risk of pissing off the DOOCE haters), I say MORE POWER TO HER!

We've all been there.

We've all had the shitty customer service. The nasty, no help, insolent, I don't care Chick/Dude on the other end of the phone.

I'm sure many of us have said on more than one occasion "Let me speak to your manager!"

Although there are many branches to the 'She shouldn't have used Twitter because ' tree, one that jumped out at me, was the comments/posts/threads claiming the ONLY reason she received immediate assistance, AND a call from the Whirlpool VP is BECAUSE she's an 'Internet Celebrity'.


Most likely.

But ya know what? Not ONLY celebrities can get good or immediate customer service from a 'higher up' in an organization.

I wouldn't recommend it in EVERY situation. But sometimes, yes, I DO believe it's OK to go right to the top if need be.

There have only been two moments in my life where I’ve gone over a supervisor’s head.

Two instances where I’ve contacted the ‘head honcho’ of a corporation. LARGE corporations.

And you know what? Me, the lowly unknown blogger/person, got service.



And I’m not even #26!

I just needed the RIGHT person to hear my story. The person who actually had the power to FIX it. And it was fixed.


You don't have to be a 'celebrity' to get a response from a VP or President. You just have to be able to hunt down their email address/phone number and take it upon yourself to get out there and CONTACT THEM.

Granted, what they DO with your correspondance, well that's a crap shoot. But you at least have to put yourself out there, and tell them your story.

And then, there was the event almost two weeks ago, that made me want to post my most recent GOOD customer service experience!

Back in July, I received an email from a marketing company, asking me if I'd be interested in receiving and reviewing a book for parents.

101 Questions Kids Really Ask, And The Answers They Need To Know.

When I saw the subtitle ...

I said SURE!

I knew the guy who sits in front of me at work, would be disappointed my next 'free sample' to review wouldn't be chocolate I could share at the office, but I was excited about it ;-)

So, I waited.

And waited.

I've received these free products from marketing companies before. And it's happened once before that I had to contact them, because I hadn't received the item after a couple of weeks.

Once I followed up, I received it within a couple of days.

When I hadn't received the book after three weeks, I sent an email off to the marketing rep.

The next day, I received a response.

Not from the marketing rep, not a representative from Healthy Edudynamics, the company who produced the book, as part of their educational package, A Time To Talk.

No, I received an email from the author, and president/ceo of the company, Mary H. Halter.

From her blackberry.

Now that, I thought was pretty cool.

My follow up email landed on the marketing desk, which was forwarded to the Healthy Edudynamics people, where it ended up in the hands of the author.

She didn't have to send me a personal reply. But she did.

And I received my book a couple of days later.

I'm not sure if it was the original book that was sent and just happened to arrive when it did, or if another one was sent immediately after my conversation with the author.

I don't know.

But the fact the author took it upon herself to contact me directly?

THAT, I thought was great customer service.

Will that make a difference in my upcoming review of the book?


But I'm saying it here, and now, with all this talk of Customer Service.

Sometimes, you DO get good service.

And sometimes, you don't have to be #26 to be heard.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Plenty of Fish? More Like Lots Of Seaweed!

Last night I hit the road for a 'Girls Night Out' with Cass.

No, there are no karaoke videos for you today ;-)

After our 'Sip & Bitch' session (coffee in the kitchen) we decided to head out to one of the clubs that had a Country band playing.

We had no interest in singing last night. Just shaking our Groove Thang.

We don't often go out to the bars in her town, because it's a small town, where everybody knows everybody, and people like to 'talk'.

But, we hadn't been to this place in over a year, figured there might be a 'good crowd' last night because the Exhibition was wrapping up, and most likely there would be people going out afterwards.

So, since nobody likes to go to a dead bar to shake their groove thang, we gave it a shot.

Got to the bar, grabbed a drink and table and surveyed the scene.

First thing Cass said was "That's weird, I don't know anyone here tonight!"

Remember, small town. That should have been our first clue that something was 'off'.

After a few minutes, she leaned over and said "What a strange mix of people here tonight!"

And it was.

A mix of old and young. But mostly 'older'.

Which is cool. Just strange for this particular bar.

Once the band started up after intermission, the dance floor was PACKED.

Another oddity.

Now, when Cass and I go out to a bar, we get looked at. And hit on. And asked to dance.

I don't say that to sound conceited, it just happens.

Something about the combination of the tall brunette and short blond get us stared at.

We're always polite, and sometimes we'll even dance with the strangers, but we have NO INTEREST in 'picking up'.

None. Nada. Zilch.

We're there for the music, and to dance.

Sometimes with those who ask, but mostly just with each other.

Cause we LOVE to dance!

So, last night being no different than any other, we felt 'the eyes' on us.

Checking us out.

And I have to admit, I always find that a bit uncomfortable, because as I said, we're not there to pick up.

But last night, for some reason, that feeling of being on display was even stronger.

I had just finished saying to her how good I thought the band was, and turned around to find some guy kneeling next to my chair.

Scared the crap out of me, because I didn't even hear him come up.

Great! We'd only been there maybe 15 minutes and it was starting.

The conversation went something like this...

Guy: Hi

Me: Hi

Guy: The band is pretty good aren't they?

Me: YES. They really are.

Guy: Are you from around here?

Me, pointing to Cass: She is, but I'm not.

Guy: Are you here for the Plenty of Fish thing?

OMIGOD!!! NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Not what I said to him, but what went screaming through my brain.

Plenty of Fish is an online dating site! I had heard about it. Had seen it.

OMIGOD!!!! These people were going to think we were here looking for FISH!!!!

To him I said, "Uh .... no. We just happened to come here. Had no idea. Is THAT what's going on here tonight?"

Guy: "Yeah, I came up from Halifax with my buddy to check it out. So you're not here for that?"

Me: "Um. No."


Guy: "Do you mind if I sit down while I wait for my friend?"

Thinking ... thinking ... thinking ... how do I say No and still be polite?

Me: "Uh ... sorry, we just stopped in for a minute and will be leaving soon."

OK, crappy answer I know, but I didn't want him sitting with us.

I wasn't casting my net for any fish, thanks.

Then I did my 'Smile, and turn away so he knows you're not interested' move.

That did it. He moved on.

I turned to Cass, grabbed her arm and said "HOLY SHIT! This is a Plenty of Fish gathering here tonight!"

I could see she didn't know what I was talking about.

"Plenty of Fish! The DATING site! All these people are out FISHING!"

Her eyes got huge! "NO!"

I replied with, "Oh yeah, Baby!"

She said, "No wonder it feels so weird in here tonight!"

Then she looked down at her shirt and said "AW SHIT!"

Here she had walked into the online dating scene gathering, in a red t-shirt, with screaming white block letters that said "CRAZY BUT FUN!"

How's THAT for a walking billboard for the little fishies!

At that point, I was wishing I had a big sign to hold over my head ...


We then decided we'd be finishing our drinks and getting the hell of out dodge.

We had seen enough. Heard enough.

At one point, she leaned over and said "Well, there ya go, this just goes to show you what you're ACTUALLY communicating with online. Nice catches huh?"

She wasn't saying that to be mean. There was just NOBODY there that either of us would have been interested in.


And yes, I'm being totally superficial, because that comment was based on looks alone. No conversation.

But come on, people, it's usually someones 'look' that attracts you to them first.

And as far as we were concerned, there was NOTHING to look at!

I'm a chair dancer. If the music is good, you'll usually find me grooving in my seat if not on the dance floor. The down side of that, is that it gives off the impression that you want to dance, when sometimes you'd rather not.

Because the music was awesome, I turned to her and said "This is killing me! I LOVE that song, but don't want to move at all, not even a toe tap! I don't want to encourage the fishes to swim over!"

She was doing the same. Holding herself in place in her chair.

I told her, 'You realize, if anyone else comes over, I'm telling them 'Sorry, I'm sleeping with the band. Or better yet, I'm with HER!'

She was OK with that. As I know she'd say the same thing if the situations were reversed.

Someone else DID come over. Someone she knew. We made him sit with us until we left.

Let the others think that this buddy had cast his net, and caught both of us.

He had no idea it was Plenty of Fish night either. Had just stopped by on a fluke and walked into it.

At one point, he leaned over and asked me, "So what do you think? Plenty of fish?"

To which I immediately answered "Fish? More like just lots of SEAWEED!!!!"

We stayed long enough for Cass to have another drink, (since I was driving I had only had half of one) and then we hightailed it outta there!

I'm sure for those that were there specifically for the event, nets were cast and fish were caught.

Seeing the couple standing two feet away from our table, driving their tongues down each others throat was evidence of that.

But for us, there were no nets cast, no fish caught.

We simply tread lightly through the seaweed, and got the hell outta there.

Cause although I may be single, and there may have been Plenty of Fish ...

I'm a computer geek ... NOT a Fisherman.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Oh We SummerSlammed! But Bill Got The Last Laugh! Or DID He?

So, I mentioned in my previous post, that the boys had been anticipating the new WWE wrestling Pay-Per-View, SummerSlam.

Unfortunately, we were scheduled to be hit with Hurricane Bill on the same day as the show.

Sunday came.

We waited ... and waited ... and waited.

For the 'Hurricane that wasn't'.

Oh it rained. Hard. And it was windy. Peggy's Cove and local beaches reported HUGE waves and surges.

But we suffered NOTHING like what Hurricane Juan brought us back in 2003.

Which is a good thing. I'm not complaining!

So, with my purse filled with snacks and Kool-Aid Jammers, off we went to the show (and STILL bought popcorn!).

The THREE HOUR show!

You know you really love your kids, when you find yourself sitting through three hours of wrestling.

Oh yeah, we SummerSlammed. And the boys loved it.

But Bill ended up getting the last laugh on us.

Or did he?

We got to the theatre in plenty of time for great seats. Bonus.

The show started, men went flying, and so it went, match after match after match.

Until the final match. The BIG FINALE.

The event we'd waited three hours to see.

The Tables, Ladders and Chairs Match. Or, better known among the Wrestlemanics as the TLC match.

Jeff Hardy vs CM Punk for 'The World Heavyweight Title'

Back and forth they went. Up ladders, landing on ladders, through tables, denting chairs.

Then, after Jeff had slammed CM Punk through the nearest table (again), and you sensed the final moments approaching, the excitement building, it happened ....

The winds from Hurricane Bill knocked out the satellite signal to Empire Theatres.

Five minutes (or so) left in the FINAL match, a title match, and ... poof. Gone. Over.

The theatre was left staring at the blue satellite screen of death.

I'm sure the collective groan heard through the theatre, could be heard through the entire cineplex.

Then the catcalls started, the throwing of popcorn, the general feel of 'natives getting restless'.

Around us, we could hear the grumblings of 'refund' and other strings of colourful expressions that made me want to yell 'People! Kids in the house!!!'.

But we sat there, silently, waiting to see what would happen next.

A couple of minutes into the 'technical difficulties', one of the theatre personnel walked in and started to apologize.

There was nothing they could do. It was due to the storm. The show would not be continuing.

Nobody wanted apologies. They wanted to see Jeff Hardy slam CM Punk's butt through a table!

The low rumblings started once again.

I'd had enough. It was late. Night was over. Show was over. If they were compensating in any way, I wanted to find out BEFORE I left.

So, of course, me being me, and at the sake of embarrassing my kids, I yelled from the back row ...

'Since we missed the end of the LAST match, does that mean we'll be getting a refund?'

WHAT? Everyone was thinking it!

All they could do was say 'No', and we'd be on our way.

You never know unless you ask. Right?

All eyes turned to Theatre Dude.

To which the he replied, 'I'll have to go and get the manager.'

The manager was back in a minute or so, with more apologies, but even better ... he (or maybe it was a she, a few people showed up) offered TWO free tickets to everyone.

They are valid until 2011, and can be used for ANY event. Regular movie or Pay-Per-Views.

They also threw in a couple of $3 off coupons for treats.

It wasn't THEIR fault Bill decided to end the match early. And we HAD seen everything up to these final few minutes.

So that was pretty cool of them. Thank You Empire Theatres

Sure, Bill may have cut the show short, and had a good chuckle to himself over that.

But, as soon as we got home, the boys were able to check online to find out who won that final match.

And even better, they now have their 'free tickets' to Wrestlemania XVI and any other WWE Pay-Per-View event they want to attend next summer.

So, I think WE had the last laugh, Bill.

All the way home from the theatre.


Friday, August 21, 2009

SummerSlam? Or Just Plain Slammed?

SummerSlam is a Pay-Per-View event on WWE.

Pic taken from

I don't subscribe to each one of these (almost monthly) events. They cost 'extra' money I don't always have.

However, a few months ago, we did attend one at Empire Theatres. The boys LOVED it on the big screen.

When they started announcing SummerSlam on Smackdown and RAW, over a month ago, the boys asked if we could go to the theatre again.

I told them, 'Sure! As long as you save your allowance for the three weeks beforehand, and pay for your own tickets.'

And they did.

I couldn't believe it.

They both wanted to see SummerSlam, to the point they were willing to give up three weeks worth of treats piece of crap toy movies cash for the tickets.

Not only was I amazed, but also impressed.

Empire Theatres, Sunday night, 9pm. That was the plan.

Until Hurricane Bill decided to join us here in Nova Scotia. He's scheduled to move in Sunday evening.

At the moment, as a Cat 2.

In Sept 2003, we were hit with Hurricane Juan.

It wasn't pretty.

Pic taken from Here

Pic taken from HERE

Juan was said to have swept through Nova Scotia and PEI as a 'high 1 - low 2'

It's on everybody's mind and lips. The coming 'storm'.

People are making preparations. Just in case.

We remember Juan all too well.

Both at the day camp this afternoon, and the ball field this evening, the same words were being carried on the wind, over the crowd - 'expecting high 2 - low 3 ...'


If that's what we get, it's NOT going to be pretty. Again.

I've been following it on Stormpulse.

This was Bill this morning.

This is Bill 12 hrs later.

Halifax is up there on the right. Feel free to enlarge.

Now, the plan is, wait for the forecast.

If Bill is downgraded to a tropical storm or less, we'll probably attempt SummerSlam.

If Sunday's warning contains the word 'Hurricane' ... we stay home and get slammed by wind, rain, and fear of the past.

So ... what's it going to be Mother Nature? Huh? SummerSlam, or just plain Slammed?


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tourists! Welcome To Our Beautiful City! Now ... Smarten the F*#K Up So You Make It Out Alive!

Halifax is a beautiful city.

A port city.

Many cruise ships stop here.

Pic taken from HERE

Many tourists walk our streets.

OK, so these ones are lined up along the waterfront, not on the street. You GET my drift!

The tourists arrive in droves to visit many of our city's events.

For the Tall Ships - with their Parade of Sail

Or, the two week Busker Festival

Pic taken from HERE

Pic taken from HERE

And many other great events that take place in our lively city.

With so many tourists in the heart of downtown Halifax, it gets very busy.

Especially during end of day rush hour, with everyone escaping their cubes, all trying to get home as fast as they can, to enjoy a bit of end of the day sunshine.

I think it's wonderful that so many people want to visit our city.

Walk our streets.

See our sights.

Buy our stuff.

But, Tourists, if you can hear me, I'd like to give you one small piece of unsolicited advice.


Lower Water Street is one of the busiest streets in Halifax at end of day rush hour.

Look how close that white car is to my butt! Bumper to bumper I tell ya!

Lower Water is also a busy tourist street. They're EVERYWHERE on that street!

And here's the problem ...

Many, not all, but many, DON'T use crosswalks!

People! Do they not have crosswalks where you come from?

'Oh look, a lull in traffic! Honey, grab the kid's hands, we're making a run for it between these two slowly moving cars!'

Tourists! Are you kidding me?

Walk another 20ft and there's a crosswalk RIGHT THERE!!!

Don't be grabbing your kid's hand, and trying to zoom through the slow moving cars, with your kid flying out behind you!

I know you like our city, but really, you don't want to become a part of Lower Water Street THAT bad, do you?

Although I'm picking on the tourists, regular old Haligonians are guilty of it too.

Including the bikers!

'Oh ... I think I'll cross ... HERE!'

Thankfully, here in the Maritimes, we're usually a polite bunch 'o folk.

We WILL stop to let cars out in front of us. And we will pause for pedestrians that cross our paths.

But, Tourists, seriously ... don't take your chances running through this ...

with your kids trailing out behind you, trying to keep up.

Please, for the love of Halifax, use THIS instead!

Pic taken from HERE

We DO like you visiting. But we'd also like to see you leave.


Have a nice day in our beautiful city!

Thank you.

Please come again!


Friday, August 14, 2009

Watch Your Back

'Watch your back'

Those three words stared back at me from the Facebook chat window.


"Who sent you that?' I asked, as I looked from the computer screen to Alec.

'John Doe', he replied.

John Doe is a boy, who gave Alec a hard time at the beginning of school last year.

Then things seemed to get better.

Then, John Doe got in trouble for something towards the end of the school year. He believes Alec is to blame for him getting caught.

Whether or not Alec had anything to do with it is not the point, as far as I'm concerned.

The 'Watch your back' concerns me, because 'Watch your back' means the same thing if you're 14 or 40.

He's looking to kick Alec's butt.

However, at (closer to) 40 (than 14), I take 'Watch your back' a bit more seriously I think, than little John Doe.

I consider it a full fledged threat.

And I really don't like someone threatening my kid.

I asked Alec to show me the whole message thread.

John Doe accused Alec of ratting him out.

Alec denied it.

He accused.

Alec denied.

He told Alec to 'Watch your back'.


The Mamma Bear side of me wanted to grab that keyboard from Alec and send my OWN message back.

Along the lines of 'LISTEN ya little shit!!!!'

But of course I didn't.

Instead, I calmly took over the keyboard and typed 'What proof do these people/you have that it was me?'

Nothing came back.

So, Alec and I talked about it. And what to do about it.

I considered writing a message on Alec's wall, along the lines of "Listen John Doe ...!'

But, everyone else on Alec's Friend List would also see this, and I don't want to make things worse for him by having John Doe thinking/saying Alec's mommy was fighting his battles for him.

Then, I thought about sending John Doe a private message, letting him know that I saw the message thread and I considered what he said a threat, and NOTHING better happen to Alec.

Believe me, I have no intention of threatening this kid, myself. Let me make that clear. I have no intention of threatening this kid, myself.

Everybody straight on that?

I simply wanted him know that I SAW the message thread. Period.

However, his Facebook privacy settings were such that I can't even send him a private message.

Which is an excellent security practice, but sucked for me.

Maybe I should send him an IM? Nope, he was no longer online.

So I did nothing.

Except ensure Alec that he can let me know how things go when school starts, and we'll take it from there.

And to let me know if he gets any more messages from this kid.


It was so much easier, when you could just take the toy they were fighting over, hold them at arms length and say, 'Play NICE boys! Don't be mean to each other.'

Instead of wondering if your kid is going to come home from school one day, bruised and beaten.

Or worse.

No. I'm not being paranoid, People.

Look at the times we live in.

The high school these boys will be attending next year, had three bomb threats and lock downs last year alone.

Kids don't seem to believe in an old fashion fist fight these days.

Violence IS in our schools.

I'm being realistic, somewhat apprehensive, and even a bit angry.

But not paranoid.

I tried to save the Facebook chat history ... just in case.

In case this kid DOES happen to go after Alec.

Cause if THAT happens? THEN I'll be stepping in. And calling the police.

And pointing back to that original 'Watch your back' message.

Unfortunately, I don't think you can save the chat history. Or if you can, I don't believe Alec had that option turned on.

Alec doesn't want to get the crap kicked out of him.

But he also doesn't want me getting involved.

What's a mom to do?

At the risk of doing serious damage to my tongue from biting it, I've agreed not to say anything.

For now.

John Doe may be telling Alec to watch his back, but I'm telling you Mr John Doe ...

I'll be watching YOU!


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Work? Where's The Incentive For A Single Mom To WORK?

Sorry everyone. This is one of my longer rants. But it's been building. And now, it's time.

I've been working since I was old enough to babysit.

I graduated from babysitting, to grocery girl, to food waitress in a hotel, to drink waitress in a bar (cause we all know, THAT'S where the money is!), to nanny, to technology and training, to where I am now.

Sometimes, I wonder why I bother to work.

I mean, I know I HAVE to work. Being a productive member of society, self respect, paying my own way in the world, role model for my kids. All that good stuff.

But one thing I've noticed being a single mother, is that I'd have a WHOLE LOT MORE money in my pocket, and a whole lot more options for my kids, if I just quit the rat-race and went on The System.

Yes, I know. The System is for people who can't seem to help themselves. Or to temporarily help them get over the hurdle(s) life has thrown at them.

But who are we REALLY helping here?

And who really NEEDS that help?

But, more importantly to ME at the moment, who comes up with the RULES on WHO the Government and social programs are willing to help?

Cause I've gotta tell you, the programs that I've looked into since becoming a single parent, they certainly weren't designed to help ME!!! Or anyone else trying to hold a mid-level paying job, hold it together and be a productive member of our society!

I work a Monday to Friday, 9-5 job.

I have a salary, benefits and vacation.

Sounds great doesn't it?

But let's put this into perspective, shall we?

I may have a 'good' job by Govt standards, but it's still only ONE income. And my vacation time is used for things like March Break and Christmas Break from school. Basically any time the kids are out of school for an extended period, I take vacation time, to save on the daycare costs.

I do NOT receive child support. I should. But I don't. And that's a whole other post. One I'd probably write, if I hadn't promised myself 'NO EX BASHING' on my blog ;-)

I pay for everything for my children on my own.

School supplies
All school costs (trips, milk money, school fundraisers etc.)
Daycare during the school year
Day-camp for the summer months
All sporting costs
Birthday parties
They have a house to live in
I have a car to drive them around in
Incidentals (Mom! My bike helmet broke, I need a new one! They're ONLY $50)
And every other want and need, within reason, that children between the ages of 9 & 13 require.

I pay for it.


And it's HARD!

Yes, it was my choice to have these kids.

Yes, it was my choice to end my marriage.

Yes, my mother sends me more than 'a few bucks' to help sometimes. I don't know what I'd do without her.

But for the most part, it's all me. Just me.

And what I wasn't counting on, when I ended up as a single parent, was having to do EVERYTHING financially on my own.

However, no child support for the last five years, and the bare minimum amount for Child Tax Benefits ... because the govt thinks I make too much money, to refund anything sensible ... has forced me to change my thinking.

That's when I started selling everything that wasn't nailed down on Kijiji.


I've only sold some things ;-)

I also started seriously looking into the 'Programs' that are out there to help people.

I use that term 'help' very loosely, because what I found out, is that unless you earn very little, and have basically hit rock bottom, too bad, 'You make enough, help yourself, Sweetheart!'

Or, unless you fall into a particular 'category', no help for you!

Salary seems to be the only deciding factor, and there are SO many other things to be taken into consideration.

And that's the problem for me. I don't WANT to hit rock bottom before I can get the help I need NOW.

Not asking for and getting help, from programs designed to help 'people like me', is just sending me further and further into that black hole of 'HELP YOURSELF SWEETHEART!'; forcing me to stand on the edge, and peek over to that rocky bottom.

And just where would I end up if I hit that bottom?


As a full fledged member of The System perhaps?

Anyone see a pattern here?

The first time I ran into this, was with a program that DIDN'T involve money or whether or not I work, at all.

But, since I still didn't fit the cardboard cutout of who should be accepted, I associate it with the others experiences.

It was with the
Big Brothers / Big Sisters program.

My ex lives less than five minutes away.

He 'takes' the boys every second weekend. No visits / sleepovers other than on 'his' weekends, unless the boys specifically call and ask him if they can stay over.
Now, without getting into Ex-bashing, this is wrong.

It bothers me, that one or both of the boys can't simply go over for a night, unplanned, without them calling HIM first to ask.

It bothers me, that my Ex will not call one or both of the boys after dinner some evening and say 'Let's go shoot some hoops.' Or, 'Let's go fishing!' Or, 'How about we go to the bike park?'

It doesn't have to cost money. Just time. It's all about spending time.

That bothers me. A lot.

So, I went to the
Big Brothers / Big Sisters program.

I wanted the boys to have a guy they could 'hang out' with if they felt the need to. Someone they could TALK to who wasn't their mother.

Maybe, they would LOVE to go and shoot some hoops after dinner on a Tuesday night. Unplanned. Unscheduled.

They wouldn't help me.

I'm single. But not single ENOUGH I guess.

Because the boys see their father every second weekend, they do not qualify for the Big Brother program.

Doesn't matter that they may want to hang out with a male role model one of the other 12 days of that two week period.

According to the Big Brother people, they're with their father 4 days out of 30-31.

That's ALL the male role modelling/interaction they need.

And we wonder why our world is so screwed up?

I'm ASKING to have my boys influenced by good male role models, on a REGULAR basis. More than FOUR DAYS a month!

Apparently I'm wrong in thinking that way. Go figure.

Maybe I just expected too much of the program, and it's really NOT designed for my kids.

The next time I ran into the 'We'll help you ONLY if you've hit rock bottom' scenario, was when I looked into getting help paying for the kids sports programs.

I'm a HUGE believer that sports keep kids healthy, happy, learning and OUT OF TROUBLE!

And hey ... maybe even ... positive male role models!!! ;-)

My boys have always played Baseball
Alec has played Football
Alec has played Soccer
Adam loves Gymnastics
Both in Basketball
Both have done swimming programs through the day-camp

And these do NOT include the sports programs (offered at $55/week) through the day-camp program, which is over and above the cost of the day-camp program itself.

ALL of these sports cost money to play.

And Hockey? Forget hockey! Do you know how much GUILT I have, over having two CANADIAN boys who have never played organized HOCKEY?!?!? I can't afford the gear, let alone the registration fees!

But, just to give you a small example: Adam's gymnastics? Because he's THAT good, he was in an advanced program. Which costs more, of course. Pushing $300. For 12 weeks.

Boys basketball fees? Because they both play competitive ... $285 ... EACH!

That's almost $600 for the boys to play basketball alone!

And of course any sport related gear that goes along with all of it.

But I pay it.

And they play it.

But it would have been nice to have a little help with it.

That's why I looked into

KidSport. After seeing all their fantastic commercials, stating how 'No kid is left on the sidelines'

According to
KidSport Canada: We believe that no kid should be left on the sidelines and all should be given the opportunity to experience the positive benefits of organized sports. KidSport™ provides support to children in order to remove financial barriers that prevent them from playing organized sport.

I believe in that too!

Oh yes! $600 IS a financial barrier for a single parent!

'Oh .. but you work? You make how much? Sorry. NO HELP FOR YOU!'

Thanks. So my kids MAY end up on the sidelines after all, because I don't fall into the right category of single parent. The one who earns barely enough to keep the kids fed, clothed and housed in something more than a car.

They look at what you take home, but don't take into consideration the deductions from the take home that are required to survive.


And before I get jumped on, yes, I KNOW you can claim up to $500 for 'sports fees' on your taxes, and get that money back, but every year, I pay more than I get back.

And it would be nice to have the help up-front, when it's time to actually shell out that $600 in September, when basketball starts ... along with all the other back to school fees. THAT'S when it would help!

Apparently, my family just isn't right for this program. Again.

My last straw with 'Let us help you!' programs, came a few weeks ago.

I need help with my house.

Or more specifically, I need help making my house 'energy efficient'.

You see, although I make this buttload of money, (sarcasm, People!) so I can solely support my kids, I have nothing left over to finish my (w)rec(ked) room.

The basement that was not finished when we bought the house.

Which wasn't actually a big deal, because at the time, the Ex, who works in contractor type work, was going to FINISH the basement.

A year later, due to a slight change in plans, known to some as separation/divorce, those renovations didn't happen.

So, I still have a basement with a concrete floor.

A laundry room with incomplete walls ... I look at pretty pink insulation when I do a wash.

A crawl space that's not properly insulated.

No baseboards.

Walls in some places, no walls in others.

I could throw up some pics, but do I really HAVE to? lol

All kinds of issues where heat is escaping the house.

Except the windows. There were all new windows in the house when I bought it.

Now, again you may think 'You knew this when you bought the house'.

Yes, yes I did. However, what I also knew, when I bought the house, was that it would be 'fixed', here and there, over time, by my then-husband.

Fast forward five years. No husband. No fixing. HUGE electricity bill.

HUGE! Monstrous! Almost half my mortgage per bill, monstrous!

So much so, I've spoken to NS Power regarding the bill on NUMEROUS occasions over the past five years.

They always agree with me. 'Yes! Your usage IS extremely high. For a house having new windows, new appliances, only one adult and two children who aren't there during the day. Yes. Extremely high.'

Then out comes the hand. Smile. And 'Thank you for your money!'

I need this basement fixed. I need that power bill to go DOWN!

I can handle paying my mortgage. It's the power that's killing me.

I've tried selling the house. Upstairs is great. New kitchen & bathroom, refinished original hardwood floors.

But I got the same reaction from everyone who came through it, 'Too much work to do in the basement'.

Wouldn't you know, there is a government grant that will help me.

I can receive up to $5000 for home improvements. Under the
program to make my home more energy efficient.

Oh ... wait ... but since I make a buttload of money (again with the sarcasm, People!), they won't help me!

H-E-L-L-O! I have no intention of running to Vegas with the money. I need to fix my freakin' excuse for a basement!!!

I even told the Govt. Grant Guy on the phone 'Come and see my basement! THAT should determine whether or not I need the help, NOT the salary cap alone! And while we're on 'the cap', let's discuss how all the regular DEDUCTIONS that come off that salary come into play in this equation!

Sorry. Bottom line, they look at salary first.

First and ONLY if you make too much money.

If not, then they look at your house, and whatever other factors come after that.

Makes sense huh?

Maybe to some. Not to this single mother, who's simply trying to avoid that whole 'Rock Bottom' thing.

This single mother who chooses to work, instead of going on The System, and having all this taken care of FOR ME! Instead of trying to take care of myself, and my family, and getting a bit of help, on a few key things.

Now you tell me, where's the incentive for the single mother to work, when there's so much more HELP out there, if you strive to earn LESS. Or worse, for those who are more willing to simply sit on their ass?


And by 'those who are more willing to simply sit on their ass?' I mean those who choose to make The System a lifestyle, and not a one time, or even temporary means of assistance.

But once again, I guess I'm expecting too much and it's just not a program meant for our family.

One, who for the most part, are trying to help themselves.

OK, off my soapbox (for now), I have to run.

I have to go find things to burn in my (w)rec(ked) room, so I don't have to turn the heat on down there tonight.

My own version of 'energy efficiency'!


Saturday, August 8, 2009

We Have Fans? WHO KNEW?!?!?!

A couple of months ago, I told you how my partner in crime, Cass, and I go out every now and then for a Girls Karaoke Night Out.

Last post, I mentioned how I ended Vacation 2009 with, among other things, a Girls Night Out.

Yes, People.

It was Karaoke night, again!

This time we went to
Dooley's. The local pool hall in Truro, NS.

We got there late, so we skipped the game of pool, and went straight to the Karaoke!

We had only been there once before. About a month ago.

That was a good night :-) Karaoke was supposed to end around 12:30am and we didn't leave there until after 2am!

Last weekend, we walked in, grabbed a table and were there no more than five minutes before Craig, the Karaoke Host, came over to us, sat down, and said 'Hey! I remember you guys! You sing.'

Now, some/you may disagree with Craig. And that's OK. There's a fine line between 'can' and 'do'.

But if we decide to show up, yes, we do attempt to sing.

He left a few minutes later, and called on the next brave person to wield a microphone.

Soon, he was back. With a surprise.

Three bar shots. One for each of us.

Zambuka (minus the flame).

Mmmmm, the licorice drink L0L.

He then said "There have been people asking about you guys since the last time you were here. Wondering if you'd been back. They really liked you."


Blink. Blink.

Did he just say people were asking about 'us'?

Well now. We have fans!!! Who knew?!?!?!

After we had we downed our shots, he was gone again, then we heard 'Kim & Cassandra. You're UP!'

And so, for our fans at Dooley's, I give you ...

Down in Mississippi & Up to No Good!

Cause it's just SO 'Our Song' ;-)

FANS! {giggle}


Friday, August 7, 2009

Just The Facts Ma'am

So you know I was on vacation last week.

Reunion, living at the beach, blah, blah, blah.

I won't fill you in on a weeks worth of itinerary. But I will highlight a few things I
thought were fun and/or interesting.

Sorry, no Six Part Series like last year ;-)

The boys spent 99% of their week in the water.

Mom bought a new tube. The neighbours have a sea-doo.

For much of my week, this was my view of the boys.

We have beautiful sunsets at the beach.

And GREAT bonfires

Took the boys to the Hospitality Days Parade. Unfortunately I forgot the camera.

We happened to pick a spot at the beginning of the parade and ended up being pelted with candy from the majority of passing floats/trucks/random people walking by.

It was like Halloween! I didn't realize I should have brought a bag to carry it all home in.

I had to duck an incoming onslaught! TWICE!

And thank you Lori and Superstore, for the drinks as you went by!

One night, we watched the Hospitality Days Fireworks being set off on the water.
All fireworks pics taken by Gilles.

In the rain.

Under umbrellas

It was AWESOME!!!!

Each summer we go home, we try to play mini-golf.

Last week

Same spot - three years ago

Watched Marley & Me with Alec one night, after Adam fell asleep.

OMIGOD! We laughed. But I also cried. And I cried and cried.

Wonderful movie! Watch it!

N'uff said.

One afternoon, Alec and I stopped by my old high school.
Someone had told me about the memorial being constructed, for The Boys in Red.

A year and a half ago, tragedy struck my hometown when a van, carrying the HS boys basketball team, lost control, and slid into the path of an oncoming transport truck.

Seven of the nine players, as well as the Coach's wife died in that crash.

This is the memorial that has been constructed in their memory, behind the school.

It's not yet complete, but it looks like it's going to be a nice spot.

Each of the players names are on the plaques.

We went to see my father.

Some may think it morbid, but weather permitting, the boys and I always go to the graveyard when I'm home.

We have a short visit. I tell him how much I miss him. Then we leave.

I've noticed as the boys have gotten older, (and now that they can do math lol) they will look at the headstones they pass and will notice how old a person was when they died.

No matter which path we take, it will always bring about an 'Awww look mom, he was only a baby. She was only 16. This guy died in 1902! '

And then all of a sudden 'This guy must have been rich! Look at the size of that one!'
Brings about all sorts of discussion on the drive home.

The morning we left, the price of gas went up. From $0.93 to $0.97.

When we reached the end of the side road, we could either turn left, hit the gas station, then the highway, or right, out of our way to a gas station, then backtrack and head to the highway.

I went right.

Still not sure why. Would have been easier to go the other way, but I went right.

Got the gas, went into the store, and made a comment about the rise in price.

That's when I notice the guy on the phone, looking more than a little peeved.

The clerk rings me in and said 'Yeah, we can't get the price to change though'.

Peeved Phone Dude pipes up and says 'I'm on the phone with head office now, we can't get the computers to change the price. So you're still paying yesterday's price.'

Well WOOHOO for me! Happy dance at the gas bar counter!

Drive home was horrible.

Kids were great, but it rained. SHEETS of rain, for the first 2.5 hrs of the trip.

Once we hit the Nova Scotia border ... no rain. LITERALLY. It was like crossing the imaginary weather line.


No rain.

Ahhh it was good to be home!

My final weekend of Vacation 2009, ended with the boys going to their father's, a girls night out, and a bit of down time.

And those, Ma'am, were just the facts.