Friends

Today, I read an article by Dani Klein Modisett entitled, “Searching for Ethel.”  It was a poignant article about a women’s search for her idea of a true friend. She described her idea of such a friend and likened it to the type of friend that Ethel Mertz was to Lucy Ricardo in the television show, I Love Lucy.  The article moved me because I have always wished for an Ethel in my life.  I have seen every episode of I Love Lucy numerous times, but I still find myself actually laughing out loud when I watch the repeat marathons that often occur in the wee hours of what is usually television’s wasteland.

I actually did meet “my Ethel” and, during our time together, her previous friends would call her and she would blow them off.  I remember thinking (and….I actually confronted her by asking) – when are you going to blow me off like that?  She insisted that “there was nothing I could EVER do/say that would cause her to EVER blow me off.” I haven’t made good “people” choices in my lifetime because they’ve all gone away for one reason or another.  Don’t REAL friends stay through thick & thin / better or worse / in spite of your flaws?  Anyway, as hard as it is for me, I began to trust her.  For years, she stayed true to her word so I eventually believed that she would not leave me as everyone else had.

She was often depressed due to family issues and I tried to support her in every way I could, although it became more difficult with time.  All I could do was listen and it made me feel inadequate as she had helped me through so much of my own anguish.  She discussed her family issues so much/often that she grew weary of thinking/talking about them.  She, along with her family’s help, had put herself into a no-win situation and, I believe, she escaped her demons by spending time at my house and I, too, escaped my sorrows with laughter each time we were together.  I loved her company, personality and humor, but mostly I loved that she appeared to genuinely care about me in a way that I hadn’t felt from anyone in my life – including from my own family. My husband, and a son, had passed away and my daughter & I had become estranged (aha moment – abandonment issues).

We commiserated over past employers, friends, neighbors, family members, etc. and we solved all the problems of the world with every conversation.  Together we laughed, cried, played cards, talked ourselves into (and out of) several business ideas in a single afternoon, planned my daughter’s wedding, and we even started to write the “All American Novel.”  She was smarter, funnier, and more sophisticated than me – in every way and my own insecurities never let me realize what she saw in me or in the time we spent together.  .

I believe she either found someone else to “enable” her better than I did, or she was afraid I was going to leave her so she left me first.  Regardless of the reason, she has moved on and she used a made-up “misunderstanding” as her excuse.  She blew me off a couple times when I tried to reach out to her so I affectionately accused her of walking away.  In her non-confrontational way, she insisted that she has not walked away, but that “she is on a sabbatical of self-discovery.” I received that message in August 2012 and I haven’t heard from her since.

I no longer believe she & I could ever recapture what we had.  It is too much like trying to recreate the moment of sitting on a river’s edge beside your eight-year-old best friend as you both dangle your feet in the water while eating an ice cream cone.  Time moves on, childhood friends move away, and “true” relationships only exist on television.

Someday, I intend to finish the novel we started and I will dedicate it to her and Ethel Mertz.

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Cell Phone Booster

I live in a rural area and cannot use my cell phone at home so my sister, told me about a cell-phone booster (Airave) that she uses, but her service provider is Sprint and I use Credo and neither of us were sure whether or not this booster device is cell-phone or service-provider specific. I participated in an online chat with a person at Best Buy and they kept saying that the Airave would support my Samsung phone, but English was not this person’s native language and I couldn’t find a way to make them understand that I was asking specifically – not about my cell phone equipment, but about my service provider. I need to know if I had to be a Sprint customer or would it work with any service provider so I sent an email to Credo customer service and not only did they confirm that the equipment was compatible, but they also provide it to their customers free of charge. They put one in the mail to me via overnight express mail and I received it in two days. How awesome is that for customer service? Once again, I cannot say enough about how pleased I am with Credo.

Fast Food Drive-Thru Service or Lack Thereof

I ordered a milkshake one hot hazy day and instead of being handed a chocolate shake, the clerk on the other side of the window shoved a strawberry shake at me. The pink under the plastic lid was a dead giveaway that this person was not giving me the chocolate shake I ordered so I shook my head and said, “No, my order was for a chocolate shake.” The person on the other side of the window pulled the cup back and asked me to drive forward and someone would bring my order to me. Another time when this same thing happened, I pulled forward and waited 20+ minutes until the backup at the drive-through window calmed down and then someone brought my correct order to me.

This time, I put the solution/correction back into their lap. Knowing they would wait on me quicker because of wanting the line to move – after all, it was their mistake, not mine – I replied to the clerk at the window, “No thanks, I’ll wait right here.” The fast food employee went into a long explanation of how I needed to move forward so the other customers behind me can be serviced. I told this person, “Thank you for that explanation. I realize that you want me to move out of the way and I realize why. However, what you don’t seem to understand is that someone inside that window made a mistake on my order. If I pull forward, you will not correct the mistake until this line goes away and that is not acceptable to me because I have already paid for my food and I have already patiently waited my turn in line once. So I will stay right here while you guys figure it out for however long that may take and the customers behind me aren’t going anywhere – they will patiently wait their turn in line just like I did. Hopefully you’ll get their order correct and then you won’t have to repeat this conversation.”

Is it possible that if we all did this, fewer mistakes would be made? If not, at least the people making the mistakes will be the ones inconvenienced and not the other way around.

Fast Food Drive-Thru Windows

I get a salad at McDonalds almost every day and today everything went as usual, I drove up to the drive-thru window and placed my order. The voice in the box told me how much the order cost and prompted me to drive to the first window to pay for my food. I followed the directions and when I arrived at the first window, I paid and drove to the next window to pick up my food. I had to wait a few minutes, which was fine. Fast food isn’t always fast anymore, but under normal circumstances, I really am a patient and understanding person. It’s only when unusual things occur that sets me off, Like when the manager came to the window to show me a small package of dressing and commented that “he didn’t have any more of the usual ranch dressing, but he did have this” as he held up a small container of “mystery” dressing and asked if it was ok. I scrunched up my nose as I contemplated if I was going to like this new dressing, when he said, “Oh well, it’s all I have” and proceeded to push the bag with the salad through the window at me. It’s the unexpected stuff like this that: (1) upsets me; and, (2) catches me so off guard that I don’t react. On my way back to the office, I went through the scenario of how I should have handled the situation. Had I been given the choice, I would have ordered a different salad, but this manager made the choice for me that day of what I would eat for lunch.

First of all, when I was placing my order I should have been told that there was no more dressing so I could have had a choice in what I ate, not what the manager decided to substitute. Secondly, when the manager saw my scrunched up nose, why didn’t he ask if there was another substitute type of dressing I might have preferred?

If I wasn’t caught so off guard by this manager’s lack of customer service / regard for me as a customer, which you would think by now, I’d be used to the lack thereof – these days – but if I hadn’t been so caught off guard, I would have told the manager that it was unacceptable for him to decide what I was going to eat for lunch and because I was not given the choice, I wanted to “other” salad (that cost .20 more) at no extra charge. The McDonald’s – not me – should have been inconvenienced for: (1) running out of the salad dressing; and, (2) for not offering me that choice when I placed my order.

Traffic

I would bet the farm that each and every one reading this has encountered a frustrating moment in traffic. This morning there was a landscape vehicle pulling a trailer full of wheelbarrows, weed eaters, push mowers, etc. that stopped right in the middle of the street. The driver had his turn signal on because he wanted to move from the far right land into the middle lane. The far right lane started backing up because, of course, nobody in the middle lane is going to stop to let this vehicle move over – that would slow their commute – but this vehicle didn’t try to merge, he just stopped! Once traffic started slowing down in the middle lane because of the traffic light ahead, a good Samaritan driver allowed this vehicle to move from the right lane into the middle lane. I was appalled that this insane act of stupidity would, not only tie up traffic, but also risk a huge accident as people weaved in/out of traffic to avoid being hampered/inconvenienced by this joker. How is it possible that this driver did not realize the consequences of his actions OR did he just not care? After that fiasco was cleared and traffic started moving along, I noticed the right-turn lane that I was in had stopped when normally we move along at a steady pace. About 3 cars ahead there was another landscape vehicle pulling a trailer full of yard equipment that had traveled in the right-turn lane until he got to the front of the middle lane and then was trying to move over. Everyone in the middle lane was stopped because of the traffic light so this joker had nowhere to go, but in the meantime, he prohibited the drivers in the right-turn lane (my land) from being able to turn as we waited for the light to turn green so the lane he wanted in could move and he could be at the mercy of someone letting him in front of them.

What is the matter with these people? Is there an extra ingredient in Mac Donald’s Egg Mac Muffin that I didn’t know about or is there a side effect to the Prozac/Zoloft/Adderall fog these people live in that boosts their entitlement levels to the point where they believe it is acceptable to inconvenience ALL other people for their wants? This is a classic example of why people arrive at work wanting to tell off their boss or arrive home in the evenings wanting to yell at their children and kick the dog. That’s a huge exaggeration, but you know exactly what I mean.

AND……why do the rest of us tolerate this behavior? Is it because we think there is nothing we can do about it? I disagree. Yesterday, another person was in the right-turn lane trying to inch his way to the front of the line before moving over to the middle lane and I was stuck behind him so I laid on my horn to let him know that this action was not acceptable. The driver waived his hands in frustration because I was drawing attention to him and his selfish act, which made him uncomfortable and, in his mind that also made me the bad guy. Aw, poor thing, I made him feel uncomfortable. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of being the better person and, out of habit, always treating others as you want to be treated because I’m the only one treating others nicely. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it – I know they will get their “just deserves” in the end, but what about right now??? Sorry if this goes against the golden rule, but I predict that if every one of us laid on our horns when people did this, maybe fewer people would do it………… Just saying.

Cell Phone Service Providers – Credo vs. Verizon

A friend sent an email with a link to a new company offering a promotion to provide me with a new upgraded phone along with the offer to pay for the early termination fee if I needed to break my contract with my existing cell phone service provider. I checked out the website and, the more I read about this offer, the more I liked it.

I called Verizon and told them about the offer I was considering and I asked them if they could match the offer by upgrading my phone – free of charge – and their response was, “No, if you found a better deal, go for it.” So I did.

The new phone is a smart phone, which I had never had until now – with all the bells and whistles that are advertised all over the internet. I’m not sure – even now – if I really want the capability to change the channel on my TV from work, but I’ve learned how to download apps and am finding them to be very entertaining.

During the process of transferring my contact information and learning some of the differences in this new arena, I contacted Credo’s customer service. They never implied that I was an idiot for being new to the “smart phone” world even though they saturated the market years ago. Credo’s Customer Service representative was very patient and thorough. He answered all of my questions and even called two days later to check on me to see if I had any other questions/problems. Now I ask you, what customer service department does that anymore?

Everything Credo offered/promised came true, there were no hassles, the equipment functions correctly. When I received the early termination fee on my Verizon bill, I followed Credo’s instructions for reimbursement and they credited my bill the following month for the full amount of the early termination fee.

Most importantly, the people in their customer service department are responsive, resourceful, and they actually speak English (what a concept, huh?). I cannot say enough good things about them – compared to Verizon, Credo is an awesome organization and I am tickled with my new phone / new cellular service and it’s all because of my friend and the email she sent. I had not heard of Credo before and nobody else to whom I’ve mentioned their name since, has heard of them either, but I’m working on it – can ya tell?.

Teachers & Making a Connection with Students

Teachers & Making a Connection

Teachers don’t make a lot of money. They’re usually deemed unworthy of news coverage unless they’re involved in a scandal or a strike. Most of the time, their major accomplishments are shared only with colleagues and family members and the celebration is often cut short by a catastrophe that has taken over that specific hour’s headline. Yet, in spite of the highs and lows, I cannot think of another profession that brings both joy and challenge on a daily basis.

Today, it’s a rarity for a teachers to try to make it their business to know everything about their students – where they live and with whom; how often they have changed schools; how many siblings they have; whether or not they live in a house or an apartment; and/or, whether or not there is trauma/drama in the household. Teachers that go on home visits and/or shop in the local neighborhood stores just for the possibility of running into one of their students and/or a parent/relative with whom a student lives are frowned upon and this behavior is considered extreme – is even compared as a stalker.  Some of the best conversations are in the produce aisle at the grocery store because teaching and learning is often hindered by details that are not often available in a school record – the more you know about a person, the easier it is to develop an alliance. Positive and healthy relationships depend on clear communication and when effective communication is lacking, misunderstandings occur and intentions are misinterpreted.

Unfortunately, far too many of today’s teachers are unqualified and poorly trained. Many are working tirelessly to rectify that, but while we address what and when we teach, we must not forget to include how we deliver those lessons. Unless there is a connection between teacher/student/lesson, learning becomes tiresome to everyone involved. Yet, the value of relationships is often downplayed or ignored completely in teacher-preparation programs. Even more disturbing is the lack of useable information on the relationship-building process. There’s no place to go to learn about relationships.  Our children are raised by paid caregivers so who is teaching them about relationships?  How do our children know how to get along with their playground buddies?  What about when they’re grown – how do they know how to get along with their neighbor or their new boss?  In the 50s, moms stayed at home with their children so the children had examples set for them – they learned, by example (good or bad), how to manage various relationships – neighbor, teachers, friends, dates, spouse, employers, siblings, etc. There is the belief among some that this type of camaraderie between teachers and students leads to an unprofessional familiarity or it places the teacher in a weakened position within the hierarchy of the classroom. We leave our children in the care of individuals who spend more waking hours with them than we do; however, we don’t encourage a strong relationship or a mutual bonding that can only benefit our children through exploration, dialogue, confidence, and mutual respect.

We have now entered into an age where nothing is private and secrets are hard to keep. Our “friends” are counted by simply clicking a button. Face-to-face interactions are deemed as unnecessary and time-consuming. Of course, we can do just about anything online, including teaching and learning. However, I want to look into your eyes when the answer finally dawns on you. I want to hear the excitement in your throat when you “get” it and the inflection in your voice when you’re angry with me. I want to see the smile on your face when you forgive me. I want to share in the joy when we both realize that we make a good team.  I don’t see that as a continuing trend and that saddens me.

I was on a plane recently and the flight attendant asked my name. When I told him, he said, “I knew that was you! You taught at my elementary school. You made me take my cap off when I was inside the building and you told me I was handsome.” He then paused and said: “I think I kept my hat on until you saw me, just so I could get that compliment – thank you for making me feel special.” I, too, thanked him for how special he made me feel that day. Thankfully, there have been many former students – throughout the years – that have reminded me of the sustaining power of making a connection.

Do you often think about a teacher who made a difference in you becoming who you are today? Send me a note in the comments section.

Healthcare Providers and Insurance Companies

Did you know that when an insurance company makes a mistake involving an overpayment to a healthcare provider, the healthcare providers are required by law to report that overpayment?

I discovered an error and reported it.  The insurance company reprocessed the claims they had denied; however, the secondary insurance company had already stepped up to the plate and acted as the primary insurance company and paid the claim.  Meanwhile, the healthcare provider had been paid by both insurance companies and were still sending me an invoice for the difference between the amount charged and the allowable fee.

When I tried to inform the insurance company that the healthcare provider had collected double (sometimes more) the amount owed, I was informed that it was the healthcare provider’s responsibility – they are required by law – to report the overpayment.  the insurance company was NOT interested in the information I had to offer.  Amazing!!

Insurance Companies

Lately I seem to have had my unfair share of dealing with incompetent insurance company representatives.  Even though this information is the gospel truth, I don’t know what legal ramifications are involved with naming names, so we’ll call the insurance company “ABC Corporation” (ABC).  In August 2010, there was a mix up with payment of my premiums.  I discovered the problem – ABC incorrectly filed my payment – and the balance due now showed the corrected amount due moving forward.  However, when I changed insurance companies to “DEF Corporation” (DEF) and no longer needed ABC, I received the Proof of Insurance form from ABC and it had the dates of coverage wrong.  It showed my coverage ending on 3-31-11 instead of 4-30-11 – one month too early.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize this error until I started received medical claims that were denied.  I contacted the people who helped me resolve the premium problem they  promised to notify ABC and have them reprocess the claims. The problem now is that the secondary insurance company (DEF) became the prime insurance company when the prime (ABC) denied the claims.  Now that the error has been corrected, I was in contact with all parties and each time I spoke to someone, I was told something different.  This went on between the date of services, which was 4-27-11 through January 2012 when I’d finally had enough of dealing with both insurance companies and the healthcare providers.  Meanwhile I was starting to receive notices from the healthcare providers that they were going to send my account to the collections agencies.

So I wrote a letter.  I had kept detailed notes throughout all these conversations so, in my letter, I named names, dates, and all details. I told the insurance company what I expected and what I wanted.  Within one week, I received a phone call from a representative of ABC and she was knowledgeable, thorough, and very helpful in providing me with all the information I needed to resolve the issues with the healthcare providers and with the secondary insurance company.  When you do this, you need to:

– Be professional (if you appear irrational the company will NOT take you serious). However, there is no reason you can’t let them know how angry, frustrated, etc. you have become due to the lack of whatever it was that cause you to have to write this letter in the first place.

– State what you want and expect the recipient of the letter to do as/provide what you ask.  Blowing off steam is good when you’re talking to your best friend, but the point of writing a letter should be, at a minimum, to correct the wrong not to call the customer service representative that hung up on you three times an idiot.  Also, don’t be unreasonable in your expectations – a business that changes the oil in your automobile will NOT buy you a new car if there were no residual damages as a result of them leaving the cap off the oil pan, but if they want to keep you as a customer, they might give you free oil changes for six months.  Bottom line is:  don’t be afraid to ask for a reasonable “settlement.”

I told the insurance company what I expected and what I wanted.  Within one week, I received a phone call from a representative of ABC and she was knowledgeable, thorough, and very helpful in providing me with all the information I needed to resolve the issues with the healthcare providers and with the secondary insurance company.