Blog About It – The Adventures of MEL: The baseball hat 

Things are not always as they seem. For instance, Sara Bareilles’s chart-topping hit “Love Song” isn’t actually about not wanting to write a love song to her lover, it’s about not wanting to write one for her producers. How many tens of thousands of people sing along to this every day when it comes on the radio and don’t know that subtle difference? What else in life are we missing by taking things for face value without investigation? 

I was thinking of this the other day as I sat in a Starbucks, signing paperwork for a loan refinance on my first home. A home that I bought twelve years ago because I was supposed to be a home owner. My twenties were spent stuck in a revolving track of what I was supposed to be, what I was supposed to do, without stopping for a moment to see how I really felt. And as I signed and signed paper after paper twelve years ago, I understood far less than I do today about mortgages, rates, arms, terms. Being in my business meant that I was supposed to know all of those pitfalls that “average homeowners” fell into before the crash. I wasn’t supposed to be an average homeowner while working in the industry. But I was young, fresh out of college and it was what I was supposed to do to be able to show that I was accomplishing something. 

So here I am, twelve years later, sipping a green tea frappe across from an 84 year old man who is notarizing my docs, hands slightly shaking as he points out to me what’s on each page and where to sign. He had a Cleveland Indians hat on. I wanted to ask him about it, but we were here for a purpose first. As he went through page after page (that I actually understood this time around) I couldn’t help but remember what life was like when I took everything at face value, without wanting to know the details behind them. Impression, outward view, that was what I cared about because I grew up in a place where everyone cared about what the other person had, didn’t have and if what they had was better than yours. 

Not that most did it purposefully, they were just acting in the way they were raised, making the best of the environment they were in. We perpetuated this thirst for the perfection of the outside of the package without really putting much thought into what was stuffed in and tied up on the inside. Sure, my parents tried to instill their Brooklyn “hard work equals gain” mentality (which has come to serve me well in my 30s) but as a teenager, I only cared if my shoes, my shirt, my car was nicer or newer than my friends’. But that’s pretty normal, right?

Back to Starbucks, when finally, the last page was signed. I asked him about the Cleveland hat, dying to talk baseball with someone who reminded me of my dad. See, when you’re that age, you don’t wear a team hat for the hell of it. You wear the hat because you’re proud, because you’ve spent a lifetime following and supporting that team. Because you sat next to your dad in 25 cent outfield bleachers and learned the game base by base, game by game. 

“I’m an Indians fan” he said. While I stifled the urge to say “no shit!” I told him instead that I was raised a Yankees fan. That the game is part of the impenetrable glue that holds my relationship together with my dad from little league, through high school and day in, day out today. 

He proceeded to tell me about this night in Columbus, while he and his buddies spent the evening “getting sloshed at the local pub” and arguing over who was the best ball player of all time: Babe Ruth or Jimmie Foxx. It’s cool, I’ll wait while you go google Jimmie Foxx (and try adding the word “baseball” to the end or it will ask you “did you mean Jaime Foxx?”). He was nicknamed “The Beast” and spent 20 years in the majors, retiring in 1945. 

My notary (let’s call him “Hank” for purposes of this story) went on to explain that the more the beer flowed that night, the more heated this argument became comparing Foxx to Ruth. Late that night, a man who’d been sitting at the bar listening came over to the table and said “I’ll tell you once and for all who’s the better player. Babe Ruth. Without question.” When they drunkenly asked him how he knew that he held out his hand and said “I’m Jimmie Foxx.”

He sat down with them and proceeded to tell old baseball stories. He and Hank got to know each other and Hank helped him find a job with the city of Columbus. 

Now Hank leans in and says “Do you want to know the best thing he ever taught me?” I nodded, intrigued. 

“The only thing fair in life is a ball hit between 1st and 3rd base.”

Hank went on to tell me more about his own life, how he’d had West Nile virus, how his getting cured was a miracle and how now, being a mobile notary at 84, helped give him have a reason to get out of the house. 

If I’d just taken Hank at face value, he would have done a fine job with what he was there for. But without looking deeper, I would have missed all of the knowledge he’d dropped on me that morning, in a Starbucks in Scottsdale. 

Things are rarely fair in life (aside from a ball hit between 1st and 3rd). I’m reminded of that as I see pictures of my friends in Houston cutting out saturated drywall, as I see other friends RSVPing to local protests, and as others prepare for the impending hurricane(s). And as I whine about my dream vaca to Cuba possibly getting cancelled or postponed, I have to remember that overall, life is good. That I’ve learned over the years to look deeper into things happening around me, into myself. 

And I can only hope that someday, when I’m 84, I have a little job that gets me out of the house now and then and that some young whipper-snapper will ask me about my Yankees hat. 

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Blog About It: The Adventures of MEL – The Yankees, The Karate Kid and The Summer Break 

My blogs usually begin with a definition of a word that means something, or weaves something into the story of my day. Today’s tale includes The Karate Kid and Mr. Miyagi, and since “miyagi” doesn’t appear in the regular dictionary (though it should), I thought it might be fun to turn to Urban Dictionary for today’s definition, which is exactly why there is no definition to start off my blog today. Because, well, look it up. I’ll wait. All of the definitions. Keep going. Yeah. That. Gross.

Day 3 of my 21 days off started out with a trip to IKEA to go furniture shopping for my home office. I have a vision in mind of a stenciled accent wall (yes, I will be stenciling), white furniture, a fantastic white office chair that’s both beautiful and functional and a comfy chair to switch it up a bit when I’m on long conference calls. Modern, clean and beautiful. Calming and inspirational. And where else do you go for modern on a budget, but IKEA, the place where everything has a wonderful Swedish name, where you can dream about having a kitchen with no cabinet doors that still looks perfectly in place and also get some meatballs.

Every time I walk in, I always think how much fun it would be to just design IKEA store vignettes all day; to have the whole store to pick from to create whatever bedroom, kitchen, office or combination thereof you could think of. To yell things like “get me the salmon color Bladvass!” (which is a quilt cover and two pillowcase) or my personal favorite, the Pysslingar, which are “practical storage pockets for drawings, newspapers, toys, etc” (and incidentally cost a measly $4.99). 

I felt like Goldilocks as I tried office chair after office chair. This one’s too hard, this one’s too ugly, this one is just right. After finding the perfect white desk and most comfortable white chair to eat my porridge in, we went to the area rug section where we found the most perfect color green rug, reminiscent of grass. We had a very prestigious multi-media client in NYC. They had grass “growing” out of one entire accent wall and I remember just standing in their hip lobby and wishing it was my living room. This rug reminded me of that, so I knew I was on the right track.  

After finding a way to maneuver all of this furniture into my car, which necessitated my boyfriend’s daughter laying across the entirety of the backseat holding onto the box with the desk in it, we swung by Dairy Queen to get her some ice cream to make up for it. Did you know they make blizzards in a mini size!? 

Wanting my office to have a little fun, I also went to Target to procure a must-have that I’d seen a few days before: a T-Rex lamp, because work should be as fun as it is hard. Plus, he’s the perfect green to go with the rest of my decor. Now, I just have to name him. 

It’s summer break and here in Phoenix, their school year ends much earlier than it did for me as a child in NJ. In Jersey, it felt like the sun never set, that you could be out until 9pm and still have plenty of light for whatever mischief you were getting into. Though I never got into mischief, because, you know, I’m an angel. Here in Arizona, we don’t put the clocks forward or back, which means though the sun sets later, there’s no 9pm light to play in. It also means that our cable shows come on an hour later half the year, which you get used to after a while. 

My summer breaks were a lot like my spring/fall breaks from school – me – and a project given to me by my parents. One year it was stenciling a border around the top of the kitchen. My mom took me to Jaeger Lumber (hands up for anyone who remembers that gem) and let me pick out the stencil and the color, a flowery dusky blue. And so I spent the entire week of spring break with a brush and a stencil, pounding the bristles into the wall with a technique the person at the hardware store had shown me. Have you ever tried to stencil the top of a wall? I’m gonna save you the time – it sucks. Royally. You’re either stubble-ing over your head or trying to squish your hand into the corners while you awkwardly half-sit on your ladder. My friends were off at Disney World, or visiting family in cool places and here I was, one-cheeked on a ladder shoving this paint brush into the wall over and over and over. 

It seems like kids now are so over-scheduled with their own activities – does anyone still have to spend their summers doing endless projects? While I’m sure if you could look back at my stenciling experience, you’d hear me whining the whole time, but I finished it, because I couldn’t leave my parents’ kitchen half done. Now, if you know my mother, she is phenomenal painter, as is my sister. Their kitchen now has a window scene straight out of Calabria painted on the wall courtesy of my talented mother. She didn’t need me to paint anything. She needed me to learn something. Discipline? Follow through? Stenciling? 

Did she know twenty-five years later I’d be getting ready to voluntarily take on my own stencil project in my own home, for a home office for a job that hard work day after day had earned me? Did she know that one day I’d be on video chats with said stencil work behind me reminding me day in and day out on this new job to work hard, to never give up? Knowing my mom, she probably expected as much. 

Day 4. There are two things worshiped in my parents house: Jesus and Jeter. Say what you want about The Yankees and their payroll, about the fact that they “buy” their championships, but there’s something to be said for their work ethic, the “gentleman” attitude that they strive to convey on and off the field. I learned as a small child that hard work will get you everywhere. For anyone following Derek Jeter’s post-major league career, among other things, he took his love of literature and started his own online magazine. Instead of articles written about athletes, it’s articles written by athletes. 

Today’s article was courtesy of Jorge Posada, famed catcher of the Yankees during their hay-day in the late 90s and early 2000s. It was written as a letter from Posada to himself as a 10 year old growing up in Puerto Rico. Look it up – it brought tears to my eyes. He likened his dad to Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid, teaching him, preparing him without him knowing he was being prepared. 

He talked about spending summers painting the house and leveling out the dirt in the backyard while other kids got to play. He talked about hitting leftie every time a righty pitcher came up in little league, even though he never made contact from the left side of the plate that first year. How he grew up a shortstop his whole life and only moved to catcher when his team needed him to. How the hard work he’d done as a child had prepared him for “the Yankee way” and how all of that hard work was paid back in the form of World Series rings and friendships with some guys that would last a lifetime. 

His own Mr. Miyagi reminded me of my parents. There is not a doubt in my mind that I’m where I am today because of my parents and their Miyagi teaching. 

So what are your kids doing for summer break? What are you doing for summer break? Who in your life could use a little Miyagi-ing from you?

Wax on. Wax off. 

Blog About It: The Adventures of MEL – 21 Day Of Leisure: The Purge 

Purge [purj]: to rid of whatever is impure or undesirable; cleanse; purify
This word was on my mind a lot today as I embarked on day two of my 21 days of leisure (e.g. the time until I start my new job). I try to make my life about balance. Many things even each-other out: work/fun, me/others, eating crap/broccoli, stress/yoga, Game of Thrones/Housewives, etc. And so, I’m trying to make my time off a balance as well, between lying around and getting my home office set up. I want to get the things done that I will need for the next chapter, but I also want to be sure to reflect and honor what got me here in the first place. Balance. 

Getting my home office together means cleaning out my guest room, which has evolved over the years into my guest room/extended shoe, hat and purse room/holding place for emptying a suitcase from one trip and getting another ready for the next trip/Yankees memorabilia room. 

In order to put those things away, I needed to start The Purge in the rest of the house to put these items in the places they should go. But first, I went to my friend’s house for lunch and to hang out in the pool. Balance!

Back to The Purge: I started with the shoes. 

Oh shoes. My favorite accessory of them all. Anyone who knows me well knows that I take great pride in my shoes. I have shoes for every occasion, every outfit. I used to wear six inch heels everywhere because I never wanted anyone to know I was only five feet tall. Older woman in my office would ride down in the elevator with me and tell me, “I used to wear shoes like that when I was your age too, just wait until the back issues start.” It got to feel like almost once a week, someone of a more mature age (how’s that for tact) was telling me to enjoy my time with my shoes because the day would come when I’d no longer be able to physically handle it. And it did, and now I wear three to four inch heels instead and have worked plenty of flats into the picture, something I never thought I’d be able to do. I actually cried in Nine West when I bought my first pair of flats. Oh well. Those old ladies were right, though I think they cursed me. 

I purge the clothes in my closet twice a year: summer and non-summer (since those are the only two seasons that exist in Phoenix) but it had been a long time since I’d cleaned out my shoes. Into the donation bags they went, six inch heel after six inch heel, donation bag after donation bag filled with the accessory that once used to make me, me. 

It was fun to reminisce about each pair, places I’d worn them to, things I’d done in them, outfits I’d worn with them, people I’d been with. As I tossed pair after pair, twenty one in total…hey wait, one pair for every day between one job to the next…coincidence? I hoped each would bring someone else the joy and fun that they had brought me. Oh and yes, I kept the pairs with the sequins on them, because those are like art pieces. I’m purging, not being stupid. 

I looked at the books in my bookcase, which is also in my closet-I like minimalism in my space, and pondered on the last time I’d read any of them. Realizing the answer was never, I got out a box and put them away. Literature books from college, the Twilight Saga, all of the Harry Potter series, some F. Scott Fitzgerald (my favorite author) and some murder mysteries I’d already read once that therefore held no more mystery. Into the box they went, except for Harry Potter and a choice F. Scott. I think those will have a special place in my office.

Which now left me room to put my purses into the bookcase. Whatever works, right? Coach purse after Coach purse, one Kate Spade and one Vera Bradley got cleaned out and put away. Women keep such interesting things in purses. When I get a new one, I tend to take out my wallet, my shades, my badge for work (won’t need that anymore!) and transfer them to the new one. The old one went in an orderly stack in the corner of my guest room until I used it again. It was amusing to see what was still in them. Ten purses held fourteen Clinique lipsticks (all at the end of their life), six pens, fifty-seven cents in change, eight movie stubs (did I actually go see “This Is The End” in the movie theatre?), five packs of gum, my ASU Student ID (which interestingly enough has no expiration date – next movie is on me and my student discount!), an Osco drug and Basha’s club card (both of which don’t exist anymore) and forty-two tampons…evidently I like to be prepared!

As I continued to purge, it was like a weight was being lifted off of me every time I tied a donation bag shut, or made a trip to the dumpster. It’s freeing to get rid of things that I no longer need that could still have use for someone else. 

My dad is a purger. Major thrower-out-er. The rule in our house growing up was if anything stayed on the dining room table for a week, it was thrown out, because you obviously didn’t need it. As a kid, I hated this rule. As an adult, it’s one of my favorites. While my friends both laugh and get mad at me when they give me cards and I read them and immediately throw them out, I’ve learned to be a little more sentimental here and there…and learned to wait until they’ve walked away before tossing them in the garbage. I’d rather go out and get something when I need it then to hold on to something for three years because someday I might need it for something.  

It reminds me of my grandmother, who used to leave the plastic on all the furniture. I remember sleeping on her couch as a child and waking up because the sheet we’d put over it slipped during the night and my sweaty skin was stuck to the thick, hard plastic, an imprint of the crease running down my leg. I always used to joke with her that she was saving her furniture for the afterlife, I wonder how that yellow and brown floral pattern is serving her in heaven?

Thankfully the plastic on the furniture has escaped my generation. The things I look to collect now are experiences. Travel, visiting new restaurants with friends, museums, whatever. It’s the intangible memories that I wish for the most on birthdays and holidays. 

The Purge was over (for today) and on my last trip to the dumpster, I struggled with getting the bag, which included some papers, into the trash. A big bunch fell to the ground. I picked them up and threw them back in and missed. I picked them up and tried again and again, one smaller bunch fell free. I picked up the packet to see what the heck it was that refused to go in the trash. It was a stack of handwritten notes from my father that had somehow made it into an errant notebook that I was purging. What a blessing that they just refused to get thrown out! Those, I keep. Who says I’m not sentimental!?

So for those of you still thinking about what you can do alongside me for five minutes a day during my twenty-one days of leisure, maybe a good five minutes of purging something in your house, or in your life, will make you feel a little lighter. 

Meanwhile, if anyone would like to borrow a purse, come on over! 

Blog About It: The Adventures of MEL – 21 Days of Leisure 

Leisure [lee-zher, lezh-er]: noun. Time free from the demands of work or duty, when one can rest, enjoy hobbies or sports, etc.

The word leisure, above description curtosey of dictionary.com, can mean many things to many people. Some use it as a nice way to describe the time while someone is out of work: “Oh, he got fired from his job so he has a few months of leisure while he looks for another.” Some use it in a snarky/envious way to describe prep-school boys who go to “work” for their daddy’s company straight out of college: “Man, Chip has it made, total life of leisure.” (becuase they’re always named Chip, or Blake, or something with the “The Third” after it.) When I hear the word leisure, I always think of this computer game my brother let my friends and I play when we were way too young to understand why the game was too old for us. We knew that the “rubbers” you had Leisure Suit Larry pick up in the game were useful when he met a lady, but we didn’t quite know why. The game did have catchy theme music, though. I’m sure that was the draw…

Today, leisure is the word I choose to write about my current situation. But first, a little fairy tale, mainly because I’ve been binging the show Once Upon A Time. Here goes. 

Once upon a time, there was a girl who graduated from a very prestigious school (if you’re using the word prestigious to mean “good at throwing parties”, that is). She really loved to write. She wrote all kinds of things: poetry, short stories, plays. She started writing a book three or four times (each a different story from the other) but never finished them. And even though the girl’s degree from the aforementioned “prestigious” school was in literature, she knew she needed something to pay the bills; that her parents would not afford her the life of leisure she’d always enjoyed, forever. 

The girl was also very good at basket weaving, and she was delighted to get a job at a big basket company right out of school. She longed to travel the country and write the great American novel, but she told herself she’d have plenty more time for that someday, after she’d mastered the basket-weaving industry. After all, if John Grisham hadn’t been a lawyer before he was a writer, how good would The Firm have been, really? She loved her work, even though she felt it left her no time to write. She’d find time here or there, wherever she could, but it was very sporadic.

Time passed and the girl grew better at basket weaving. She got to travel and see the country and even earned some letters to put after her name on her signature line. Basket weaving paid the bills and put more than ramen noodles on the table, though now with all of the cool things they’re doing with ramen noodles these days, that analogy might be going out of style. 

She enjoyed working on the baskets, managing the teams that worked on the baskets, but what she really longed for, was to sell them! Selling the baskets ignited a little spark in the girl that she hadn’t felt in quite some time. It felt akin to writing. She loved selling baskets, it didn’t even feel like work to her. She enjoyed walking into a room full of people she didn’t know, and finding someone she had something in common with. It thrilled her. Each time she met someone new at a meeting, she wondered what their back story was. How was it that they ended up in the basket weaving industry? Many times during meetings with too long or boring speakers, she’d make up stories in her head about a person in the room; where they had come from, who they were married to, what type of cereal they might eat if you threw them in a room with a bowl, a spoon, some milk and the entire Kellogg’s catalog. (You can tell a great deal by a person’s cereal choice.) Whatever their backstory, she loved helping them find a solution in her baskets. 

The girl was very happy, but after fifteen years, knew that a change had to come her way. When she was ever truly unhappy about something in the past, her mom always taught her – the only thing certain in life is change, that nothing (especially pain) lasts forever. 

Her basket weaving company decided to sell a small portion of itself, and with it, she no longer had a home to do what she wanted. 
The girl (though I guess by now we should call her a woman, but that sounds way too adult for a fairly tale) went on a quest to find the perfect new basket weaving company; one that would fit the girl she was today, not fifteen years ago. And when she found what she was looking for, she knew it in her heart and jumped up and down on the hotel bed in celebration to prove it (see, I told you it was best to keep calling her a girl). 

This new basket weaving company asked her something she’d never been asked before, “Do you need a break?”. A break?, she thought. She had never considered that. “You know”, they said, “a little leisure time to recharge before you jump in with both feet.” Having taken off zero time between school and her current job, she realized just how fast fifteen years had flown. She quickly agreed, feeling like it was a stroke of luck and genius that this company had been brought into her life. 

But what would she do with twenty one days of leisure? 

She pondered and decided that no matter what else she did (hoping some of it included more sleep), she’d devote five minutes a day (at the very least) to the thing in her life that she had the least amount of time for; the thing that she was truly passionate about (aside from her feelings for Prince Charming). And so, she decided to write. 

The girl knew that the best way to keep up her writing up was to bring her friends along for the ride, something she’d learned at the University of Partying…I mean…the Prestigious school of Prestige. Why go it alone when she could help others with their passion items too!?

So my question to you is this. What could you devote at least five minutes to a day, for twenty-one days? What’s that thing that makes you, you (or maybe made you, you so long ago that you’ve forgotten how much you used to love it)? I’m not talking about squats, sit-ups, drinking more water, etc. I’m talking about the thing you are passionate about, or the thing that you used to love that you miss the most. Maybe it’s writing, or singing, or reading, or (cough) actual basket-weaving. Maybe it’s crocheting a baby hat a day for the babies in the NICU like my amazing sister just did for lent. Maybe it’s playing the viola, or meditating. Maybe it’s listening to Metallica and whipping your hair around your face. Whatever it is, join me! Five minutes might turn into ten, or thirty some days. Some days five minutes might be all you have. Whatever it ends up being, it’s five minutes a day more than you devoted to it yesterday, or last week, or fifteen years ago. 

Who’s with me?! 

Oh, and the girl lived happily ever after. Because, well, anybody who lives life with passion, is always happy. 

The end. Or is it the beginning…

Blog About It: The Adventures of MEL – My Time in the Pod 

I like to spa. I like using the word “spa” as if it’s a verb. 

To Spa: the act of putting yourself first by allowing others to massage, clean, paint and/or rub you until you forget what is going on in the outside world and who you are. 

It’s usually that moment post spa treatment, you know, those few minutes where the other person has left the room and you’re just lying there, knowing you have to get up and get dressed eventually before someone knocks on the door to ensure you’re alive, but wanting to get every single ounce of seconds in time out of it, as if that was a measurement. It’s in that moment that I’m usually trying to think of ways or schemes to afford more spa treatments. How could I do this as a full time job? Then I try to remember that I live in reality, that this is not a Disney story…and if it was, there would be an evil woman waiting outside with a poisoned apple instead of a not too cold glass of water. 

So you can understand why yesterday, as I lay face up in a pod, on top of a warmed, curved cushion (think chaise lounge), covered in a comfy sheet with a medium intensity wave of vibration going from head to feet and back to head, while cool air lightly blew on my face as warm air circled around my body (oh did I mention the aromatherapy in some sort of calming scent filling my nostrils?) why I wanted each second of this experience to last forever?

Maybe I should back up and tell you how I got into the pod in the first place. 

This tale starts out with two amazing and accomplished women I know, who decided they wanted to open their own business; a spa in North Scottsdale. It was exciting to watch the space change and grow, seeing the chairs picked out, the photos hung. When my friend’s wife asked me if I wanted to come try out a treatment on friends and family weekend, I had to physically stop myself from jumping up and down. 

See, there’s this pod thing that I’ve had my eye on since…well…every time I stopped by the spa. It’s this giant white thing that opens like a clamshell, has a suspended, curved bed in the middle and then closes around you with all these buttons up by your face. I had no idea what it was or what it did, but I know I wanted to be in it. I should probably tell you now that I’m claustrophobic. But this just looked warm and cozy and comforting. 

It immediately reminded me of a Woody Allen movie that my brother made me watch when I was little (there were many) where his character gets frozen after an operation goes wrong and wakes up hundreds of years later. I don’t remember anything else about it, I even had to look up the title on IMDB – “Sleeper”. Which is funny, because that’s exactly what the pod does. Twenty minutes in this thing is akin to two or three hours of sleep. 

It was a very relaxing Saturday, my boyfriend, Axel and I (if you read my blog, you know I always call everyone by their middle name and his happens to e very cool), went for a few miles of a walk and then planned to meet my friend Nicole for breakfast at this place I’d been wanting them to try. I love a good theme party, and this year I chose the 80’s for my birthday. In planning for this, we ordered some inflatable microphones, which arrived from Amazon right as we were heading to breakfast. After inflating one of them, we used it to sing karaoke in the car on the way. You had to have the microphone in order to speak (kind of like the cheer stick in “Bring it On”. 

We got to breakfast, only to find that there was some sort of bike and/or car show taking place in that parking lot, so we went elsewhere. Except elsewhere had a forty-five minute wait time so we went to else-elsewhere and had an amazing breakfast, can you say chocolate chip and prosciutto waffle?

Feeling full and happy, Axel dropped us off at Spa810 for friends and family day (happy to say that I think of them both as friends AND family). Our friends and owners greeted us in their sharp scrub outfits and we tried not to squeal too much as they led us back into our rooms. Nicole was getting a hydro facial and I was getting a regular facial, in the futuristic pod. I was elated. 

Sandra (which is her real name since I forgot to ask her middle name for the blog), kindly told me to get undressed and get in the pod after she’d gone over the details of what she was going to do to my face. I happily climbed in and waited for her to return and close me in. I was surprised at how warm the bed felt. I have some back issues that had been flaring up all week and lying on a warm bed felt so comforting. I slowly felt myself relax. I was almost closing my eyes as Sandra came back and closed me in. Woody Allen movie, I thought to myself, I’m in a Woody Allen movie. She played with some buttons by my face area and suddenly cool air was blowing on my face while warm air swirled around my body. 

Not sure if I’ve mentioned this before in my blog, but my dad calls me “The Princess and the Pea” because if you remember the tale, the princess was so delicate and knew exactly what was perfect and imperfect, so much so that she could feel a small pea under the ten plus mattresses that she was lying on. I am her. I asked Sandra to turn it up one degree. Ahhhh. Perfection. (Inset “Elf” movie quote about wanting to be picked up a certain Mercedes that is exactly 71 degrees). 

She punched some more buttons and a calming scent started to soothe me. The bed vibrated (which I could control the strength of in the pod with a dial near my right hand) and I felt myself melting in and my stress relaxing away. 

Sandra gave me a complimentary brow wax (I’m Italian, this stuff is necessary!) and then she proceeded to do a ton of amazing things to my face. When she brought out the steam, I was immediate reminded of my grandma, whose cure for everything was something called a “perfumo”, which consists of a boiling pot of water, some Vicks Vape-o-rub and you, sitting with a towel over your head and the boiling water; the steam opening up your pours, and breaking up whatever is in your throat. This steam seemed much safer. 

Next came the dermoplaning, which is basically a tiny little razor that takes off all of the dead skin and fine, little hairs on your face (hello, 100% Italian over here). When she was done, my face felt as soft as a baby’s…well…you know…

Nicole and I scheduled our next treatments (hydro-facial next time for me). I went make-up free the rest of the day, to shopping, to dinner. Suffice it to say, I felt amazing!

So go check them out, they are at Shea & Scottsdale Road, right next to Mod pizza and down the way from something called Guido’s (which I’m going to have to try). 480-588-6809, spa810.com/Scottsdale-Shea. Oh and they’re running a $99 special for their grand opening – 2 hours of pampering! Support a local, women-owned business, not just because they are two kick-a$$ women I know, but because having a facial inside a sleep pod might just be the coolest, and most relaxing experience you’ll have all year. I wonder if they might let me sleep in it a few nights a week…

Blog About It: The Adventures of MEL – Every Day In May

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A mile a day in May has been easier than I thought. It’s a mile. It’s a walk at night with the dog. It’s a jog around the block. It’s an intentional stroll through the airport. It’s exploration in a new city.

Last week brought me to Portland for the first time for work. You know when you feel like things unravel in a specific way because there’s a higher purpose in mind? Do you ever get that feeling? I was supposed to go to Portland last December for a work conference, but it didn’t happen. I sometimes wonder what my first impression would have been had that happened. I wouldn’t have been in the same place in life, had the experiences I have to date and hello, December?! Cold!

While I can’t speak for December Portland, May Portland kicked ass!

My parents moved out of Brooklyn to the suburbs of New Jersey before I was born to give us a better life than the one they had. My dad wanted us to have a backyard, to not worry about crime. And all I wanted growing up was to live in Brooklyn. To walk down the street to get fresh bread everyday. To fall asleep to the sounds of the city. Someday, I will do that. But it probably won’t be Brooklyn. Humidity and my hair just do not mix.

I try not to look at Timehop too much. Who needs to be reminded everyday of where you were last year, the year before that and so on. It goes against my whole goal of living in the present, but it sure is fun to look at. Was my hair really that color? What ever happened to that person I used to hang out with or that guy I dated? For some reason, I looked at it today and was remind that last year at this time, I took a day trip with my friend Marie to Montezuma’s Well.

Now, if you live in Phoenix and you’re like the rest of us who try to escape north any chance they get over the summer, you’ve passed the exit. Many of you may have been to Montezuma’s Castle (one exit beforehand) where you can see the ruins of the houses that the Sinagua Native American tribe built high into the side of a cliff.

Now, I’m not a Native American expert, but I did take Spanish in high school and college and I assume that Sinagua means without water? That’s my best guess…and this is a desert so…

The Well is a giant hole in the ground filled with water, surround by cliffs (which also hold the ruins of past dwellings) and the land is considered sacred, though I didn’t know that until I looked it up just now. What I can tell you, is that it is the most chill place I’ve ever been to.

A calm washed over me and I just felt like everything would be alright. My dog, Fosters (we’ll use her real name since her middle name is “poops”) was with us and I have never, in her ten years, seen her calmer than in this spot. I sat on a rock, overlooking the well and contemplating life. Fosters lay at my feet and I’m sure did the same, or maybe she was dreaming about giant bones made of peanut butter, but whatever it was, she chilled out. People walked by to pet her and she didn’t even jump up to great them. She just laid there and took it all in. I remember thinking how odd it was and even took video of her. But I understood how she felt. Like there was reason among all of the chaos. Like the wind flowed around you just to embrace you and tell you everything would be alright. Super hokey, I know! But you had to be there.

I felt a very similar feeling in Portland. Like the air was supporting me, telling me to have courage to do whatever the next thing in life is that I have to do. It made me want to write. It made me want to live in a loft and walk to yoga, to take Fosters to grab organic coffee. Who knows. Maybe someday, I will. It’s good to have dreams.

I walked around the Pearl District and into Powell’s Bookstore . It’s the largest independent bookstore in the country, says my Portland friend, and she should know, right? It felt good to be surrounded by that many books. It reminded me of a library. I don’t know when the last time was that I was in a library. Im sure I’ve been in one since working at the ASU library in college, but I can’t remember when. I also found a cute little change purse that had a girl floating away on a cloud that said “Bitches Get Stuff Done”. I went back the next day and purchased it. Duh.

One of the days I did my mile jogging in my friend’s neighborhood. So many flowers! I wanted to stop and take pictures, but I waited towards the end of my run. I’ve been doing Charity Miles every day during my mile a day. It’s an app that you can download and for every mile you do, money goes to a charity of your choice. Mostly I run for Autism Speaks, but there are a ton of places to pick from. I love the idea that my Mile A Day In May isn’t just for my own benefit.

I am replacing the flooring in my living room and main hallway, which means that I have to clean out the floor of the hall closet, because let’s be honest, it would look super tacky to have the closet a different flooring. I bought this house eleven years ago and today felt like a further catharsis. Photos of people who no longer have a place in my life. Things that no longer have a sentimental tie that must have been important at one time to have been in this closet in the first place.

Bags and bags of things, I tossed. Five garbage bags in all. Things from a past life that no longer bear any resemblance to who I am or what I consider important.

I went to walk my mile tonight with the dog, right around sunset since it’s getting warmer and warmer. We passed a man going through the trash, a very common occurrence in my neighborhood. Mostly they are looking for cans to cash in, but I’m sure there are people looking for food, or clothing. He had several things in a pile that I’d gotten rid of not six hours ago. Things I could have cared less about: an old toaster, posters, old blankets, a salad serving set that someone had given as a wedding gift. A giant twinge of “what are you doing with my things!?” washed over me. I watched him open the box the serving set was in and examine the silver spoon and fork that were intertwined with stones. I’d never used it.

I remembered that things are just that – things. I kept walking, hoping that whatever I’d given up today could maybe give some help, some joy, some peace tonight to someone else. 

Montezuma’s Well. May 9, 2015:

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Blog About It: The Adventures of MEL: A Mile A Day In May

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If you didn’t wake up this morning with *NSync’s “It’s gonna be me” stuck in your head, which of course, sung just like Justin Timberlake is actually, “it’s gonna be May” then you either are not in your thirties, or you missed that whole boy band thing in the late 90s/early 2000s (and more power to you) better yet, maybe you forgot it’s May?

It’s Gonna Be (May) was the video where they were action figures, breaking out of their boxes in the toy store, supposedly signifying their break away from that fat, creepy old guy that managed them whom I believe is now in jail for money laundering or Ponzi schemes or something. It’s also the video where you realized that JT didn’t need the other four guys.

Regardless, May has lots of sayings (aside from my favorite one above, which inevitably makes me want to listen to better *NSync songs like Bye, Bye, Bye…please hold while I put this down to do the dance…) there’s “April showers bring May flowers” all of which I’m allergic to, or better yet, an idea of #EveryDayInMay where you pick something to do every day during the month.

It’s kinda like make-up lent for those people who failed and ate chocolate two days in, or for those of us who love a challenge! Thankfully, I am one of the latter.

My sister, an amazing artist and illustrator, does her Every Day In May with a drawing each day – this year centering on female literary characters (we’re kind of an interesting family, if you can’t tell). I’m secretly hoping for one of the women from my favorite childhood series, either Strega Nona or Stacey McGill from The Babysitter’s Club. Hint, hint. I know you’re reading this.

I’ve been thinking about what I would like to do and thought again about getting into a habit (a good one). While I love to run (okay some days there is a very thin line between love and hate) it gets harder for me the warmer it gets in Phoenix and the worse my allergies get as those May flowers bloom, making it more difficult to get out every day (and easier to make excuses why you can’t.)

Then I read an article about streaking. No, not Will Farrell in Old School streaking, though that might be fun once, in a safe environment (and by safe environment, I mean one where no one would see me and I could still wear a sports bra because, ow). This streaking has to do with running a mile every day, for a year.

So I thought I’d take it one step at a time (literally!) and make my #everydayinmay a mile a day. While I wont commit to running it every time, it will be a mile nonetheless; an intentional mile completed in one timeframe (not a mile accumulated from walking back and forth to the break room at work throughout the day).

And what better way to kick off my Mile A Day…wait, why can’t I help wanting to rhyme this somehow with Rachel Ray, who PS is NOT the same person as Rachel Roy, so leave her alone, Beyoncé lovers. PS, why don’t you take your rage out on Jay Z, just sayin’…anyway, what better way to kick this off than with a mindful triathlon that took place in Scottsdale today: Wanderlust.

Wanderlust (aside from being a shitty movie that wasted Paul Rudd’s sex appeal, but on the plus side brought Jennifer Aniston a husband) is also a group that brings together yoga, music festivals and touts an all over healthy style of living. Today was their 108 Event (no idea why it’s called 108, and I don’t feel like looking it up) otherwise called The Mindful Triathlon. It is a 5K run, followed by vinyasa yoga, followed by guided mediation. It was like this thing was made for me; all of my favorite things in one day!

Somehow, the yoga gods or Buddha or someone looked upon us this weekend and kept the weather in the high 70s/low 80s so that we did not melt today. And while I have an awful sunburn in a beautiful pattern on my back from my lululemon sports bra (I know, I know, yoga snob alert) it was an amazing experience. I am zen times ten right now (finally got a rhyme in there).

While my Fitbit reads 4.28 miles, I definitely fulfilled day one of my every day in May. Some days might be longer, some days might be walking or running (or even a combo of both), but every day will be at least a mile. In a month where I have plenty of travel, a friend’s wedding and a continuing battle to fight my allergies, this will be an amazing way to keep me on track. No excuses.

Join me in your own every day in May, or feel free to join me in mine! Coincidently, our company is also having a 10,000 step challenge in May, so for those of you who work with me, let’s do this thing!!

Whatever you pick, keep at it, keep your head up and keep that creative spirit going…because in 31 days, it’s gonna be June, and Justin Timberlake has no song for that…yet.

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Blog About It: The Adventures of MEL – Perspective, holy water and a Seinfeld episode

Have you ever felt like you were cursed; like Midas’ nemesis, where everything you touch turns to crap instead of gold?

Have you ever tried drinking a swig of holy water (yes, I have holy water in my house, what Italian Catholic doesn’t?) to try to see if it will cure you from whatever is wrong with you?

The last two weeks have been all about perspective, and I definitely need to work on changing mine. Who wants to be the whiner who is always saying “woe is me” (or “woah, is me” if you’re Joey from Blossom). Nobody wants to hear that, and nobody wakes up and plans to feel that way throughout the day, at least I hope not.

I looked up definition of perspective; it has several definitions. The first is about drawing two dimensional figures and the comparison of height, width and depth. The third definition (which I’m not nerdy enough to comprehend) is about the spacial distribution of perceived sound. Yeah. I just said that.

I’m definitely not an artist (my sister and brother got all of that talent in the gene pool), so let’s forget definition number one. I’m also not a scientist, nor do I walk around saying “Bazinga”, so let’s scratch definition number three (cough…nerds…cough). That leaves us with the second definition – also the actual thing that I’ve struggled with this last two weeks. Perspective: 2. a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view. That’s the one.

I like to think of myself as a happy person. I smile a lot, most times because I want to, sometimes because I’m supposed to and even times when I don’t want to; because faking a smile can sometimes help you actually begin to feel better.

I do yoga, I meditate “I am happy, I am healthy, I am safe, I am peaceful and at ease.” I try to be kind when I can and remember to laugh and have fun with everything, because if you can’t laugh at yourself, that’s when you know you’ve really got issues.

April started off harmless enough; yoga, a movie with friends, pizza night with some more friends. I was excited that the start of baseball season fell on a Monday. I work from home on Mondays, and the idea of working and having the Yankees game on in the background made me the happiest girl in the world. Until the game got postponed due to weather. What weather? It’s beautiful here. I’ve been waiting six months for a postponed opening day; how anticlimactic.

But it was really when I sat down to do my taxes that I felt the immense shift in the tectonic plates (or maybe that was just my crappy couch?). I owe money every year. And every year I whine about it a little and tell my mother I’m going to change my withholdings at work and every year I inevitably promptly forget and then curse when the next year comes around. Whatever. It’s life. This year I had Siri set a reminder for me when I got to work the next day and I actually did it. Problem solved.

See, we all have problems, but it’s what we do about them that separates us from the next person. We can whine about it, feel like the victim and say why is it happening to me?, or we can take action. If we take no action, nothing changes. But sometimes, that is easier said than done.

As I finished my taxes, I noticed it was feeling a little hot and sticky in my house. In Phoenix, we can turn the air on as early as February some years. The next two days were supposed to be almost in triple digits. I got up, peeled off a piece of leather that was stuck to the back of my leg (yes, my couch is dying a slow, painful death) and went and stood under the register in the ceiling of my kitchen. The fan was on and the air was coming out, but it wasn’t cold.

I went from room to room, sticking my hand up as close as I could get it to each register, which if you know me, isn’t very close at all because I’m roughly the size of a tall midget. Or tall little person. Whatever the proper term is today. No cold air. I called the people who had installed my air conditioning ten years ago, they could come out in three days. I whined to my friend Marie who promptly gave me a number for a company she knew and boom, just like that, they were coming out the next morning. Action.

I would have to work from home the next day in order to be here for them…wait…that meant that I would get to have opening day on in the background while I worked. Silver lining. Maybe God (who is clearly a Yankees fan) wanted me to be home.

AC guy came and went, along with a new motor and a new air compressor…almost as expensive as sitting in those front section seats the Yankees have that no one ever sits in because no one can afford it and when they show tight shots of the batter, makes it looks like absolutely no one is at the game? Yeah, that.

I know everything comes in threes, but I thought, hey, I already had to buy a new refrigerator this year (which you all know about painstakingly, since you’ve been reading my blog) until the car started shaking on the highway a few days later. And, if you read my blog, you know how that turned out. Getting yelled at by the Nissan guy, flipping out and having to have a rental car for the night.

On the plus side, Nissan guy profusely apologized the next day. A real apology, not one that I had to get out of him or one that someone else had forced him to give. And after the week I’d had, all was good. All was forgiven (and I got a nice discount on my repairs). Nary a nasty letter that I’d already crafted the night before was sent.

That’s why you take a beat. That’s why you take a breath. Give yourself time to calm down, give the other person time to calm down. Look at things from another perspective. Try to come from a place of understanding.

My mom always says to be kind to everyone you meet. How do you know that person is not Jesus? She used to always ask me that when I would criticize or make fun of someone. How do you know they’re not Jesus?

A few years ago, I was visiting my friend in Seattle. A homeless person kept coming up to us, asking for money for soup. I had told my friends the “what if they’re Jesus” thing earlier that day in the hotel elevator (I think, because we were making fun of someone). My friend handed them money and whispered to me as we walked away, “What if it’s Jesus?”. We saw that same homeless person at least three times that weekend, in all different parts of the city. Each time, my friend handed them a few dollars and whispered to me “what if it’s Jesus?”.

I like to go to church when I’m on vacation, if I’m in a cool city that has a cathedral. Seattle has a beautiful one, St. James (which is also the same name of the church that I grew up in). He is the patron saint of pilgrims and laborers (I had to look that up). Fun fact, he was beheaded. Anyway, we go to mass that Sunday and it’s so amazingly beautiful inside that I can’t help but take pictures with my phone (before mass started of course); the ceiling, the stained glass windows, it’s all breathtaking.

I see the usher coming over to us and I think, Goddammit! And then I think, wait, I can’t say that in a church! And then I look at our clothes and think, maybe since it’s a Cathedral we’re supposed to cover our shoulders? Is this dress showing too much cleavage? Is he going to confiscate my phone?!

“Hello” he says kindly. “You look like visitors, where are you from?” After we tell him, he asks if we want to take up the gifts. Amazed and honored, we both nod. Now, if you’re not Catholic, taking up the gifts means that after they collect the money halfway through mass, you go stand in the back and take the basket of money, and the wine they’re going to bless, up to the priest. You walk down the isle with it, everybody looks at you and makes you self conscious, why did I wear such a low cut dress to church? 

The part comes when we’re supposed to go stand in the back and wait for the collection to be over and while we’re back there, the doors from the outside open and who of all people walks in? Our homeless lady. My friend and I look at each other and tears start to form. What if it IS Jesus? By the time we got back to our seats, she was gone.

I try to remember that story whenever I get super upset randomly at someone else. I don’t know the day they’re having. I have no idea what they are dealing with when they go home and lie in their own bed. Perspective.

This morning, almost a week after my tax, AC and car debacle, I wake up and let the dog out like normal. I turn on the shower, pick out my outfit for the day. Let the dog back in. I notice that she’s sniffing in front of the cabinet by the sink in the kitchen. I walk over and see a weird, dark water stain where she’s standing.

I open the doors of the cabinet and realize I’m standing on wet tile. My faucet has been leaking. At this point, I can either cry or take action. As I grab towels, I start to laugh. What else can go wrong? I bought this house ten years ago and replaced everything all at once: redid the kitchen, got a new air conditioner, bought a new fridge. It’s been ten years and everything is just getting old. It’s been used. It’s been worn, and shit’s gonna happen.

After cleaning up the water, I calmly check the leak. Faucet issue, for sure. Thank god it’s not a pipe. I put a pot under the leak. I bring a fan over and point it directly at the cabinet, I know how this works. I turn the water off at the main line into the house as I leave for the day. There are worse things in life, right? Remember that Seinfeld episode where Kramer installs a garbage disposal in his shower and makes a meal for Elaine, Putty and the germaphobe lady? That could be me!

After work, I go to get my emissions test done, something you need to do in Arizona every other year when your car is over five years old (mine just turned five) in order to get your yearly registration renewed. My car is in perfect condition, I know because I just paid for it to be that way. I’m smiling at the attendants as they check it, happy that there was no line and I got to pull right in.

The guy smiles back at me as he hands me the paper and says “your car has failed the emissions test. Go inside and they’ll tell you what to do.” I’m sorry, my what? My perfect car? How? So instead of crying, I remember – action. Evidently there is a data link chip (computer chip) in my car that is not working. Everything else is fine. I have 60 days to get it fixed and come back for a retest, “and the best part” the guy behind the counter says to me enthusiastically “is that you don’t have to pay the $20 for the test again!” That’s the best part? Really, dude?

So I call my guy at Nissan, thank God we made up…thank God I never sent that letter….”it’s probably just a blown fuse, bring it in and I’ll take care of it.”

And so tomorrow, I embark on another day, hopeful that it is just a blown fuse. That I’ll pass my emissions, that nothing else in my house will break. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned these last two weeks, it’s that no one is trying to punish me. This is life. Sometimes things miraculously go your way (with or without drinking a swig of Felix Felicis – wait, I take back what I said before about nerds) and sometimes, stuff happens! I should be thankful these things gave me ten years of life.

What I do know, is that I am lucky to have parents who call and ask what they can do to help. I’m lucky to have siblings that check on me every day to see how I’m doing. I’m lucky to have friends that go with me to Home Depot and help me pick out new flooring for my living room. I’m lucky to have a job to go to every day that I love, with people that actually care about me, that I actually care for back. I’m lucky to have legs to run with and arms to support me in weird yoga poses. I’m lucky to have a healthy dog, who greets me everyday with a wagging tail and a toy in her mouth, begging to play fetch. I’m amazingly lucky to have this life, broken fridge, broken AC, broken faucet and all.

I could focus on all the things that go wrong. I could focus on all of the things that I don’t have; all of the things that I expected to have at this stage of life or at this age and don’t. But when I get overwhelmed, I try to take a look at things from another perspective. I am happy. I am healthy. I am safe. I am peaceful and at ease. Most importantly – I am loved.

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Blog About It: The Adventures of MEL – Social conflict: car dealership addition

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So today I had a little car trouble, nothing huge, just that the day did not end up like I thought it would. It got me thinking about customer service. What do we want when we go somewhere and spend our hard earned money? How do we, as human beings, expect to be treated? In an age where we’re losing our social interaction skills, where kids will grow up sorting out their issues over a computer instead of trying to talk out a problem, where will we be ten years from now? What will we expect from customer service interactions then?

I was at a conference recently where the speaker pointed out that this very issue, social interactive skills, is one of the biggest contributing factors to violence in schools. Kids are not widely taught, nor do they get to practice often, social conflict. Everything can be thrown out from behind the wall of social media. You can bully someone from the comfort of your own room, without ever having to be near the person you are aiming at. It was a powerful statement that rang true with me.

I think, how can I effect this change? I don’t have any kids of my own yet to teach. I can let my dog bark it out with the neighboring dogs, at least they don’t know how to use Facebook….yet, though I have thought about starting a page for her…

Today, however, I’m no different than the rest of society. When trying to work something out verbally fails, you go to the Internet. You “take it to the streets” (a phrase that I can’t say without singing it like Michael McDonald in my head) to a larger audience to find someone who will listen.

Suffice it to say, I will not be emailing the letter below (to be followed promptly by posting it on their Facebook) until my car is returned to me tomorrow, I’m not an idiot. I also hope that after tomorrow, there is nothing more I have to add to it before sending.

What do I expect out of this, what do I want?

To be heard!

Isn’t that what we all want? Isn’t that why we blog, post on social media, talk at the “water cooler”, de-stress over lunches or happy hours with friends? We all just want to be heard, and more importantly, to be there for others when they need to vent.

Dear Bill and Pinnacle Nissan;
There’s no reason you should know who I am, so let me give you a bit of background. I am a loyal customer who purchased a Nissan Altima five years ago. It was my first new car, ever. I bought a service package, so that I could take care of my car, make sure to keep it looking beautiful and running smoothly. You are near my office, so it’s incredibly convenient to drop my car off in the morning, receive complementary shuttle service to my office and then pick up my car on the way home. It’s one of the main reasons why I bought my car at your specific Nissan dealership.

Over the course of the last five years, you have done every oil change, every battery replacement, every tire replacement, every brake pad replacement, even after the service contract has run out. My car has kept up beautifully. I couldn’t ask for a more reliable vehicle.

Each time I come, I’m asked who my service person is. I don’t know, I have to say, it changes every time. There was Angel, there was Rob, there was another Rob, there was Phil, there was Bill. Who can keep track over that period of time? It didn’t bother me. Some were nice, some were new, some were pushier than others, but they all got the job done.

My friends ask, why do you always take your car to the dealership, it’s sooo much more expensive? Most times, it is. But it’s convenient, it’s consistent and there are perks: no one else works on my car while I’m at work, no one else washes my car and vacuums it out for me before they return it.

I would hear other customers dropping off their cars and complaining that their service person always changed. Who cares? I always thought. As long as they take care of you and get the job done, then it shouldn’t matter who it is.

I have worked in customer service my entire adulthood, in fact, I’ve been very blessed in my young life to have managed huge teams of people. I have worked in sales, on multi-million dollar accounts. No matter what business you are in, the one thing we all strive for is to sell a consistent product to our customers. So it doesn’t matter if we get Rob, or Phil or the other Rob; the output should still be the same and we should leave with our problem solved and feeling like we had a respectful interaction with one of Nissan’s service personnel.

I have always felt this way, for five years. Until today. I dropped my car off at 8am, the car was shaking between 20 and 40 mph, I knew something was wrong immediately and brought it in. I had a new guy (new to me), Michael. Seemed great, took my info, told me how much it would be if tires needed rebalancing (which is what I was assuming) and if so, could he just go ahead and do that? Yes! I thought to myself, somebody gets it! I’m a busy woman, if you can push forward with something, please do. I liked his initiative and thought to myself, finally, someone who gets me and understands that time is precious.

I happily walked over to the shuttle and was ever happier when the shuttle guy, Buck (my favorite) was there waiting for a rider. Perfect timing.

Michael called me at 11am to tell me that it wasn’t the tire balancing – one of my tires had a huge bulge in it and was separating. Also, I had alignment issues that needed to be fixed (I guess I knew that too but had hoped it wasn’t that bad). “It’s a good thing you came in this morning” he said “you could have blown this tire on the highway and it would have been really bad.” Wow, someone who cares. I told him to go ahead with the fixes and went about the rest of my busy day.

As I was getting ready to leave work at 3pm, I thought it was odd that I hadn’t heard from anyone saying the car was done. I wasn’t concerned, sometimes people just forget to call to tell you it was ready. No biggie. Except this time, my new tire was on, but the alignment wasn’t done. “My bad” I said “I never told you what time I needed it done by”. Michael said it would be done by 5pm or offered me a rental car for the night. Luckily, I have friends that like to go out after work and didn’t mind taking me to get my car. There are worst things in life, right?

5pm comes and goes, no phone call. I thought, okay it’s Friday, they’ve probably had a crazy day, I’ll give it a little longer. At 5:30 Michael calls to tell me that there’s been a mistake. They don’t have the tire I need (wait, I thought you said that was fixed already?) and I would now need to come get a loner car for the night. He offered to let me keep it until Monday if that was more convenient for me, which it wasn’t. I don’t live near work and I work from home on Mondays. That’s okay, I told him, I will bring it back mid day tomorrow. I also asked him if he could take anything off the bill, for inconvenience, and he agreed to take 10% off the total. Great.

When I came to pick up the rental car, he had brought in my insurance info from the glove compartment already and I happily gave over my license. When she asked me for a credit card, it stopped me in my tracks. Who knows why, maybe it was because of the week I’d had, maybe it was because I was sick of surprises today, maybe I just wanted to go home with my own, fixed car and not have to worry about it anymore, but it really upset me that I would have to take on any kind of liability for the fact that Nissan had not finished my car on time.

I’m a safe woman, I’m not going to take it down to Mexico and party for the night, but I get it, you have policies and you have rules, but the liability for a rental car or anything should not be my issue right now. It’s not my doing you didn’t have the car done. It’s not my doing that I was told the new tire was on and balanced and then told it was not. It’s not my doing that I now have to come return the car in the middle of my Saturday. This is on you, you put down your own credit card.

Now to some, and honestly maybe even for me on a different day, this probably wouldn’t have been an issue; it’s a what-if, it’s a worst case. But today, asking me to take some small amount of responsibility for something I had zero responsibility for, put me over the edge. I refused. I kept apologizing to the rental car guy and the girl behind the counter. None of this was there fault, but I was visibly angry. I waited for Michael and explained my issue. Now, to be fair, maybe Michael’s had a rough week too, or a rough day. Maybe he’s had multiple people upset with him, I have no idea.

Regardless of his situation, his job in that moment was to listen, to problem solve and to be respectful. I would love to be writing you this letter to tell you that’s what I received today, but unfortunately, it wasn’t.

He took my being upset and appeared to get just as upset with me. As a “solution” he offered to return me my car with the broken tire on it. That was his solution, to send me home on the tire that six and a half hours earlier he told me I was lucky hadn’t blown and caused me harm. I was so appalled (just as appalled as he appeared to be at me for asking him to put my rental on his own credit card) that I said fine, and took out my card. Michael stormed out. That was it, he was done. He got his way, I guess? He didn’t want to deal with me anymore and walked away, out the door and across the parking lot to the service room with the other service guys, visibly upset and maybe even telling them what a b*tch I was being. I don’t care what he said or didn’t say about me. What Michael thinks or doesn’t think, what he says when I’m not within earshot; that’s of no importance to me.

Customer Service Secret: When someone is upset, all they want is to be heard. Suggesting that I go home on what he referred to as an “unsafe tire”, refusing to apologize and walking away when I was still visibly upset is not okay. It is, by far, the worst thing that he could have done. Listened, got me a supervisor, anything else, any ounce of empathy and I would not be writing this letter. But walking away from someone who has been a loyal customer for the last five years and who remained cool through all of the back and forth of today was absolutely the most disrespectful thing he could have ever done. My concerns mattered so little to him, that he could just walk out.

Big, huge props to the other people in the room. They all tried to calm me down, tried to tell me it would be okay, to smile and have a better day. That this was not a huge thing, that it would be okay. They were respectful, they acted like they cared, whether they did or not is irrelevant.

Sure, you’re dealing with cars, but really – you’re dealing with people. Respect them enough (whether what they are saying makes sense to you or not) to listen to them, to treat them like a human being. Not to walk away. I absolutely raised my voice. I absolutely was close to tears, but I wasn’t yelling at him, I wasn’t swearing, I wasn’t throwing my purse around maniacally, I was just upset. I was caught off guard that I’d be asked to take one ounce of liability for an issue I hadn’t created. Life happens. We get upset about things, small things sometimes, but we deal with it, we don’t walk away like it doesn’t matter.

So tonight, I’m hopeful that my car will be fixed tomorrow, by a time that’s convenient for me to get the car. I’m hopeful that I’ll return the rental car with zero issue and my car will be shiny, clean, aligned and safe. I’m hopeful maybe Michael won’t be there tomorrow, or maybe he’ll sleep it off and realize in the morning how he could have better handled the situation.

But you have lost a customer for life.

Maybe I don’t matter to you. Maybe it doesn’t matter that my car is almost paid off and that my next car might have been an Infinity from your dealership. Maybe it doesn’t matter that I would have bought the service package and taken my car in there for all of its oil changes, its batteries, its break pads, even after the service contract was up.

I may be just one customer, but I will never again give you the opportunity to make me feel the way I do today. You can be sure I won’t let anyone I care about purchase there, if there’s any chance that this is the way one of them might be treated. I’m not a shy woman. I am fiercely loyal and vocal about the things that I love. I am even more so when I feel like I’ve gone unheard.

I hope you read this. I hope you take the time to teach Michael, who I had such high hopes for earlier in the day (maybe that’s why I was so appalled at the ending?) what it means to be in customer service, what it means to think about the fact that you are dealing every day in the commodity of people, not of cars. I hope that this is a lesson not only for him, who I’m sure will learn and grow and I hope go on to bigger things, but to everyone who comes after him, to the next Michael, the next Rob, the next Phil.

Sincerely,
Xxxx XxXxxxx

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Blog About It: The Adventures of MEL – My Big Fat Spanish Weekend

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Ah, the weekend. It’s a common theme amongst my generation that our jobs are just the gigs between weekends. That doesn’t mean we don’t take work seriously, only that our free time is just as important to us. Balance. It’s something I strive for everyday. As a Libra, those into astrology would say that I was born with a need for balance in my life, that I constantly try to stay middle of the road on things. If there is such a thing as perfect balance, I am still striving to find it.

Balance, harmony is about how you feel, not how your balance makes others feel around you. See, you might strive for one thing, when someone in your life needs something else from you. What you need less of, they may need more of. That in itself is a seesaw. You can’t please everyone all the time, or live to balance out other’s lives, so focus on you – the one and only thing you have control of.

I try to pack my weekends with a mix of exercise, relaxing and friends. It’s a great recipe for me. I started off the weekend by seeing “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” with my friend Lee. I loved the first movie, who doesn’t? The atypical woman gets the quirky hot guy! What is there not to love!? The second one is definitely worth seeing. I forget how similar Greek and Italian cultures are. Both of our families are huge, and loud. Nobody ever wants to move away, and everybody does everything (and I mean everything) together. You take care of your own. Instead of everyone being named Nick, we’ve got Tonys and Joes and Maries in my family. That reminds me of something that happened earlier in the week.

It’s beautiful weather here in Arizona. It got hot waaaay too early this year, and because of that, things are blooming sooner than usual, which means I’m having breathing problems sooner than usual. I went to see an ear, nose and throat doctor for the first time this week. He was born in Brooklyn, raised in Long Island.

“LaRocca, huh. We had one of those in the neighborhood. Joe LaRocca. He used to sell things that “fell off” the back of the truck, if you know what I mean”. Oh, I know what you mean.

“There’s so many Joes in my family, who can keep count?” I laughed.

“I better treat you well” he said “I don’t want your family coming after me.” After a thorough discussion about my nose (and me being extremely disappointed that my breathing issues are not cause by anything that can get me a free nose job) he said to me as I was leaving, “Are you going to call your father and tell him I did right by you?”.

“It’s way too early”, I said. “Let’s see how you do with my allergies first. And if not…” I took a slow look around the office and did a little circle upward with my finger as I asked, “…you got good insurance on this place?”

Italians, Greeks, Mexicans. Big families. All the same.

On Sunday I’d planned to go to free yoga with my friend Lynn at lululemon. If you don’t know what lululemon is, it’s a high end athletic-wear store that focuses on yoga clothes, among other things. Their clothes are expensive (and I mean expensive) but they are well made, last forever and make your butt look amazing! Lululemon has an ideal, target customer: her name is Ocean. She does yoga every day, is single, mid-thirties and makes at least $100,000 a year. While I’m not quite there, I am a proud lululemon snob. I refuse to wear anything else. I still have my first pair of yoga pants, which I bought six years ago and still wear to this day. That’s quality.

Anyway, I knew I was going to yoga today, so I planned to get up early and go to church, 8am mass. Yeah, that didn’t happen, I like sleep too much. After a beautiful yoga class outside at Scottsdale Quarter on the lawn, a canopy of palm trees overhead and a few weirdos sitting there watching us, the Catholic guilt started to kick in.

On the way home, I looked up which masses were remaining for the day and found there was one left – Spanish mass. Lynn laughed and said it sounded like a good idea. Why not, right? How hard could it be? I know when to sit, stand and kneel. I took Spanish in high school and college. I know how to ask where the bathroom is and how to order two beers. Also, my church has projectors where they show the words to the songs, the responses. I could totally do this!

I thought, I’ll go right before it starts so there’s no time for people to try to talk to me. If somebody tries to start a conversation in Spanish, I’ll just pretend I’m deep in prayer. I love Latino guys, maybe my future husband is there!

During mass, there’s only one part where you actually talk to one another, and that’s towards the end when you do the sign of piece. For those of you who have never been dragged to Catholic mass, the sign of peace is where you turn to those around you, shake their hand and say “peace be with you”. There’s an older lady that always sat near us growing up, who used to say “peace and love”. I thought that was cool, different. I called her the Peace and Love Lady. When I was home for Christmas this year, there she was, in front of us. “Peace and Love”. I was elated to see that she still does it (actually, no, I was elated to see that she was still alive, she was an old lady back when I was growing up).

“Hey Siri, text Pita.” I love using talk to text when I’m driving. For those of you who haven’t read all my blogs, Pita got his name because he’s a big Pain In The…you know. He’s also Mexican.

“How do you say peace be with you in Spanish?” I told him what I planned to do. He promised me I wouldn’t be the only white girl there (he was wrong) and sent me back the detail I needed, “Paz este contigo”. Shit. How was I going to remember that? I thought about writing it on my hand, but then I need to shake hands, so that was no good…paz, that part I could remember. As a kid, when you wanted to be cool (cough) during mass, you would make a peace sign with your fingers and say “peace” to your brother, to your friends. While I wasn’t about to throw up a peace sign, I could remember “Paz”.

I got to my church parking lot just as it started. When I go on a non Christmas-Easter Sunday (to a gringo mass), I can always find a parking spot. Today, nothing. I had to park two blocks away, thank God I was in flip flops. As I walked up, I heard people clapping and singing. What the? Nobody sings at white people mass! Except me. I’m usually the only one around me singing; and the music…bum bum, bum ba bump bum, bum bum…this doesn’t sound like the old guy singing cheesy Jesus music; this was upbeat, this was fun…and everyone was clapping to the music. A whole church full, standing room only…so much for showing up late! I found an empty spot on the back wall to lean against as I clapped along in time to the music.

Who performed the service, I wondered? We have an old French-Canadian priest that is 82 and then a younger, enthusiastic Italian priest from the Midwest with hair longer than mine…evidently the latter speaks perfect Spanish. I marveled at him as he walked down the isle amongst everyone singing hallelu-“jas”.

While I couldn’t understand everything, I got the gist of it. “Jesus Christos” died for our sins. There was an energy at church that I’d never felt before. They baptized four kids during mass today, something that most churches do in a separate ceremony on an errant Saturday. Not my church, no, we do it during mass. We renewed our own baptismal vows (at least, I think that’s what we were saying?) and as he poured holy water on them, he said “Paz este contigo”. I got this! I said The Lord’s Prayer in almost perfect Spanish, thank God (literally) for the words being projected on the front screens.

After mass, there was a guy selling sno cones outside, another one was selling churros! I think I may do this Spanish mass thing more often….

Paz, este contigo.

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