Friday, September 13, 2013

Where I Set Yet, Another Fine Example By My Super Mature Behavior

Below is yet another example of just how super mature I am.  Or maybe it is a brief look into the mind of a seriously deranged middle aged woman.  Either way, it was this or a stroke.  I chose this.

 For those of you who do not want to read the string of emails below, (the best parts are at the bottom) I will give you a brief summary.  In early July, I got a sales phone call from a company selling SAT Prep materials.  They said they got my name from the College Board or Fastweb website I had used to sign up my son,Winston,  for college information.

For some reason, I broke my cardinal rule and purchased their materials over the phone.  The salesman assured me their policy was 100% refundable for ANY reason. The materials arrived a week or so later and after two weeks of my son not showing enough interest to even open the package, I decided to send it back and get my refund.

Thus began the saga below:

I begin calling the 1-800 number I find on the unopened packages of study materials.   Over the next few days, I call at different times asking to speak to a supervisor so I can get information on how to get my refund.  Each time, I am told that there is no one in the office right now, but that they will take my number and have someone call me back.  I never get any phone calls back, so I look up their website and find a customer service email address.
On Sat, Jul 27, 2013 at 9:22 AM, Reenie Collins wrote:

To whom it may concern:

I need to be contacted immediately by your company or I will file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau as well as the College Board and the schools.  I have been trying to return the materials you sent me and cancel all charges associated with your company and any of your products.  I can't get anyone to return my calls or give me information. Please send me contact information for who to talk to at your company and how to return the materials and get full refunds and cancel any possible recurring monthly charges.
Irene "Reenie" Collins
On Tue, Jul 30, 2013 at 11:46 AM, Customer Service wrote:
We have found your account.  It was under xxxx Collins and the email that was used 
Please send the package back to PO Box 848 Solana Beach, CA, 92075  on the outside of the box put RMA # 212133548
JUL. 31-AUG.14
Due to my severe ADD and my inability to complete anything, I promptly forget all about it until suddenly on Aug. 15 something  (Who knows what.  Could have been a picture of a kitten or the taco I had for lunch) must have reminded me that I never followed up on this and I want my $185 dollars back, Dammit!  So I promptly get back on it.
On Thu, Aug 15, 2013 at 4:44 PM


I am sending you the package today in the mail requesting a full refund and want to make sure there will be no ongoing charges to my credit card.

The products that I am returning are two discs from University Prep Center.  One is Marked SAT/ACT and the other is Scholarship College Guide.  Both are unopened.

Can you please confirm to me what credit card will be refunded and what is the full amount that will be refunded?  

Thank you,

Reenie Collins.
AUG.1 5-SEPT. 3
My ADD, or my wine induced black-outs, or perhaps just my plain disorganization take control and a  few weeks pass before I suddenly remember that I have not heard back from my new friend, Mr. Wittle, in Customer Service at   So  I begin to call the 1-800 number at odd times during the day -   I now have their 800 number on speed dial and whenever I am driving around running errands, I give them a call. 
Finally, deciding that calling 10 times a day or more is not going to get a response, I resort to sending another email.    
On Wed, Sep 4, 2013 at 8:47 AM, Reenie Collins wrote:
I have called your phone number repeatedly.  I never receive a return phone call.  The answering service has informed me that to their knowledge they do not EVEN HAVE THE OPTION to transfer a call to a live person.  I am supposing this is because you have all your staff doing sales calls.  I need a return call to get the refund I was promised. 
My number is (xxxxxxxx.
The product was sent under the name of my son:  xxxxx Collins.  I have called, emailed and sent the package back, yet I have not gotten any return information other than the above email dated July 30.
I just called again and the answering service is only able to take a phone number for a return call that I never get.
Reenie Collins


On Wed, Sep 4, 2013 at 7:44 PM, Customer Service wrote:

We have our return department at our local P.O. Box. Sorry for the confusion, but I have gone ahead and issued your credit via certified funds. Please allow 5-7 business days to arrive. If you have any questions, just refernce my name.

Ryan Wittle / Manager
To: Mr. Ryan Wittle, Customer Service
From:  Reenie Collins
Please confirm what credit card number and the amount you are refunding.  I may have already canceled the credit card you have on file.
On Thu, Sep 12, 2013 at 8:46 AM, Reenie Collins wrote:
Dear Mr. Wittle,
This will now be the sixth email I have sent regarding your product and the supposed refund that I am to receive.  I realize you must be very busy.  With what, I am not sure, since whenever I call there is no one available at your company. 

You have assured me no less than three times in an email that this refund would be sent.  To date, I have not received any refund.

I was supposed to have been issued a full refund.  I have requested that this refund be made via check or money order as the credit card it was issued on is no longer valid, I have canceled it.

As I told you in earlier emails, I will now begin proceedings to report you to the Better Business Bureau.  But more importantly, and honestly, more fun.  I am going to use my blog, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram status to inform everyone in our community about how your company will take my calls and return them within hours if I call and leave a message asking to PURCHASE your product.  And about how when I talk to your sales people, they start out nice and ASSURE me that the product is 100 percent refundable, but as soon as I tell them I want a refund they become surly and rude and say that ” this is not their department. “

I am appalled that your company is allowed access to College Board and other websites that most High School Juniors and Seniors and their parents access.    I am going to notify  the College Board and Fastweb about how wonderful your sales department is and how they will immediately call back anyone who wants to buy your product, but how sadly, as soon as there is a complaint or a request for refund, your company apparently has only one person to respond.  I would guess that would be you, Mr. Wittle?

I am sorry you must be so busy with your other requests that you cannot seem to find the time to refund our money which your company clearly stated ( in their recorded phone call to me) was 100% refundable if we were not satisfied for ANY REASON.

And, since I could not even get my son to open the package, I would say we were not able to use the product and thus were not satisfied.

Because  I sent your packages back via registered mail,  I  am able to see that you have not even bothered to pick them up! 

 I sure would appreciate a phone call back to let me know that the check is on the way, as my mail box is kind of far from my door and I walk down there multiple times a day in hopes that the check will appear.  However, to date, I have been sadly disappointed.

Please send me the check today or just email me back and give me some more false information and empty assurances. 

Still Waiting to find a person in your company who can help me,

Irene Collins

Reenie Collins 2:01 PM (4 hours ago) wrote:

Dear Mr. Wittle,

I am sending my 7th email correspondence regarding my request for a refund from your company.   I can only assume that you must be astonishingly busy doing "manager type" things and that is the reason that you have decided to quit responding to me.  I am also assuming that because you are  busy doing all this superintending and overseeing, that this is also the reason that I have not received my refund of $185.00 for the return of your product,  as promised by you in your email of September 4, 2013.

As I promised in my last letter, I have now notified the Better Business Bureau of your company's fraudulent practices. In addition, I have continued to call your company, requesting a real live person.  Funny enough, I only get this answering service that does not seem to know of any regular business hours or of how to transfer a call to a live person in your company.

In addition to the above, I will also continue calling your 1-800 number regularly, telling them that I want to buy your product as it has become one of my favorite past times - seeing how quickly someone from your company calls me back to SELL me the product versus how NO ONE from your company will call me back to discuss my refund!  In fact, I love reporting it to my Facebook, Blog, Twitter and Instagram followers.  (I love how I put that in there like I have a whole bunch of followers, but it sure made me feel powerful!)

I must say, I am giving your your company, Prepme4Less and UniversityPrepCenter some strong recognition and publicity.  I wonder if perhaps you would consider sending me $185.00 for all the PR and advertising efforts I am putting out on your behalf?

Here is a link to my blog and Facebook so that you can see how much publicity you are getting!

I am sure you will be hearing from my many friends pretty soon.  One of which is the Better Business Bureau.  The others you can see from some of my Facebook comments have also asked for your information so that they can contact you ... or Not!

Mr. Wittle, I have been super busy, writing to you and calling you regularly trying to get my $185.00 and walking to my mailbox to check and see if your check is in there, so I have not yet had time to start contacting the College Board folks or the school counselors where you have such a large advertising presence and who appear to endorse your product, but it I am hoping that will be able to get to that shortly.  I really want to share with them how easy it is to get through to a sales person in your company and how quickly they will call you back to sell you something.  Oh, and I will also let them know how much more challenging it is to get through to someone for a refund!

Your Friend ( I hope I can call you that since I have been writing to you and calling you so regularly I feel very close to you!),

Reenie Collins.
PS:  Just in case you lost my other 7 emails and the 30 or so phone call messages I left for you.  Here is the information regarding the refund.

Customer Service
4:15 PM (2 hours ago)

Your refund check has been issued, and sent! It should be there next week latest.
Ryan Wittle
(don't you just love his little ! like he is super friendly and all?)
Reenie Collins
6:05 PM (33 minutes ago)

Dear Mr. Wittle,

Thank you for your response today.  As you can imagine, I am ecstatic to hear from you.

 I am so grateful that you have given me a time frame of next week, for that refund check as it will certainly save my legs over the weekend from walking to my mailbox several times a day to check to see if my refund has come.  I think it will also free up some of my phone time from having to call your 800 number repeatedly and leave messages.

I am off to celebrate!  Thank you so much for your assurance that the “check is in the mail!”

Your Friend,

Reenie Collins



Thursday, August 2, 2012

Move Over Modern Family

If only my family and friends would let me tell the truth, I am pretty sure we could have our own TV show.  But sadly, they are all so mean and have recently begun to refuse to allow me to use them as fodder for my own fun and amusement in my writing.  For some reason, they seem to think that the things I write about are humiliating.

Selfish?  I should say so!

Here is the recent exchange between me and my sister Lucy as we sat talking about my daughter, CeCe's debutante dress.  (If this was not the EXACT conversation, it was a close as I could remember it...)

Lucy (looking  at a picture of CeCe in her dress):  "Hey, I bet it was hard to go to the bathroom in that.
Me: "Yea.  You should have seen her yelling at me to hurry up and finish undoing all the buttons on the back so she could pee."
Lucy: "I just thought of something brilliant.  We could invent Debutante Depends.  The girls could wear them under their dresses and then drink as much as they want and not worry about having to pee." 
Me: "We could even get my Bedazzler and put monograms and decorations on them and stuff."
Lucy:  "Yea, and then in their later years as they are reliving their glory days of being a Deb they will be looking through their memory box and pull out the good old Debutante Depends and remember that special evening."
Me: " I bet you could even do some for Brides and maybe those Toddlers in Tiaras and shit.   We could make a lot of money."
Lucy: "Hey! Don't steal that for your blog.  You are always taking the good ideas I have and putting them in your blog."
Me:  "Well yea, but that's because you won't put them in yours."
Lucy:  "That's because I don't have a Blog."
Me: "See? So that's why I put it in mine.  Well, that and because it makes me look funnier."
Lucy: "I don't want other people to know things about me. That's why I don't put all that stuff like you do on Facebook.  Don't you ever get embarassed telling everyone all that stupid stuff? I am not like you.  I like my privacy."
Me: "Then why do you care if I steal all your good ideas and put them in my Blog and pretend like they are mine?"
Lucy: "Because I want people to know that I am the one that is funny.  If you were really funny, you would be the one who comes up with Debutante Depends."
Me: "But no one would even know you were funny because you wouldn't put it on Facebook or in your Blog and stuff because you would be all like "OHHH.  I'm soooo private. I don't want anyone to know about me." 
Lucy: "That's right.  I don't like people all up in my bidness."
Me: "So that is why I am doing you a favor.  I am stealing all your stuff and making sure that the world gets exposed to people.   I mean seriously.  People think some of the stupidist shit our family does is really funny..."
Lucy: "But wait.  It's not always you who is so clever.  You steal my good stuff sometimes. "
Me:  "Yea, but you don't want anyone to know you might be talking about something as UNCLASSY as Debutante Depends, so you won't even put it on your Facebook or your non-existent Blog or Twitter, so I have to."
Lucy:  "That's right.   I don't like people to know we talk about stuff like Debutantes peeing in diapers.  That makes us look bad.  I mean we should really have more important things to talk about than how hard it is to pee in a big white, puffy, long dress." 
Me:  "Even though it is really humorous?"
Lucy:  " It is funny, but I just don't want people to know I say things like that.  So don't put that in your Blog."
Me:  "Ok,  I won't."

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Nothing Says Romance Like A Greyhound Bus...

Trust Me.  Kent is NEVER Going to Live this Down.  Seriously?!  What Was He Thinking?  You Tell Me.

I have the best husband.  I really do.  I love him very much and I know he loves me. He arranged for a romantic weekend alone without kids this weekend in San Antonio.  So thoughtful.    He is also brilliant, but sometimes I wonder... here is the conversation this morning.
Me:  Honey, I have a meeting at 4:00 on Friday.  I can't go early with you to San Antonio, but I will just meet you down there.
Kent:  Well, I don't have $30 to waste on parking two cars, plus it wastes gas.  Why don't you just take the Greyhound Bus down and I will pick you up?
MeAwesome!   I would love to take the Greyhound Bus from Austin to San Antonio....   

 Me:( Thinking to myself inside my head) The old Me would have gotten into a huge fight over this, but the New Me says this is going to be freaking AWESOME!!!!

Because here is the deal.  I have realized that this is going to get me about 20 years of leverage and thousands of dollars in gifts...

Here is the email I just sent Kent:

Reenie Collins
4:12 PM (29 minutes ago)

to kenttalkcollins

Thanks for arranging the romantic weekend. First time in 4 years we have been on trip with no kids!  Hubba Hubba!
Since you thought it would not be cost effective for us to take two cars and I have a meeting that is late and you have a meeting in SA early; you so very kindly suggested that I take the Greyhound Bus. 
  Well,  I checked and it just so happens that there IS a Greyhound Bus that leaves from Austin at 6:20 pm and arrives San Antonio at 8:15 pm - so not much longer than it would take me to drive.  Wow, how lucky!

And guess what?!   You are right, the savings is amazing!  The ticket, if I buy it online,  is only $10.00! That's right, just $10.00.   That way I can save the $30.00 parking fee for two nights, plus I save about $106.00 in gas useage from driving the Lexus to San Antonio (201 miles RT).  Plus there is also probably savings on the car depreciation from adding miles to the car, but I don't know how to calculate that!

As for your concern over the carbon footprint driving two cars leaves on this planet, I am so proud of your stance for the environment.  It is too bad more people are not like you and so caring and thoughtful of others.   (It reminds me of our trip to Anna Maria when the kids were little and you offered to go ahead and get some sleep while all three kids and the Nanny were vomiting repeatedly and could not even make it to the restrooms and so were throwing up in their beds.  And yet you thoughtfully felt that  that at least one of us should get some sleep and be fresh for the next day and so you very graciously offered for it to be YOU since you know how I like to sleep late.)  Anyway, as you said, there really is no reason for us to take two cars and waste the gas when the Bus is going down there anyway.  It certainly is better to Go Green whenever we can - just like Al Gore said.

I also appreciate the way you always look out for me and make sure I am safe and relaxed. A woman driving all alone on IH-35,  all the way to San Antonio?  That is certainly not safe.  Who knows what could happen?  I almost get PTSD just thinking about how difficult that would be and then I would not arrive at our romantic weekend feeling refreshed and loving.   So I am really glad you are looking out for that.  

 I will be sure to charge up my Kindle so I can read and rest the whole way rather than driving through all that stressful traffic and those potentially dangerous roadside situations and predators. Who knows?  I might even be able to stretch out on the seats and take a quick nap if my bus seat partner does not mind!  I sure hope my seat mate is nice.  I am bringing some cards and snacks just in case we strike up a conversation.

And, also, since I am saving us about $126.00 by taking the bus and letting you drive just one car down there, that leaves us more money to spend on dinner.  I was thinking we could probably go out to eat straight from the bus station when you pick me up.  Maybe you can see if there is a good place near there since it is a bit late and we will both be hungry?  I'm sure you could find a place close by -  just ask one of your partners in San Antonio, I bet they know the area real well and have probably taken their wives someplace romantic near the Greyhound Bus Station dozens of times over the years on special occasions.  After all, nothing says romance like a Greyhound Bus, does it?

If not, we could always hop over to the 7-11 next door and heat up a chili dog or a batch of nachos and then head on over to our luxury suite at the Westin Riverwalk for some Romance.(Notice I used a capital R in romance?  So you can tell how excited I am!)

 Since we are going to have so much extra money by my taking the Greyhound Bus instead of driving my own car, we could probably splurge on some drinks from the mini bar in the room!  Woo Hoo!   Or if you would rather, we could stretch our dollar a bit and just grab some Tallboys and bring them up to the room. 

Love you and can't wait for the weekend!


P.S.  You don't need to worry about me leaving my car at the Austin Greyhound Bus Station or about me spending money on a taxi.  I am going to call ALL our friends to let them know how thoughtful you were to suggest ME riding the Greyhound Bus for our romantic weekend getaway and ask them to come see me off - kind of like a Bon Voyage for my trip.  I am sure they would love to grab a few Keystone Lights, a bag of Cheetos and some  Slim Jims and make a happy hour down at the Greyhound Bus Station.  You know our friends - they are always up for a party. 

Stay tuned for more Tweets and Blogs about my upcoming trip - and about what Kent's reply to my email is...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Not the TV show - me.

My friends always have the latest gadgets that they can’t seem to live without and everyone I know touts their car Satellite GPS navigations systems as lifesavers. Not to be high maintenance, but after last week that is just, quite frankly, not enough for me. If I can’t have my own personal navigator (note: translate that to my husband!) willing to stay glued to a cell phone answering it at my beck and call, then I am jus not going to drive anymore.

When man first roamed the earth, travelers found their way by using the stars and sun to guide their journeys. During ancient times they used land markings such as Mountains shaped like eagles or rivers with three forks to mark the route. Later travelers got their directions through listening to stories told by brave explorers around the campfire and scratching notes on bark. Maps actually came into existence in early Greek times with the first ones made of clay, progressing onto paper rolls, to the fold up maps of today.

In the 21st Century man has gotten increasingly sophisticated with satellite technology, GPS tracking, and talking navigation systems and such – none of which I can use.

Just as it is certain the sun will come up tomorrow or that Winter follows Fall or that two plus two always equals four it is also certain that if there is chance of choosing the wrong way while driving to a location it can be certain that I will choose it.

I have spent a good portion of my life wandering around in the state of being lost. I am convinced that this is not my fault. It is a genetic flaw, passed on to me by my mother and father which is, in itself, quite ironic since my Dad spent his whole adult life traveling all over the world. You see, my parents ran a travel agency which ,in it’s hey day, planned thousands of trips all over the world for people to all types of destinations. All of which required some sort of attention to geographic orientation.

To illustrate. I can not remember one single childhood trip – even the ones we took twice a year to the Beach in Port Aransas, Texas where we even stayed in the same condominium year after year – that did not involve at least one major episode of getting lost. Actually, I can’t remember a single vacation anywhere that did not involve major map hysteria - with my father screaming at my mother or my mother lecturing my dad while the four of us just sat in the back holding in our pee, because there was NO way Daddy was going to stop now; we had already been lost once and were behind schedule.

Then there was the case of our weekly Junior High carpool. My friend, Julie Little, was in my carpool for several years and every single week on my Mom’s carpool day, she would say “Now girls, be on the lookout so I don’t miss Julie’s house this time... Which house is it?” And about half the time she would have already driven by it. Sadly, I seem to be carrying on the tradition, I pass Jackson's house at least half the time I am driving carpool and he always has to say "It's here Mrs. Collins."

As I said, I don’t blame my parents. Based on the number of family stories I have heard about my grandparents on both sides, it is obviously not Momma and Daddy's fault. This affliction was clearly passed onto them through some sort of defective genetic line. First let’s examine my mother’s ancestors – the Hopkins. According to my mother and her sisters, my Grandmother (who coincidentally is named Irene like both my mother and me) was quite well known for her traveling exploits throughout South Texas.

I often heard them tell the story about the time my Grandmother wanted to treat my mother and her two sisters to a shopping trip to San Antonio. Because my Grandfather, Dr. Joe, was a physician in the town of Victoria, he often had emergency patients and on this particular day he had to cancel the trip to see a patient. Rather than wait for Dr. Joe, my Grandmother decided to drive the girls herself. This was in the early 1940’s, and while women were driving independently by then, it was not a very common sight to see women driving on the highway out of town. And certainly not alone with three children.

I can just picture them. Gran in her best dress, gloves and hat - she was big on hats. My mother and her sisters dressed in their finest, climbing into the black Plymouth Sedan (I have no idea if this was their car, but it looks like it should have been!); starting out from their home on Lantana street and going through Victoria to the edge of town and heading out toward the highway to go South in the direction of San Antonio. The only problem was that apparently Gran had never actually driven there by herself and did not have a map to consult, because since she could not actually read one, she saw no need to own one!

The first thing she did was to stop at Mr. Murphy’s’ gas station at the edge of town to ask him how to get to San Antonio. The story gets a bit murky here, but according to family lore, the directions should have been fairly simple. Just take a left out onto the highway and follow Gonzalez Street (or US 87-N) to the loop around and then get on I35 South which goes straight to San Antonio. Alas, due to that pesky genetic way finding deficiency, it was not to be. There was something about a map and some words exchanged about south and then east. But apparently Gran never confessed to Mr. Murphy that she did not have a map (because she couldn’t read one) and also never told him that she was not sure which way was south!

The next thing that is remembered is that there was some commotion over whether or not they were actually going the right way and my Grandmother very smartly announced that she did not know why anyone was worried, “I’m just following that man in the black car in front of us.” When the girls asked her why, she said, and I am quoting here, “he looks like he would be going to San Antonio.” About two hours later when the man stopped at a diner in Hallettsville it became apparent that this nice man was not going to San Antonio and another plan of mapping must have been implemented. I am not quite sure if they ever did get to San Antonio that day, but I do know that the day went down in Hopkins History as “The time Momma followed that man all the way to Hallettsville thinking he was going to San Antonio.”

Now I don’t want to leave my Dad’s genes out of this line of blame since there is also very clear evidence that his Family Tree was also defective. Growing up in the South Texas town of Harlingen, my father’s parents, who we called Nana and Da, lived very genteel lives and often had a driver to take them where they needed to go. I do know that my grandfather, Winston Harwood (who my father, brother and son are named after), also never owned a road map. Why should he, when he couldn’t read one either?

Who knows how far back this thing goes? For all I know, instead of being a proud fifth generation Texan, maybe I was supposed to be a fifth generation Michiganite or something. My great, great, great, great grandfather might have intended to head off for a totally different climate only to end up in Texas with his wife screaming at him "Pa, I TOLD you to stop and ask that Indian for directions." And to save face, he tells her "Dag nabbit womman! YOU'RE the one that told me to turn left at the prarie."

How the State of Texas ever allowed these two grossly deficient, genetically disadvantaged people to marry, much less reproduce, is beyond me. But the result is certainly evident today. Three out of the four Harwood children my parents produced exhibit some form of this debilitating and life limiting affliction. My oldest sister, my brother, and I all have had to live with the results of being “directionally challenged," My youngest sister, Lucy, can read a map and she never lets us forget it.

Luckily for my children, I think I may have broken this multiple generations long curse. My husband, Kent, is blessed with an extraordinary inner compass. In fact, I use him as a kind of extended personalized GPS, calling him regularly to ask him which way is east or asking him to tell me how to get to 12th. Street or wherever else it is that I need to know how to get to.

It doesn’t matter that often he is not even in the same city or that since he can’t actually see me, how could he be expected to know which way is east - I still expect him to be my own personal map. And, I must say, that over the years he has been trained to keep the incredulity out of his voice as he patiently asks me to explain exactly what I see in front of me as I scream “I don't know, why would I call you to ask if I knew that? Don’t’ tell me to go EAST, just tell me to go right or left or turn around, but don't say east. How in the hell do I know which way east is?”

I can still remember the time early on in our marriage, when we were living in Los Angeles, that I called him crying from a pay phone (yes, we HAVE been married that long) telling him that I knew I was in our neighborhood because I could see the top of our apartment building, but I had been driving around for 30 minutes and still could not find our street. He kept telling me to go South on Ventura Boulevard and I kept yelling at him which way was South - to the right or the left? - and he kept patiently telling me that since he was not with me he couldn’t say which way to turn. Finally, he had a flash of brilliance and told me to look for the mountains. “Do you see mountains? Head for the mountains.” I eventually made it home but not before I had made at least three stops to different convenience stores and used up about a quarter of a tank of gas. And to this day, I wonder if he was literally telling me to head for the mountains...

Just the other day, my son reported to me through the phone as I was talking to his father (during one of my multiple, frantic emergency phone calls to his Dad to ask for yet a fourth repetition of how to get somewhere that I had been before. Anyway, he reported that, “Daddy is rolling his eyes and snorting.” Quite frankly, I think this is unnecessarily cruel, and insulting. I mean after all, I can’t help it. I am handicapped. He could show a little compassion here.

If I tallied up the hours, possibly days, I have spent being lost I am sure I could add a few extra months onto my life. I know that if I factored in the toll that the stress of driving by the same landmark for the third or fourth time in a row and still not finding my destination has taken on me, I would add another a year or two to my life.

Not to mention my poor children. If only they had a dollar for every time they heard me shriek “Quiet! Not one word. Mommy is LOST. I have to figure out where we are.” Or “What did that sign say? Is that South?" Or “Didn’t we just pass by this place a few minutes ago?” Poor guys they always sounded so serious as they would ask, “Are you lost AGAIN? “ Or “Mommy are we going to be late to the birthday party? I thought you said you KNEW where Blakely’s house was.”

Again, let me remind you. This. Is. Not. My. Fault.

I totally blame my parents. The stories of their travel travails are legendary. I bet they got lost in every major city in the world. As I said, I still can’t believe that they made their living planning out travel itineraries for people when neither one of them could read a map to save their lives.

So, sorry Kent, but you are going to have to remain my own personal Mapquest; available at all times, regardless of whether you are running on Lady Bird Lake, or in the middle of a business negotiation or sleeping. I'm directionally challenged. Or Map deficient. Or have Maplexia, or you can call me a Special Needs Direction Way Finder. Whatever you want to call it, it's really not my fault. Blame it on the progenitors. (That's ancestors in the direct line or your forefathers for those of you who might need to go look that word up.)

Maybe there might be some advantage to this. I am wondering if I could get a 504 for my directional issues and be declared as having an official disability? Maybe get SSI money, or my picture with President Obama, or at the very least get put at the front of the line at Disney World?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I'm Sorry. It's all my fault.

Why is it that no matter what happens it’s my fault? Here’s what happened tonight. Kent took Tye to buy a new flat screen TV for the third floor. They spent like 4 hours at the store picking them out (that’s another whole story in itself) and they came home and got in the elevator to take the TV and set it up. They had been up there for a while when I decided to go and see what they were up to.

First thing when I got up there, Tye says “Mom this is so gross, we just found a roach,” like I have something to do with that? Then Kent pipes in “if we are going to make this space useable, you have a lot of stuff to get rid of.” I look around. Yes, there is a lot of junk up there, but half of it is HIS! I guess that is my fault too.

So then I go downstairs to get them a cord they needed and when I got back to get in the elevator it was broken. I tried for about 10 minutes to fix it and even got shocked from flipping that little switch thing! All the while Kent and Tye are yelling instructions down the elevator shaft at me. Like it is my fault the thing is broken?

Picture me a the first floor elevator screaming up the shaft and Kent and Tye on the third floor yelling down at me. The conversation went like this:
Me: Honey. The elevator is broken. It keeps going up and down.
Kent: What do you mean? Did you try punching another button?
Me: No, I can’t. It’s broken, I can’t get in.
Kent: Why not?
Me: Because it is broken, you d&%$a&*!
Tye: What did you do to it?
Me: Ummm nothing? I just went down to get you your cord and when I tried to get back in it started doing this.

It kind of went on like this for a few minutes until Kent tells me to turn it off at the switch and how to do it. I did exactly as he told me. Then he told me to turn it back on. All that happened was I got a big shock and it just started doing the same thing again.
Kent: Reenie, what the *&#@ did you do? I told you to turn it off and then turn it back on.
Me: I did.
Tye: Then why isn’t it working?

Well the reason it isn’t working is I guess is the reason it broke in the first place - because it was my fault! More instructions and cusswords were yelled down the elevator shaft at me until I finally said I was going up to the second floor to use the emergency exit stairs in our closet.

On my way up the stairs our phone starts ringing. I answer the phone it is Tye on the other end.
Tye: What is taking you so long, Mom?
Me: Umm, I had to stop and answer the phone? Let me hang up so I can get you out.
First I have to clear off a bunch of stuff off the floor because I have not finished finding space for all our stuff and I have kind of been shoving stuff in that closet. Of course, Kent is quick to point that out. Now he is yelling at me through the emergency stairs.
Kent: I bet you can’t even get the stairs down there is so much junk in there.
Me: Well it’s my closet and I wasn’t planning on rescuing anyone from the third floor so I’m sorry I did not have everything perfectly arranged like my OCD husband has his closet.
Kent: Hurry up.

So I pull that string thing and try to get those stairs to come down. All I can do is get them down about 15 inches and then it is just stuck.
Me: Kent, this is stuck, come and push it down.
Tye: Come on Mom! You are just weak. Pull it.
Kent: No. It is not stuck.
Me: Yes it is.
Kent: OMG. What did you do to the stairs?
Me: Umm, nothing? I just tried to pull them down to let you guys out and they are stuck.
Kent: No they are not.
Me: Yes . They. Are.
Tye: Well pull harder.
Me: I AM
Kent: What did you do?
Me: You are so rude. I’m just going to leave you up there.

About this time, I take a few minutes to post their predicament on Facebook and contemplate calling my brother-in-law, Phil, who lives just down the street to come over and help, but they are so rude I decide not to.

While I am posting on Facebook, Winston gets home from the game.
Me: Winston, come up here and help me! Your Dad and Tye are stuck on the third floor and the elevator is broken.
Winston: No it’s not. You just don’t know how to use it.
Me: Well then you try.
Winston: (after turning back on the power and discovering that indeed it is broken) What did you do to it? It wasn’t broken this afternoon.
Me: Look, just come upstairs and help me get the stairs down. I’ll call the elevator guy in the morning.
Winston: OMG, Mom! Can’t you even get the stairs down by yourself?

It was about here that the phone began ringing again and Tye is calling to ask me what is taking so long. I tell him we are coming right up and Winston will help me. Next Winston announces he can’t come right away because he has to go to the bathroom. During the next five minutes while he was doing his business, I continued to try and help.
Me: Kent, these stairs are broken.
Kent: No they are not.
Me: Yes they are, see? I am pulling this thing and it is stuck.
Kent: (peering through the attic door) All you have to do is pull it to the side. It’s not broken.
Me: I AM and it is too broken.
Kent: It’s because your closet is too messy it won’t come down. There’s no room for it.
Me: It is not! *@#! I haven’t even pulled them out more than 15 inches so it’s not the stuff on the floor of the closet, it is not even close to it and it won’t come down.
Kent: Just pull harder.
Me: $*#!@!! Winston! Get in here now. I don’t care whether you are finished or not.

So…Winston comes in and guess what? My six foot, one inch, 190 pound football player can’t get the stairs down either!
Winston: Dad! It’s broken.
Kent: It is not! All you have to do is pull it. Your Mom wasn’t doing it right.
Winston: Guess what Dad? I can’t do it either.
Kent: Yes, you can. Just pull it. Don’t be an idiot.

I immediately take offense to this because I feel that he is implying that I am an idiot because I can’t get it open and that Winston will surely be able to pull them down because, unlike his mother, it is not his fault that the stairs won’t work. It is his idiot mother’s fault. There’s a little more cussing going on (well actually a lot more) and Winston finally gets the stairs all the way down. And guess what? Tye and Kent stay up there for about another HOUR before they come down. What’s up with that? What was all the rush?

The kicker is that when Kent and Tye finally got down the stairs, Kent turns to me and says, “Do you think the elevator is broken because you did not push the buttons all the way in or something? It worked for us.”

I don’t even bother to answer, because I am pretty sure nothing good will come from continuing this conversation…

Thursday, July 28, 2011

And they loaded up the car and moved to Beverly...

Now that we are officially moved into our new house, I have begun to worry that the neighborhood might not be as excited about us moving in as we are about moving there. I don’t know why, but lately I have repeated thoughts about The Beverly Hillbillys. And scenes from National Lampoon's Family Vacation keep running through my head. I just don't know if they are quite ready for us.

Ok, first of all Kent already got rid of my chickens when we put our house on the market. For some strange reason he felt that no one would want to buy a house that had chicken shit all over the back porch. And now he went and sold my chicken house on Craig’s List! To think that I can never again have chickens wandering in my back door to fly up on the kitchen table or to look out my back window and see Stoli, our black Pomerianian, trying to mate with a chicken (true, I swear) or to hear Kent yelling at me about it. Like I could do anything about it anyway – I’m not responsible for my dog’s poor sexual preferences. Well, that just makes me sad. See there is a picture of the custom designed chicken house I built with my own hands. Or at least with the hands of my Handy Man, Eduardo.

That right there is bad enough, but I understand. Because our new Hood has something called an HOA that has rules and stuff. And you gotta follow the rules. Anyone who knows me knows that I like to bend the rules whenever I can, but my husband is a rule follower and he has already gleefully informed me that we can’t have chickens at the new house, which I am sure my new neighbors will appreciate. Although I must say my old neighbors were always gracious and never really complained – they just called me to tell me my chicken was on their front porch and things like that.

I also wonder about how the new Block is going to adjust to the noise level? The few times I have been over there, the street has been fairly sedate and quiet. And not once did I ever hear anyone screaming in their back yard that they were going to "take a stick and poke you in the kidney and kill you ten times” which has often been heard coming from my back yard. Nor did I see any signs of property destruction such as a disassembled front door or BB gun targets on back fences or even bikes and scooters left in the middle of the street. And I know I did not see a child sitting on the roof threatening to run away if they did not get {insert something ridiculously expensive or dangerous here}.

I’m also pretty sure that none of these neighbors has ever had to get out of the shower and go in search of the boy they heard crying for help only to find a certain neighbor’s front door unlocked, a certain Mom not home, with her son locked in the downstairs bathroom which had a broken door that had gone unfixed for some six months who was stuck in one of those tiny bathroom windows - half in and half out - because he tried to crawl out said tiny bathroom window because he had stupidly shut the bathroom door that he knew was broken (it had been for six months!) when he was all by himself. For that matter, why did he need to shut the door anyway, who would have been there to see him?. But that is another story…

Somehow wherever we go, there always seems to be a bit of commotion. I sure hope that doesn’t bother my new neighbors. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t do anything about those darn kids of ours. They just keep on showing up and usually with a few friends or pets in tow. And speaking of commotion, there is the toilet papering, that long standing favorite of mini-hoodlums everywhere. I really hope none of them are nervous about things that go bump in the night, because we do seem to get a lot of hoopla going on at all hours. But I am sure they will be glad to know that at least I do what I can to save our planet. After being papered, I immediately go outside and start picking up the toilet paper and shake it out and try to save it for use later. I am never one to miss a chance to help the environment and save a few cents at the same time. It’s so easy to just gently wrap it up into little bundles and put them in a nice basket by your potty…no one will ever know and most think it is some sort of new decorating idea. Yep, I really have done that too.

The bad thing is that the new house has a roof top walk and several balconies,as well as a set of fire escape stairs coming out of the master bedroom window. All of these egress points are potential problems. I have threatened my children with slow torture and sure death if there is ever any drinking, smoking or cussing that goes on while they are on them… or nudity…or any projectiles being thrown from them. But hey, I can’t be expected to watch them 24/7. I have a life too, you know.

I haven’t gone through the neighbors garbage yet (not to imply that this is something I regularly do even though it wouldn’t be unheard of), but I suspect that their trashcans will be full of recycling, and organic vegetable scraps and wine bottles with actual corks instead of screw tops. God forbid one of them peeks in ours to see the Oreo packages, Mountain Dew bottles, Vienna sausage cans, Pizza Hut boxes and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos packages – all of which are the snacks of choice at our house.

I do think we have the right dog though– our Black Lab should fit in well with the requisite hunting dogs. But what about the 3 pound yappy Chihuahua…or the ancient miniature Poodle with the bad teeth, or the slightly mentally challenged black Pomerianian who pees on people’s legs when they come to visit? (See chicken incident mentioned above.) And, I won’t even mention the various and sundry other pets that seem to end up at our house. Lawns are nicely manicured and seem to be well kept, which is good because I like a nice yard too. I can’t wait until I put up my 4 foot metal chicken I got from the Mexican guy on the side of 2222 along with our Kips Big Boy Head.

All that to say, I really hope my new neighbors like me.

I always have a cup of sugar they can borrow, I am handy in a crisis (lot’s of experience there), I make a mean Mojito and rarely fall down drunk in the front yard.

Friday, February 4, 2011

My Thoughts on Snow Days

I got a little nostalgic today as I woke to one of our rare Texas Snow Days and my 11 and 13 year-old sons were already outside sledding dangerously down the hills without parental supervision, and my 16 year-old daughter called in tears to say that she slid the car into someone else, and then my husband yelled that a pipe burst at our house… It seemed fitting to re-post what I wrote four years ago when my children were still small (12, 9 and 7 years old) and those days were REALLY special.

Snow in Austin, Texas is almost unheard of and as lifelong Texans my children have only seen snow a few times. So on February 24, 2007 when I was awakened by my middle son, Winston, shouting “Snow everybody. No School. Snow Day! Snow Day!” I knew it was going to be a great day. We all got up and went downstairs to a world covered with white and full of the sparkle and hush that snow brings to every surface of our world. This was going to be one of those memory days that Gloria Gaither talks about, something we could all look back on and recall with a smile. “Remember that year in Austin when it snowed and you all got to stay home from school and we...”

Request number one. “Mom, can you make us all hot chocolate? Not the instant kind, but the real kind?” “Of course, I sweetly replied,” and just as I was pulling out the ingredients for the cocoa and homemade sweet rolls, I heard a voice calling from the other room. Request number two. “Mom! Can you light a fire?” “Mom, we NEEEEED a fire, right now.” As I was going into the den to start the fire, I heard shouts from upstairs. Request number three. “Mom! Where are my gloves? Winston stole my gloves. Make him give them back.” “I can’t go outside without my gloves. I won’t wear the Spiderman gloves those are for babies….” And so the perfect snow day begins.

Ok, friends. Here’s the deal. I know for sure that I will NOT survive any type of nuclear or bio-warfare attack where our family has to hole up inside our home or some other type of confined “safe” place for any length of time.

We have only been home for the snow day for 24 hours and I have already done about 2,000 loads of wash for children who have cried because they wanted to go outside and needed warm dry clothes, then cried again because the wanted to come inside and take off their wet, cold clothes to put on some new warm clothes, and on again, and off again, and on again, and off again for the clothes rotation. I swear my children have been in layers of clothing that I have never even seen before. I am not sure which is worse, having children crying because I say they can not go outside again or crying because when they do go outside and then come back inside again they are too cold and their hands hurt. My washer and dryer has been going non-stop almost all day.

Then there is the matter of the 30 or so individual dishes that I have had to pick up today from unique places such as the bathtub, behind the computer, underneath the bean bag chair and from virtually every flat surface in my playroom and den (AND THAT DOES NOT COUNT the meal dishes from our three “regular” meals). I have run my dishwasher 3 times today and it was full each time. NO LIE.

Next I can tell you about the number of times I have screamed at the top of my lungs “Take off your wet shoes and leave them by the door!” Or “Hang up those wet coats; don’t just throw them on the floor.” I am not sure, but I think those words must be coming out of my mouth in some sort of foreign language because not once today has anyone actually listened to them and understood them.

Then there is the small matter of our pets…. Yes, I am sure many of you have worried about our chickens (as well as our three dogs, one cat, chinchilla, and guinea pig) but don’t worry, I made a little space for them right beside my husband’s side of the bed because he loves them so! Ha!

Actually, it is quite hilarious to see chickens strutting around in the snow – they don’t seem to mind and our chicken coop is heated and protected from the wind so that is ok. The only problem is my having to venture out in the cold several times a day to make sure their food and water is not frozen. And, as for the rest of our four-legged family members, they have had a wonderful day all warm and cozy by the fireplace. But, did you know that dogs don’t like to get their paws wet from the ice and so try to do their business inside where you can’t find it? In fact, mine are so smart that I can put them outside for an hour and they will wait until they come back inside where it is more comfortable!!

One of my favorite things about all being at home for such an extended period of time is the joy I find in relaxing in my home. With three children at home and a variety of neighborhood kids coming through the house, it is just a wee bit untidy….. but I have just been sitting around eating chocolate and reading books while these kids have dutifully picked up and put away every game they have taken out, every book they have looked at, every video (about 3,796 - I know. I counted. ) they have looked through to find that one special one they have not seen since last year, every crayon they have taken out and used in drawing snow day pictures, and every toy they have pulled out to play with because “I’m BORED Mom, there is NOTHING to do!”.

Last, but not least there is the minor issue of bickering among my children. Mind, you I say bickering because my sweet little darlings rarely ever fight and it is 9:30 p.m. and since they are all still breathing and all seem to be in full possession of their limbs, I am sure the screaming and yelling I heard at various times today came from some of the neighbor children. Mine get along so well.

Oh yea,and did I mention that my husband went to work today right away, first thing?He is such a good provider for our family and we are so grateful that he works so hard! Come to think of it, he was awfully anxious to go and seemed determined to get there even if he had to hike………

Seriously, it is so wonderful to remember the JOY of being a child and being granted the wonderful miracle of a perfect snow day! I can still remember my first snow day in Austin, around 1969 or 1970 where we spent the whole day rolling down the hill at Tarry Town United Methodist Church and sneaking around the grounds of the Catholic Convent at the corner of Exposition and Westover because they were still pristine and no on had walked around on them yet. Then walking back up Exposition to Holiday House to drink Hot Chocolate and eat French fries.

It remains in my memory as a “perfect day” almost 45 years later and I hope my children will also treasure their memories of that one perfect snow day or of any other special day that I can help them create. And those are my thoughts on snow days.