Day 30 – An End and a Beginning!

I can’t believe it has been only 30 days since I chose to join the blog challenge. I had read a couple of blogs a few times, usually news-related, and I knew absolutely nothing about blog sites or how to do anything on them.  Even with my computer experience, dating back to the 1980s, this was a whole  new world!

Further, I knew little about Twitter (and still don’t know much more, but that’s for another time;) I didn’t even know how to share something on Facebook from another site if it didn’t have a button for it, which I did discover.

Finally, I agonized over choosing a theme.  Ultimately, I decided to make it very personal and take on the thing at the front of my mind, most important for me to accomplish: quitting smoking.  It didn’t make me happy to take it on, because it meant I had to do it, and I had never been sure I actually WANTED to quit.  Yes, for health; yes, for family; yes, for many other reasons; but never yes, for myself.

Once I started, I would have no choice but to go forward, and that would be a plus.  I recognized that I hadn’t minded my family being disappointed time after time, but I was averse to other people thinking badly of me; that’s horrible but it’s the truth.

To my credit, I feel differently now and know that I have learned a valuable lesson:  just because I know they will forgive me if  I treat my family poorly doesn’t mean that I should; loving them means that they deserve my best all the time, not just when it’s convenient for me.  This realization spurred me to action.

The 30-Day Blog Challenge has caused me to examine myself, assess the damage, and work at fixing it.  It’s not all bad, of course.  I discovered strengths as well.   I learned that I have a talent for writing, that I don’t have to achieve perfection (although I try really, really hard), and that some people are surprisingly interested in my thoughts and views.

Moreover, I can do anything I set my mind to!  In fact, I have so many thoughts in my head that it’s going to take me a little while to sift through them.  I want to be sure of what I want to do, while not delaying too long while I decide.

I’ve read many of the of the challenge blogs and they have given me different perspectives.  It’s interesting how the main impetus of most is promotion of a product, idea, or person.  I sometimes say I am not interested in an online business, but that’s wrong, for if I get very serious about whatever blogging I do, I will want to market myself.  I had always thought of internet marketing in terms of products, but I’ve learned it is so much more than that.

Thanks to all who read my blog and commented.  I’m going on a trip to visit relatives and when I come back I will be starting a new blog; the theme is one of the things I am debating.

I am also grateful to Jeanette Cates.  June was a great month!

Oh, yeah, I quit smoking.  I’m a recovering cigaholic.


Day 29 – Superior Service Saves the Day!

Victory found me today! I hadn’t  expected it, after what I wrote about my woes in attempting to buy new eyeglasses online six days ago. That was Day 23 and it looked as if nothing would happen for a long time. As it turned out, that particular order would never be finalized.

Briefly, when I placed the order and went to check out, I was taken to the payment site, where I noticed that what  should have been free shipping appeared as a charge on the invoice. Unwilling to proceed, I simply closed the window and sent an email to the eyeglass site. This put the order in limbo: for the glasses site, I had completed the order but it was never processed because I didn’t pay, and the payment site knew nothing about it. The only solution was to cancel the whole thing and do it over, except I had used the 15% discount code they had given me and it could not be used again, nor would they give me another.

Ironically enough, this last call was the only one of many I placed to them which was answered by a real person and did not require me to leave a message and wait for a call back; the rep was very nice and helped all he could. I wonder how it would have turned out if that had happened the first or second time I tried to contact them. Asking him to cancel it all and forget it, I hung up knowing that I was going to make a visit home with inadequate lenses held by scotch tape in a broken frame sort of hanging on my nose.

Suddenly, I felt I had to try to find a good deal at a brick-and-mortar store before I gave up altogether until after my trip. Turning to the Internet yet again, I began to go to individual major retailers’ sites, searching for coupons and promotions. On the Lenscrafters site I found several promising possibilities and put in a call to the nearest location, on Cobb Parkway in Smyrna, GA.

Corey Jones, the store manager, answered my call and explained the discounts and specials running, then told me that he had something even better to offer me. If I chose a frame on clearance, they would give me not only 50% off the cost of the frame, but also 50% off the lenses. I asked him to repeat that, to be sure, then hopped in the car and went over there.

Corey led me to the wall of clearance frames, checked to see what I was wearing, then plucked three frames from the display. I never looked at the wall; the ones he chose were exactly what I wanted.

Each was great, but one in particular looked fabulous on me and the fit was probably the best I had ever had. That frame also had the best color: purple, my favorite! It is such a dark plum that against my face, it looks brown, but in certain light you can see the true color. That’s wonderful because I desired purple, but in all my searching I had not seen a purple frame that was attractive and not obnoxious.

After doing the math, Corey presented me with the total: $47 more than the non-discount online reorder would have been, although minus the photochromic feature for the lenses. I sighed and decided I would just go for it and be done with it. Plus, I could have them in an hour! Happily, I paid and made plans to go to a nearby deli for a Reuben I’d been salivating for, then would return.

Well, not quite. It seemed that every time I was on the verge of success, another glitch popped up. My left eye requires such a thick lens that they didn’t have it in stock and would have to get it from another lab; it might be a day or even two before they would be ready. My appetite vanished.

Practically in tears, I left the store with the promise of a call from Corey later in the day to inform me as to when I could pick up the finished product. I had envisioned walking into the house and surprising my husband with my dazzling new look; now there would be no surprise, or so I thought.

Several hours later, I called Corey, who had been about to dial my number to tell me that the glasses could be picked up within the hour, the same day! They had scrambled to get the lens quickly and craft the new eyeglasses as soon as possible, because they had seen how disappointed I was.

Counting the times in one day that Corey and his team had striven to give excellent service, starting with the phone call and ending with my happy exit, I concluded that it was worth every penny of added cost over an online supplier, even if I will have to buy clip-on sunglasses. Include the fact that I have a real place I can walk into if I need help or have a problem, and a person will assist me face-to-face. To me, that is priceless.

Of course, Lenscrafters started it all by having a promotion I could afford to take advantage of. If they hadn’t, it would have been another dead-end for me. Perhaps they understand that in the future I will be a repeat customer because of my experience today. Imagine that – providing multiple levels of product offers and treating someone well no matter how much or little they can spend, in order to gain a regular customer! What a concept!


Day 28 – Four Weeks – A Reflection

Four weeks ago, I launched this blog to make myself accountable in my plan to quit smoking.  It wasn’t as easy as I’ve made it sound, but I would have bored you with all my anxieties, though I wrote about them some.  Sure, I’ve had my rough spots, and even a bit of backsliding, but for the most part it has been a great month.

I’ve conquered a couple of habits that needed to be broken; others are in my sights.  New, better habits are on the list, and things look very bright.

Who knew that this journey would lead so far beyond just quitting smoking?  Until I got started, I hadn’t realized how connected my behaviors are; one thing affects another and so on, until it is all meshed together.

Untangling the many webs I’ve woven is a task that will engage me for a long time; done right, I suppose it should last the rest of my life.  There are always things that beg for  improvement; I’ve just not been motivated to act on them for a long time.

Thank you to Jeannette Cates for sponsoring the 30-Day Blog Challenge, even if I don’t quite fit into the business mold with my personal story.  At the end of June, I am going to stop blogging about quitting smoking, but will continue with a different title and theme.  I’m not entirely sure what that will be, but I have some ideas. An online business does not interest me, but there is much that does.

Mostly I just want to write.  I know I can make money with it, and I might explore that  in the near future; at the moment I am getting used to writing every day, for a start!  I’ve had to learn the discipline and time management to make it happen, and that’s a work in progress.

Posted in Quitting smoking | 5 Comments

Day 27 – The Things We Do for Cigs

Today I went to a local coffee shop and sat inside in the air conditioning while I enjoyed my beverage.  What makes this unique to me is that until recently one wouldn’t find me indoors, but rather on the patio, no matter how hot or cold the weather was.  That’s where the ashtrays and permission to use them are.

It amazes me to think that the last time I went there, I sat outside for over two hours, smoking and enjoying the quiet time, reading my book.  It was sizzling hot and the sun beat down on the patio, except for a small area next to the building wall, a space into which I scrunched in order to stay in the shade.  Despite the heat and discomfort, plus my preference for hot coffee drinks, my whole purpose in being there was to relax some place where I could read, smoke, and not interact with anyone.  I was perfectly happy.

In doing so, over the years since I stopped smoking inside, I’ve accustomed myself so completely to wide-open spaces and isolation that I was uncomfortable indoors today.  It seemed cramped and confining.  I’ve never experienced claustrophobia, but I can imagine a tiny part of it.  The friendly staff wanted to chat, there was music playing, and the walls were awfully close.  It’s definitely something I am going to have to learn to like.

This is how I have been inside my home for the last few years.  The rooms are small, and a lack of housekeeping effort on my part keeps it cluttered.  When straightened up, the space is still not amenable, for  it has little light, even with the drapes open.  I believe I suffer from at least a mild case of seasonal affective disorder, which makes the darkness of the house even worse for me.

I prefer to sit on the deck, with my umbrella, TV, fan, and, previously, my cigarettes and ashtray.  Now I’ve removed the latter two items and I don’t need them in order to hang out  there, but that doesn’t solve the desire to spend more time with my husband and family in a normal way.

I am writing a list of indoor tasks to complete that will keep me busy and let me turn it into a place in which I want to hang out.  There are also many activities we can begin participating in; they are awaiting discovery.  Since my husband is an indoor person and I am the opposite, we have to find things that will appeal to us together in both venues.

Why does everything look like work?  Because life is work, and I don’t put in enough time to make it good for me and those around me.  Quitting smoking is a good start to freeing up a lot of wasted hours doing nothing but that, giving me the opportunity to change in other ways as well.

Posted in Quitting smoking | 4 Comments

Day 26 – Recipe for Disaster

Coming out of the credit union, I noticed a small girl about four years old in the passenger seat of the car in the next parking space.  She was alone, and I recalled the woman in line several people behind me, and wondered if that was the girl’s mom.

That car’s windows were down, no doubt because of the intense heat.  How nice of someone to leave the child with at least chance of a breeze, though the air was fairly heavy and muggy.

I started my car, then sat back and decided to wait and watch over the this little girl.  I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving her alone, even if the odds were low that anyone would harm her.  The parking lot was largely deserted at this late afternoon hour, set hundreds of yards back from the street, and that scared me.

I read a lot of true crime, and I know my family sometimes thinks I’m a little alarmist about personal safety, but I also know that people get picked up at any time and any place.  It is particularly tragic when a child abduction occurs.

Alternatively, she could have decided to leave the car and attempt to make her way across the parking lot to the building; although there is little traffic in this plaza, she would be very difficult to see by any driver coming around the corner.

As I sat there getting more angry at how long this poor child was left to sweat, while my air conditioning kept me cool, the woman I had seen earlier finally approached the car, climbed in, and drove off.  I was angry, and I wondered if I should have told her I was guarding her daughter, niece or friend.  Because I hadn’t, she had no idea that what she did might be considered irresponsible and dangerous.

Still, I was proud that I took the time to be there for an innocent whose companion wasn’t someone I would trust with my children.  Why on earth would anyone think it was OK to leave a four-year-old in the car on a hot day in a nearly- deserted parking lot for almost 15 minutes?  It boggles my brain.


Day 25 – Computers are Dumb Machines

It’s true!  A computer is made up of components that only work when software written by someone, a human,  runs.   Although it seems sometimes as if they do, computers can’t take advantage of us, or control our lives, or think for themselves.

I hadn’t thought about it before, but when I worked at a tech company, we referred to our computers as our machines.  We didn’t tell IT, “My computer is doing this or that,” but rather, “My  machine blah, blah, blah.”

This is not to say that the elements that make up a machine are not wonderful, because they are.  The advances in technology allow for smaller and smaller components, with ever-faster speeds and higher capacity.  I wouldn’t be doing this now, nor would my little mini even exist, if not for progress.

Sometimes I have to make myself close the cover on this machine and force myself away.  There’s writing my blog on WordPress; Facebook; Twitter; reading news sites; surfing blogs; and following links posted on Facebook or Twitter.  I’m about 500 photos behind on our daughter’s Facebook account and can’t seem to find the time to go through them.

Still, I spend far more time that I should, seated before this screen instead of interacting with my husband and other people face-to-face. I’ve made a concerted effort lately to get out more and I feel more connected to the world.

I need to establish stricter control over my computer time, reminding myself that this machine is not alive and cannot fulfill all my needs.  It’s good for lots of things, but not everything.  While most of my friends are online ones, some of whom I’ve “known” for over 10 years but have never met, it would behoove me to engage in making some real-life friends.

I hate to say it, but it’s almost like another addiction, which I don’t need now when I’m conquering smoking.  I’d better nip it in the bud.


Day 24 – Yard Work in the Heat

Our grass needs cutting.  Funny how that keeps happening!  It just continues to grow, heedless of the time and effort it takes to keep up with it.  In this heat, though, nobody should be outside exerting any effort.  Here it is, after midnight, and it’s 82° F and feels like 86°.  The humidity is at 79%.

All week, the temperature has risen above 90° every day, muggy and stifling.  Today also featured another smog alert here, common in the Atlanta area, sure to be declared many days this summer.  The forecast for tomorrow predicts a high of 92°, which is worse than it will be in my home town of St. Louis, which is finally getting a temperature reprieve along with some rain.

The heat and smog combined make for a very dangerous situation.  Wouldn’t you know that just when I decided I wanted to start mowing the grass, instead of paying someone else to do it, I can’t find a time that would be safe for it?

There are a couple of middle-school students across the street from us who earn their spending money mowing lawns.  I enjoy seeing them willing to work for their rewards, and I’m proud of their industry.  They printed up fliers and went door-to-door, introducing themselves and presenting a professional mien.

They do a good job and take coaching well.  I feel I am helping them learn how to interact with a “boss” and to improve their performance based on constructive feedback.  I’ll be a little sad to take over the lawn duties from them.

There was a thought that maybe this time I should just let them do it.  Though they are young and strong, I don’t want even them getting out in the scalding sun.  If I were their mom, I wouldn’t let them, anyway.

The grass will have to wait.  I’ll take safety over beauty any day.

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Day 23 – Some Day I Might Get (and Keep) New Eyeglasses

It has been a long, disappointing quest to order a new pair of eyeglasses.  My current ones are several years old, and I started to notice that my prescription must have changed.

It started with the realization that I was having to hold my book at arm’s length to read properly.  Then there wasn’t enough light, and I had to aim the lamp more directly onto the page.

An eye examination proved that my eyes did, indeed, need a stronger lens.  I had found an inexpensive exam, and I  picked out a frame that was reasonably priced and asked for an estimate of cost for the complete glasses.  I figured that it should be a good price, based on the location and the cost of the exam.  I was quite wrong.

I got photochromic (light-adjusting) lenses last time, and I love them.  I’ve used clip-ons, a big pain, and have also owned prescription sunglasses, which I liked while I drove but kept forgetting to change when I got out of the car.  I’ll never forget the time I stopped at a store to use the ATM.  I couldn’t read the screen, and I thought something was wrong with it.  When I asked a passerby for help, he said  he could read it fine, but somehow I was on the Spanish screen, and he knew the language, so he told me what it said and I entered the correct things as indicated, finally getting my money.  I was lucky he was a good guy, not out to rip me off.  When I got back into the car and told my husband about it, it dawned on me what the problem was: I took off the sunglasses and realized I’d worn them inside the store.

I can do without the photochromic lenses and use clip-ons again, but it turned out that the cost, if I took into account buying clip-ons for the next couple of years as they got lost or broken, is about the same, so I opted for what would be best for me.

The price at the optical shop was shocking: nearly $350!  This is the first time in many, many years that I have not had vision insurance coverage, and there’s no way I could pay that much.  I went looking on the Internet and querying friends as to where they bought their glasses.

One web site looked promising; I can’t say now why it did.  It had a lot of features that many of the sites did.  You could upload a photo of yourself and “try on” the various frames, and the one I chose looked pretty good, I thought.

In reality, when the finished glasses arrived in about two weeks, they were huge, far too big for my cute little face.  I knew what the return policy was, only a 50% refund, but I hadn’t seen anything better, because I didn’t read a different web site well enough.  I had no choice but to send them back and take the paltry refund.  It was so low because the entire price was less than $150.

Calling the company was agony.  The connection was just a voice mail, and I got no return call from my message, so I called and left one again two days later.  Still receiving no callback, I sent an email message from the web site.  The reply gave me the name and direct number of a Customer Service person, whom I called.  She confirmed that the refund would be just 50% of the purchase price, and apologized for the policy, but could do nothing for me but ask me to send them back.  Then, surprisingly, I received an email from her saying that she was issuing the refund, even though they had not yet received the return, and that made me feel better about the whole thing, but I would never use them again.

I needed to order somewhere else, but this time I carefully read over the policies at the web site recommended by several people; they offer either one free “do over” or a 100% refund, probably minus shipping, but that’s OK.  In my attempts to phone them, I got the same thing as the other one: voice mail and no return call.  After I left a second message, someone called me and I was able ensure that I understand the full refund policy correctly, and I did.  It was amazing that I was happy to get a response from only two phone messages and not having to do the email thing!  Service sure has taken a beating.

I researched the info on the earpiece of my current frame, and could not find anywhere to get that particular frame, so I did all the measurements.  I chose a frame online with almost identical numbers, so the next ones should be nearly exactly what I have now.  Because my husband said that my current glasses are the most attractive ones I’ve ever had, I was pretty determined to get something that will look as good.

Ready to order, I created an account and began the process.  I had chosen several frames to My Favorites, and had to make a final decision, only to find that when I clicked on “My Favorites”, it was empty.  I had to start again, making an old-fashioned written list of the frames that satisfied my requirements.

Once I decided on the frame, I entered the prescription information and continued; the page hung up and finally timed out.  This happened over and over, so I tried from another connection in case it was mine at fault.  Finally I had no choice but to call again, which actually garnered a call back, but I could not answer and no message was left.  I had told them they didn’t have to call back unless it was to tell me the web site was working properly, so I hoped I could finish up, finally.

Several days ago, my current frame broke on the right side just above the hinge.  I was able to – hahaha! – put tape on it to hold it together.  The only way to keep the lens in is to tape it to the frame, so about 1/5 of the lens has “invisible” – not! – tape on it.  I’m sure it looked really classy to the people I saw when we went out last night.

Multitasking here, I just spent a couple of hours trying to get my order to go through the right way.  First it would not take the code I thought I should use for a discount from another user.  I finally got that straightened out and the discount applied, but then it wanted to charge me shipping when on the home page it says that shipping is free for orders over $99, which mine is.

I aborted the order several times for things like that and also because the pages kept timing out, and now it tells me that I have used the discount code the maximum number of times.  What???  I haven’t actually “used” it yet, as I have not completed an order, and now I really can’t.  I hope someone can give me some good news in response to the email I just sent.

In the end, I still don’t have any on order.  I will have to wear these taped-up glasses on a trip home, which is why I started trying to do this two months ago, unless I want to pay an extra $20 for expedited processing, and that’s not going to happen.  If I had about $400, I would just go over to Lenscrafters and have them in an hour.

Still, I am thankful that at least I have the funds to order online, if only I could.  Sigh.


Day 22 – So Hot the Suet Melted!

On Sunday, I was gazing out into space, as I often do while writing, and suddenly focused on one of my suet baskets in the dogwood tree next to the deck.  I knew it looked strange, but wasn’t sure what had attracted my attention.

The appearance was off.  Instead of a sort of white or beige color due to the lard and flour mixed in, it was brown and dry-looking, and was mostly bird seed.  Upon closer inspection, I realized that there was simply no lard left in it!

Glancing at the basket over the deck  showed the same picture.  I examined the railing underneath it, and discovered a huge grease stain; the lard had all melted in the 95-degree heat and dripped out.

There was a spare cake sitting here on the table.  Pulling it over, I saw that the lard was a lake of grease floating on top, and the whole thing was squishy and a mess.  Still in the package, it hadn’t leaked.  Hubby took it inside to cool off, and now I have to take it out and mix it all up again.

If these had been my own cakes, made with peanut butter, they might have done better, although the peanut butter probably would have separated anyway.  I got lazy and decided to buy this most recent set of suet cakes; the last time I made a big batch was on Mother’s Day and mixing it with my hands was a lot harder than it  has been in the past and caused a big arthritis flare-up in my right hand.  Next time I’ll try the dough hooks on my Mixmaster.

Today, the third or fourth day of intense heat, what’s left in my three baskets are just hard rocks; a few birds come and eat, and I can see it’s taking stronger pecks and the suet is just crumbling..  I’ll have to wait to replace any of the cakes until they can survive in the weather. As much as I enjoy watching them, the birds have plenty of food all around them in this season.

Sorry, guys!


Day 21 – One Blessing of Many

While riding with my husband  in the car down a major road near my home, I saw a family walking on the side of the road, treading a well-worn dirt path through high grass.  The man and woman held shopping bags, and two children stayed close as they trekked through.  I worried for their safety, both from the high-speed traffic and  because of  the overgrowth of four or five feet.; I imagined snakes and rats and all manner of wildlife from the woods beyond.

I thought about earlier in the day, when I had been driving alone  up the same road and stopped at a red light; a middle-aged man in an electric chair began crossing the street in front of me.  At the time I felt bad for him, being confined to the chair and having to get around that way, and I was also concerned for his safety.

I felt surrounded by people who were suffering in some way.  There could be a lot of reasons that family was on foot doing their shopping, making their way along a busy thoroughfare with no sidewalks, but I wasn’t thinking  about why.  I was recalling the man I had seen and how transportation is such an important part of each day that most of us who have it don’t give a thought to those who don’t.

Once, when our car died and we had no way but the bus to get around, our friends Bob and Lynn loaned us an old Dodge Diplomat they had sitting in their driveway.  We had been taking the  local bus to the mall, then switching to another in order to get to work in the city, a one-way trip of about 90 minutes, longer  in rush hour traffic.  It was awful to do it twice a day, but necessary, and we were thankful that route was available.  Still, having the vehicle changed everything; we used it for more than a month until we could get our own fixed.  Thanks, guys.

1980-1983 Dodge Diplomat

Other than that one period, we have been blessed to have a car in working order.  There have been a progression of them, and some may have been clunkers, but we didn’t care as long as a “machine”, as my Yiddish grandmother called it, worked.

We take for granted so many things for which we should be grateful.  Having a safe and reliable mode of transportation is just one of them.

Posted in Blessings | 2 Comments