May 31, 2003

shower song

I was taking a shower an hour ago and found myself singing my own rendition of "The Wheels on the Bus."

Join me, won't you?

the voices in my head go round and round
round and round
round and round
the voices in my head go round and round
all day long

the voices in my head go swish swish swish
swish swish swish
swish swish swish
the voices in my head go swish swish swish
all day long

the voices in my head go chatter chatter chatter
chatter chatter chatter
chatter chatter chatter
the voices in my head go chatter chatter chatter
all day long

the voices in my head go wah wah wah
wah wah wah
wah wah wah
the voices in my head go wah wah wah
all day long

the voices in my head go shhh shhh shhh
shhh shhh shhh
shhh shhh shhh
the voices in my head go shhh shhh shhh
all day long

alllll dayyyyy loooooonnnnnggggggg.

In a Down Economy, Customer Service is the killer app

I've been thinking about this, in fits and starts, about how my personal tolerance for poor customer service and appreciation for stellar customer service has changed over the last few years. There isn't a company out there claiming to have anything but a superior, well-trained, talented, at-the-ready support staff. No one says, our product's great but our service sucks. I know of what I write.

But we have changed. Call us consumers (but please don't), call us customers, call us clients. A rose by any other name still has a wallet. And what we expect out of a company is something of an inverse proportion to the amount of change ding-a-linging in our change purses.

What I mean is this: during recent times of plenty--not now, but think back to the good days that came just after the last time when things were just like this--we didn't expect much. We said we did. But we didn't. Not really. Because we had a lot. Most of us, at least more of the U.S. than is now the case, had more money, spent more money, and felt like business and especially the Internet offered limitless opportunities.

And it was in that spirit that we got involved in, and accepted, a lot of crap. It was cool to grab a beta product, to help companies work the kinks out, to just go ahead and fix things yourself. Gee wiz, they're really busy changing the world over there--should I expect them to be there to answer this simple question? I'm lucky to have my hands on this great product. I'm so glad they accepted me as a client! I uttered, and heard, those words more than once.

My how things have changed.

Now, companies like Dell, and they're not alone, are feeling the wrath and repercussion of a public that put up with a lot and didn't mind it. As we have fewer and fewer pennies in our hands, as fewer and fewer of us have jobs at stable companies--or jobs at all--we have become more demanding. Really demanding. Forget about pulling out and taking our business elsewhere--we're pulling it in and not taking our business anywhere. Forget about beta, I want to pay $19.99 for a solid product, or I won't bother getting one at all.

In a time of haves and haves not, we haven't. And we just won't.

It seems to me, then, that the companies staffed and positioned to deliver on the promise of superior customer service--and companies already leveraging customer information and putting it to good use (amazon is one of the few that comes to mind, and earthlink isn't bad either.)--stand the best chance of all of surviving these challenging times, and actually floating to the top in an ocean full of sinkers.

Who am I to say? I'm a customer, a client, and on my worst days a consumer. And I've also repeated the "great service" mantra in my writing with the largest and tiniest companies for 20 years now. Sometimes I've known it to be true. Sometimes I lied. Sometimes I took a guess. But now, when I see a company that delivers on their language around responsiveness to customers, I know it's something special. I grab it in my writing and showcase it. Because I know my own wallet's empty. I know I'm not experimenting anymore on my dime. And I can appreciate and tend to give my business to companies that "get" that.

Just something that crossed my mind today, as I'm working away on a brochure and simultaneously mopping the kitchen floor. Those crazy multi-tasking consumers. Ain't we something!

a bedtime apart

It has been a busy busy week here. So many times I blogged in my head, pushed publish, and sent posts to the back of my brain, where they're lost with thousands of swimming memories. But I wanted to remember to write about the sleeping children.

Jenna's friendship with one of the girls in her dance class has blossomed over the last week. This has involved spending time at each other's houses. I marvel at their neighborhood, not too far from my own, maybe 4 miles, but a world apart. Our houses are similar, same style, same age; our trees are similar, our yards too. But they have the kind of neighborhood built for kids. The kind that bustles with playing children instead of adults worried about work and lawns and shopping. It seems like everyone is always at home and outside on their street. It seems like no one is ever at home or outside on our street. Unless you count the paramedics, who should be pulling up any time now for our alcoholic suicidal neighbor. Anyway, that's for another post. Trauma central.

Back to the children.


One night last week Jenna's new best friend came to spend the night here. It was supposed to be reversed--Jenna was over there until 10 and was going to try to spend the night, but wanted to come home. So I went over to get her and their sad eyes got to me--please can she come too? PLEASE? Okay, let's switch. You come stay at our house. A good first experience for Jenna.

And so it was, although they were up until 2 a.m., until finally, I completely gave up and let them come sleep with me in our big king-size bed.

There we were. Girl, girl, woman. Jenna in the middle. Me and this beautiful little creature with straight thin blonde hair so unfamiliar to me in every way, like bookends for my daughter. I woke up a lot in the six hours we slept. Kept looking over at this little stranger, curled tight so close to the edge of the bed I kept waiting for a thump. In her sleep she'd roll some, wipe away wisps of hair, smile, pout. All of the things I've seen in my own daughter's dreaming, but never in someone else's child so close, so near, so vulnerable in her sleeping and dream state.

Jenna sat bolt upright at 8:00. I wasn't surprised. She's awoken that way since she was very little. Because she could talk long before she should have been able to, she'd sit straight up in her crib, look to the blinds shining in sunlight, and announce to the world in a voice I can only described as suprise and wonder: "I WAKE UP!" Every morning amazed her that way. She was astounded by the miracle of morning, the concept of waking after sleep.

This morning her friend was right behind her: "We're not tired anymore!" So the two five year olds bounded downstairs and left me to stumble out of bed, still tired, but in an odd way refreshed. As if I absorbed some of their energy while we slept.

My next thought was of Michael Jackson. Yes, a leap. I know. But it occurred to me that maybe, although he's neurotic and likely psychotic, there is truth in what he says of the innocence in sleeping with children. There was something incredibly moving and vulnerable about having these girl children so close, one of them not my own, in such a relaxed and unguarded state as sleep, and something so marvelous about waking and looking at their faces, them looking at one another, and then me. We wake up! It was like that.

I'd like to believe that's all it is for MJ too. That maybe just because he wakes up, a man in a bed with a couple of boys, it's just as genuine and innocent as a women waking up in bed with a couple of girls. And it doesn't matter how many. There could have been five of her little friends piled in that bed and it would have been the same relaxed sleep, the same wonder at waking.

But men don't get that opportunity. Men are immediately suspect. Because this partriarchial culture and heavy western mores say that men don't lie in bed with boys, or even girls. Men need to be men, Alpha Males, and all they should ever think about is sex and work. That men can't be trusted, except to produce and procreate, and that they should never, not ever, be vulnerable. Not for a minute.

Maybe something is wrong with Michael Jackson having children sleep in his bed. I kind of think they would have already hung him if something criminal were going on, since he's been a marked man for a long time in the business. And maybe there is something wrong with the man himself, albeit his particular neuroses are predictable based on childhood.

But maybe something is wrong with us too.

Those were my thoughts, as I made toast and pizza squares and pop tarts for breakfast. As the girls giggled and danced around the living room. And they're still my thoughts today.

May 30, 2003

stories i've been meaning to tell, part 1.

Jenna's graduation from Pre-K was last week. Right. Already told you. But then there's this.

They're sitting around in their graduation circle during the program, and I notice that one of the boys' brother has joined them there. He's a a year or so older. Striking Arabic profile. Dark hair, carmel skin, and a magnetic personality which he demonstrated by taking every available opportunity to distract his younger brother from his graduation duties. A general cut-up this kid was.

Afterward I asked Jenna if that was her classmate's brother.

I see the look in her eye. The blush. The beaming. "Yes," she says softly.

Oh no, I think. And then I say,

"Well, he is a handsome boy."

She shines the brightest smile I've seen in weeks and blurts out:

"Set up the wedding!!"

And I fall off the bed laughing. I don't mean to. There's no one here with me to help absorb the hilarity--left to my own devices, I crack up silly.

Set up the wedding.


May 29, 2003

Go Anita! Rediff Article on Site Counters and Referrer Logs

Check out Anita Bora's article for Rediff called Hits and Misses, a write up on site counters, referrer logs and and statistics. And not just because she gave me lots of quotes. ;-) Well, okay, partly. But it's also a cool article in its own right, one in which I admit to playing mind games with my stats. What bloggers won't do for fun.

Also interesting was Anita's note on her blog that the bloggers she interviewed responded f-a-s-t to her interview questions. I've found this to be true as well, when I've asked for any kind of information from the community--be it what to feed a baby ferral cat to what women think about blogging. Human response is one of the many processes blogging speeds up--a process that old J journalists could easily leverage if they decide to take up residence in the neighborhood--i.e., join the conversation.

Thanks, Anita!

The Eyes Have It

I couldn't help myself. As I clicked through the images--all from women so far--who took the challenge to upload their eyes, I had to put them all in one place, because hopping from eyes to eyes to eyes felt really powerful to me. So Here: The Web Eyes Project.

First thing's first: I have linked directly to the photos people posted. If this brings too much traffic to your blog, tell me and I'll take your eyes off. It just seemed to me like the easiest way to link to everyone's blogs--directly through their eyes. Just let me know if you want me to remove your eyes--out with them!--no, really. Or, if you want your eyes included, post a picture on a blog and email me the link to the jpeg plus a link to your main blog page.

Enjoy. All I could think was, Wow.

May 27, 2003

Ain't Nobody Does It Better...

Some memes were born to be remembered forever. Mostly Gary Turner's slow rising memes, which generally puff up over several days, until they turn from a tasty chuckle into a delicious brew-ha-ha.

If you weren't around for the original Enquirer Covers, some are still left here. Gary, bring back the oldies. Too good. I'm still laughing.... Looky Marek! Oh, God, I'm crackin' a rib over here....!!

May 26, 2003

Seeing you seeing me

bloggers bloggers upload your eyes
show me where tears come from
when you cry.

learning to play

This last two months, with me and Jenna left to our own devices, hasn't been easy. And then, it has been the easiest time I've known in a long time. Because I'm changing. I'm getting to know my daughter. For the first time. There is a lot to write on this, on my inability, until stepping outside of all of my internally constructed walls and relationships, to see her. Really to see her, and to, more than that, let her see me. To play. She has been determined to get me to: to teach me to see her, to get down on the floor with her, to play. To let her in.

So afraid to let her in. I have been so afraid to see her, in seeing her expecting that she would vanish before my eyes, my eyes: see with them, die in them. That's all I have known.

And if you don't die with me, then maybe there is living. Teach me that there is living, a reason, unexpected dips and climbs in season, and that maybe it's enough.

Last night we built a train track on the floor. I was feeling so sick, so exhausted, but I did it. She put her "Cheer Bear" Care Bear under my head: "This'll cheer you up, Mama." I said, "Sweetie, I'm not sad, just so tired." And I watched her, and before long she handed me her recorder to blow through, and soon I was making chuga-chuga CHOO CHOO noises with the recorder as she pulled the train around the track.

And I let myself see her. The pain in seeing her, vulnerable, me vulnerable, how can you stand to love someone so much, and see in her the you, the world, and still dare to touch her vulnerability, to let it touch you, to touch her thigh, her soft skin, wonder at her pores, her sweet brown hairs, as I did last night, and know that it could all be gone, in a flash, and in going, how it would kill your soul, would take you too.

And in loving someone so vulnerable, a child, in knowing she will go one day away from me--has to--in loving like that, with the desparate sorrow I wear around my heart, the loss that was my first life lesson, there is finally, finally, FINALLY, a sweet rejoicing.

I feel with a bone-deep jab of heartache, something else: joy.

I love you my sweet Jenna.

May 25, 2003

Hunter John Willis



So you're wondering, what happened to that little four-week old kitten you found? He's gotten bigger. More spoiled. He's grown into a man cat, as I have yet to get him to the vet for his final shots and neutering. But he's happy.

jenna's breakfast

Hot dog, tater tots, clindimycin rootbeer float.

My breakfast, levaquin and water.

She wins.

giving in

Okay, I've kept this illness on the brink of making me sick for the last two weeks--feeling sickly but not quite sick. When I had to use a fork to scratch my throat last night, I decided to give in and take the antibiotics if I didn't feel better this morning. I don't. So I did. Darn. I was hoping to have a personal first--get better without the antibiotics. But I decided that for me, not to go down hill into asthma hell in 24 hours was itself an accomplishment. My cocktails of cold killers must have been doing something.

Echinacea, goldenseal, zicam, B-vitamins, time-release C's. Almost made it.

The weather here has been astounding the last two days. Magnificent. And after all the rain, the sun amplifies the green of the trees, the grass, ten times over. Even the little rollie pollies who've crawled out from underneath everything damp seem to be happy.

Take a clue from the bugs. That's what I'll try to do.