Posts Tagged ‘people watching’

#Hyannis Half Marathon: The Aftermath.

February 23, 2014

I walked the Hyannis Half Marathon today. My time was a disaster (I finished last; by almost an hour). I’m never going to be able to run because of various orthopedic maladies. Right now, my body feels better than when I did the Philadelphia Half Marathon last fall: I was on pace to break that time by an hour. What happened? Put it this way: I have more respect for any high level athlete who plays through a cold, bronchitis or the flu than before. The last 4 miles were torture. But here is where I ran into kindness. It was obvious I was struggling. I was wearing a University of Tennessee dry-weave shirt. Marathon (it was a combined Marathon, Half-Marathon and Marathon Relay) would turn back and yell: You have it! Keep going. Don’t stop and my favorite “Come on Volunteer! You can do it!”. These are people who can still speak after running 22 miles. I was stopping every 200-300 yards to cough my head off. One runner STOPPED to make sure I was ok. At mile 11, I let a few tears slide out. I could feel a blister, I was coughing and damn it there was a hill! There was no way I was quitting with only 2 (ish) miles left. Marathoners, half-marathoners and wanna be’s (that would be me) are nice. They encourage, they yell support and then? After running 13.1 or 26.2 miles, a group stands and cheers for the stragglers.

When I crossed to the last turn, the 3 guys who passed me twice and called me Tennessee were standing there with their friends. They yelled “we told you we’d wait for you at the end!” I’ll probably walk at Hyannis next year (unless, of course, I have a re-run of a vicious cold). From the volunteers who didn’t leave, to the people in the area who stood out between water stops with water/Gatorade, I had fun. It might take my lungs a bit to heal. But if you want to meet a nice group of people? Lace them up. Because sometimes even dead last can feel like winning.

Yahoo!  I did it!

Yahoo! I did it!

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The insanity of attempting to use your #fsa and #insurance plans. #mangledcare

May 13, 2013

The flexible spending accounts (FSA) are one of the more under utilized benefits by many of my co-workers.  The net is that you can legally allocated up to $2500 (as a single person) designated from pre-tax dollars to pay for prescription medications, physical therapy, medical co-pays, etc.  Usually (keyword) it works like a charm; you go to the pharmacy to pay with the debit card and it’s done.

Until one day, you receive in the mail letter stating that they company managing the FSA system (in my case PayFlex) sends you a letter stating they need “an itemized receipt for the treatment received”.  It’s a Dante worthy ring of hell adventure just this side of having to be the unfortunate soul to cuts Donald Trump’s hair. Really.

Being a proper Gen Xer, I first tried to solve this issue on-line.  Being a total type A, save documentation you probably don’t need person, I pulled out the “Welcome to PayFlex” guide.  Any reasonable, logical, sane person would have waited until Monday to handle this over the phone.  After spending a few hours playing with the web site, I gave up and called.

I swear on Jackson’s life that the reason why costs care are what they are is because of the sheer ineptitude of the industry to become seamless.  It would save them money (increase profits), probably decrease secondary illnesses related to things like increased stress from dealing WITH insurance companies.  The reality is that none of these the issues I’m have their roots in the currently being enacted Health Care Reform Act/Obamacare.  My hope is that the new act will only LESSEN the frustrations.  I don’t have hope because the system is so entrenched.

So back to the attempt to use my FSA account. . . .

I mailed back the detailed receipt as requested.

They denied the claim.

I called.  Why was this denied? You didn’t use our form.  Uh, great but it doesn’t say to send a claim.  I read her the letter (really) and it didn’t mention a claim form.  A few transfers letter, they’ve agreed to re-review bill without the form since, you know, they don’t require it.

Back and forth, they ask if they can fax me something (no, I don’t have a fax number).  They are stunned.  I’m stunned.  I ask them to send me the form in the mail (true story: my printer broke and since I can use the printer at work? Why bother: most of my life is paperless) since I don’t have a printer.

Back on hold; they aren’t sure if they can mail me the form since it’s on-line.

More conversation, she keeps suggesting to me to use the online feature(s).  I wholly agree but I point out to her that since I am using my iPad, there is an encryption mismatch.  I agree to use my notebook to register for the services.  Turns out, my employee ID number wasn’t long enough: I needed 2 leading zeros. Turns out the zip code that I’m supposed to use is not mine but my employers (not in the information).  Log in.

Very first line? “New mobile applications for iPhones, iPads, Andriod and Blackberry.”

Somebody just send me Bully Boy Vodka.

 

Picture of the Day 1/1/13

January 1, 2013
Nahant Beach

Nahant Beach

Cross the first one off the list. Not often a fur clad, Uggs wearing woman and a bagpipper encourage me to take a plunge into the ocean in winter with some friends! Happy New Year!!

It’s No, No, No, Nordstrom Anniversary!

August 4, 2012

Sigh.  Nordstrom used to represent legendary customer service.   Today, I returned, after a bit of frustration, a skirt and 2 pairs of shoes to my local Nordstrom that I had sent to me during the (in)famous Nordstrom Anniversary Sale.

I’d rather have a root canal.  Ok, maybe not that extreme but close.

I stepped off the elevator and took my items to the customer service department.  I wanted to just dart in, out and continue on with my day.  Was I wrong!  As I placed my Nordstrom bag on the counter, with the receipts in hand and my Nordstrom card (trust me, for these acts alone I deserve a medal).  The customer service representative told me he could not help me with my returns.  Um, excuse me? I mean, it’s a return.  You are customer service.  He pointed to a sign that said I could go to any department and they’d be happy to assist me with my return.  Seriously? I mean, this is a Nordstrom: places of legendary (and false) tire returns.

I trudged over to St. John’s (the closest department) and while the woman was lovely, she couldn’t return the shoes.  Something about a “company policy” again and I know Nordstrom employees take flak all day so I smiled and took my items downstairs to the shoe department.

I walked up to the shoe counter with my items and was asked if I needed help.  Yes, I needed to return some items from the Anniversary Sale.  And the sales associate offered to find somebody (I sort of wondered why she asked if she wasn’t going to help but oh well).  I pulled out my two pairs of shoes and my skirt.  The new sales associate apologized but said he couldn’t help me with the skirt but would take care of the shoes.  At this point, I was wondering *where* Nordstrom and their famous customer service went.  I asked about the sign at customer service that any department could help with any return.  He explained that shoes was different due to a “company policy”.  After inspecting my shoes in a manner that would make a US Marine Corps Drill Sergeant proud, he stated he could return the shoes.  (Great, I’m thinking because I bought them less than two weeks ago, looked at them in person and said not for me.)

I went back up to St. John’s and returned the skirt.  The woman apologized again saying that different departments can only return some items.   She helped me return the skirt and was nice but really? 4 departments for 3 items? Target and Wal-Mart both don’t have you run all over the store for a simple return.

On my way out, I stopped by customer service.  I wanted to let them know their sign was wrong.  He explained the same “company policy” on returns about different departments.  .  I half jokingly asked the customer service rep if I could purchase a roll of quarters from him since that was on my to-do list.  He said he was sorry but it was against company policy.  At this point, I had to think what exactly does customer service DO all day?

On a lark, I looked a www.nordstrom.com for their returns policy:  “Simply bring the packing slip and credit card used when you placed the order to any one of our stores.”  And be prepared to run around for a bit.

Fashion and the Politics of Hair

January 21, 2012

First, for the important news of the week.  It snowed in Boston. Twice. Yeah!!  Now for the truly mundane.  Had a minor shopping trip last week with a friend of mine (ok, not really minor in the fact I was actually IN A MALL but work with me).  I realize I’m not the fashionista I once was when I worked for the company from hell.  But given what was FOR SALE I maintain that wearing Dansko’s, khakis and sweater, shirt or t-shirt depending on the occasion is the most sane way of dressing.

The first thing that scared me?

Um, at least it's orange?

Um, at least it's orange?

 

This odd item was at Lord and Taylor.  We were pretty sure it wasn’t a single leg warmer for an elephant.  It appears to be a tube dress for an adult. Ok, growing up when this was fashionable-the-first-time, I shudder that we are returning to the economics of the Ford/Carter/early Regan eras based on what we are being shown as acceptable in the fashion world.  Let’s face it: dress well, feel good.  Putting that on, even if I was a size negative 2, I wouldn’t feel good.  I’d feel lost, misguided, wondering if my friends were secretly plotting to get me on the auditions of American Idol so they could mock me.  As I wondered how such a garment could impact the primary season, my friend pointed out the obvious, most people are too fat to wear that.  Uh, yeah. Sad thing is, most people don’t have her common sense.  I’m still not convinced it wasn’t a dog blanket for a German Shepherd or something. Ok, I really hope it was a small dog apparel item gone wrong that somehow wound up with a designer label.

The fashion crisis only became worse when we went into DSW.  Ok. SERIOUSLY? These are the “styles”.  Note, if you have a kid, urge him/her to become an orthopedic surgeon specializing in ankles.  In about 20 years, there is going to a be a BOOM in the need for ankle replacements.

Hi, I'm here for my PT appointment. . .

Hi, I'm here for my PT appointment. . .

 

For the evenings!

For the evenings!

 

The great shopping debacle led me to realize this is wrong with this country.  We are settling for bad fashion people!  How can we possibly accept the current slate of GOP candidates? How can we take them seriously?  I mean, look at their hair!

Psst, next time dye the sideburns

Psst, next time dye the sideburns

 

Hey, Mitt, can I borrow some of that gel stuff?

Hey, Mitt, can I borrow some of that gel stuff?

 

Stacey and Clinton are around somewhere. . .

Stacey and Clinton are around somewhere. . .

 

Proving that one popular night-time pundit is right: a vote for Herman Cain, is a vote for well, the best dressed GOPer (and hence, not on the ballot).

Of course you can trust me! I won Thumbs up 7up!

Of course you can trust me! I won Thumbs up 7up!

50 Random Things About Me. . . .

April 13, 2011

So, a friend of mine made a list of 100 non-negative statements about her … uh, yeah. I’m not that brave. So, here are 50 random nonnegative (unless we pick opposite sports teams) about me.

1) I love to travel. My must go to before I die list stands at India, back to China, SE Asia circuit, Trans-Siberian Rail, New Zealand and Australia. Winning the Lotto would help this addiction.

2) I’m a good cook. I’m a really good cook when I put my mind to it – pretty rare – but a good cook.

3) I can travel for 3 weeks including a laptop and CPAP in a backpack the size of a carry on.

4) The aforementioned backpack is the only piece of luggage I own.

5) I once got stuck in the Paris Metro gates with the backpack while on crutches after having my hip reconstructed. It was pretty funny.

6) I’m wildly sarcastic and sardonic. 

7) I have Halloween cats named Jackson and Lafitte.

8) I love college sports.  Doesn’t really matter the sport … there is something about the passion.

9) I have 8 friends who are published authors.

10) I’m terrified of the dentist.

11) I’ve had surgery 31 times (hence the blog name).

12) I’m on the fence about the Kindle or other such book readers. Something about the feel of paper.

13) I actually have written a real letter in the past year. And mailed it.

14) My shower curtain has dancing monkeys on it. Ok, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

15) I’m left-handed.

16) I totaled my car while moving cross-country.

17) I recycle.

18) I’m fiercely loyal to my friends … but if you cross me?

19) I vote in every election.

20) I believe in day baseball, the Cubs winning the World Series and Santa Claus. Well 2 of the 3.

21) I go to church, uh, once a year.

22) I try to remember that most things aren’t as important as we make them out to be.

23) I think Oreos and Diet Coke make a perfect dinner. 

24) Occasionally, I like to splash in the big puddles.

25) I prefer tea over coffee.

26) I read just about everything . . . except vampire and romance books. Which is odd because 2 of my friends have published books in those genres.

27) I’ll defend just about anybody’s right for free speech … even if I disagree with them.

28) Casablanca is my favorite movie.

29) I enjoy watching people … we can learn so much by just watching.

30) I’m not as outgoing as most people assume I am; I’m actually pretty reserved.

31) I’m allergic to shellfish.

32) I dyed my hair brown once … it turned out orange. Whoops.

33) I love my 3 nieces and 3 nephews more than anything else on this planet.

34) I love red wine.

35) My favorite item of clothing is my Ohio State hoodie … it replaced my GAP hoodie.

36) I try to laugh as much as possible.

37) I support as many local businesses as possible.

38) When I swim laps, I sing Bon Jovi in my head.

39) I am amazed at my friends and family who can parent, work and find time for themselves.

40) I try to remember my Grandmother’s favorite question “what did you learn today?”

41) I have had bone grafts from cadaver donors . . . I hope I can make the same choice if ever presented to me.

42) I once threw a pan away after a cooking experiment.

43) I have a bobble head Jesus and Moses action figure doll.

44) I’m a slightly rabid basketball fan.

45) My mother’s name is misspelled on my birth certificate.

46) Every year, I really think the Cubs are going to win the World Series. One year, I’ll be right!

47) When I play tennis, I sometimes switch hands with my racquet.

48) I’m afraid of ice storms.

49) I graduated from Hollins College.

50) I’m pretty sure peanut butter is the world’s most perfect food.

Reflections on Japan

March 11, 2011

Like many Americans, I awoke to the news of the 8.9 earthquake that struck Japan at 1:00 am EST today.  I was stunned.  I had spent 3 weeks backpacking/training through Japan.  I know maybe 5 words in Japanese am deathly allergic to shellfish and spent the last 5 days curled up in a Tokyo hotel room with the swine flu.  Still, I’d go back in a second.

There is a tranquil chaos of Japan that amazes me: across the street from the Louis Vinton store is a 13th century temple.  Neither seem out-of-place; neither seem in place. It just is.  As I travelled up and down the island on my JR pass (and oh, my motion sickness didn’t like the trains), I noticed I was somewhat of a curiosity. My hunch is that there are not many Americans roaming around Japan.  When I wound up on an express train in the Tokyo subway system, an elderly Japanese woman helped me figure out where to get off and led me to my exit before turning around into a packed rush hour station presumably to continue her destination. What is uncommon about this is that it was so common.  I’d be walking through a park, or reading in a tea shop and people would come up to me and try to make sure I wasn’t lost, lead me to hidden treasures. 

My introduction to Japan started off as a disaster: a typhoon in Tokyo, tornadoes in Atlanta, flight crew being over time alloted all led to arriving 10 hours late: after all transportation ended. There I was stuck in the Tokyo Airport dreading sleeping there after a trans-Pacific flight: and yes, even the taxi stands had shut down!  The police came through and my instant thought was great, I’m going to sleep outside.  Instead, they distributed sleeping bags, pillows, 2L of water and a roll of ritz-like crackers: for free.  Then the police stood guard over us so we could sleep.  My instant thought was “somebody needs to pass this idea on. . . . “.

I wandered to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  I felt drawn to see those cities as, well, my country blew those towns up.  There is an egocentric idea of here to save the world that is easy to undertake as an American. For good or bad, right or wrong, we skip over some of our more painful actions.  Yes Japan had vowed to fight to the death, and yes we caused mass destruction.  Here I was a 30 something American walking through Hiroshima’s memorial park.  The main peace monument is oddly in the shape of a covered wagon.  The symbolism from a western perspective wasn’t lost on me: forward, onward, keep exploring.  As I wandered through the park and the memorials while working up the courage to enter the museum, I was surrounded by a gaggle of 5th graders on an English class assignment.  Word quickly spread that I was an American (well that and my Red Sox hat) and I soon found myself answering questions to about 30 10 year olds on my favorite color, did I like Japan.  There teacher was profoundly apologetic: I smiled and said my sister was a teacher.

After touring the museum (somewhat balanced), I met up again with the students as we both picked the same spot for lunch. They giggled at my un-artistic lunch of carrots, yoghurt, water and ginger ale.  Compared to their stunning presentation of food, I could see the point.

Every place I went, I was warmly received. It wasn’t for my stunning ability to speak Japanese but my mangled attempts to communicate, to explore, to take risk.  Japan has a reputation of being a closed society.  I found it to be one of the most welcoming places I’ve ever been.  I spent a day in the town where the tsunami took aim: blue waters, friendly people and suggestions on other towns to see in the area.

Dumpling lessonWandering

Today, when I heard the news, my thoughts went back 2 years.  It was a trip on a whim based on the fact it was cheaper to fly to Tokyo than to Oklahoma.  I discovered a nation that even in the heavily tourist spots of Kyoto and Tokyo found the time to help a lost American.

Today and for the coming days, my thoughts are with the people of Japan. I can’t comprehend the physical destruction, let alone the emotional one facing Japan today.  I learned so much from my 3.5 weeks there some historical, some personal.  And I would do anything to return, if only to payback the people of Japan for their enduring kindness.

Peace ParkA favorite treat: lemon slushies

Farm Adventures

November 6, 2010

I recently joined a local food co-op. The Massachusetts Local Food Cooperative, founded roughly 4 years ago, provides individuals the ability to purchased locally sourced food (including sustainable, humanely raised meat) once per month. For the vendors, it is an on-demand system (they know how much of a given product to deliver) which can augment the farmers market/CSA business model.

Yesterday, I volunteered in the distribution system of packing member boxes. While I did have fun (although my shoulder is rebelling about this idea today) and am still VERY grateful I did not see a scary chicken, what I found to be the most fascinating aspect about the process was the diversity of the individuals. From the bumper stickers ON the cars, this was an unlikely group of people who would stereotypically get along. But you know what? They did. Conversations were about how to improve systems, commenting on the growing seasons: or more simply stated, working together to get the job done.

Most of the volunteers are also producers.  Everybody who purchases items through the co-op is supporting local small businesses which then provides a direct return on dollars spent into the central Massachusetts economy. One of the producers I purchased an item from is a cheese vendor. I had previously purchased their items from a national supermarket chain. I was thrilled to see the items on the food co-op list. First, they were less expensive and second, my money was going directly to the producer.

Economists and pundits have long-held that the key to economic recovery is the growth of the small/local businesses. I would also like to think that part of the recovery from the hate filled rhetoric of the past election is the growth of local ventures like the food co-op I joined. There were people there who worked with and saw “the other” and there was not an ounce of debate. There is so much more we have in common that which divides us. I really don’t care if my carrots were raised by a person whom I have divergent political views, what I do care about is the economic growth of my community and the ability to retain local industries and small farms. And, of course, the health benefits of eating locally sourced food is a bonus. I even tried goat sausage. I’ll admit, it was good. And I’m more than a little bummed I didn’t buy a jar of honey. The plus side is? There is always next month!

It’s TINKER DAY

October 28, 2010

The great spirit Tinker awakes once a year for Hollins University students and jealous alumnae worldwide. On campus? A free day! Krispe Kreme donuts and breakfast in your pj’s. After climbing Tinker Mountain a feast of fried chicken, Tinker Cake (of course!). Classes are cancelled. Some time in October (only rarely in November and one odd time in the spring, but we won’t GO THERE). After the first frost. But when?

Then you graduate. And sadly, most bosses frown on Tinker Day. The further you get from your last REAL Tinker Day, you yearn for the Krispe Kreme and the magic Tinker Day Fairy that takes away work for a day. You know, things like this:

Just so many dishes!They never end. . .

It’s sad really. . . there are not Tinker Days for Alumnae. Or are there?

Thank you magic Tinker Day Fairy!Really! Thank You!

No! Thank you! Give to the Annual Fund and maybe next year, the magic Tinker Day Fairy will visit you!

And even leave you a note!

Thoughts for Memorial Day

May 30, 2010

I wrote this in July of 2007 while waiting for a flight – and thought it was perfect for Memorial Day weekend.

I am in the Jacksonville Airport. Now as far as airports go, JAX is not bad – it has a Starbucks on both sides of security and free wireless, a pretty good place to spend an afternoon because of overbooked flights when trying to fly standby.

I got here about 10:00, my flight leaves about 5:00 so I’ve been doing some people watching. People began to gather at the exit from Terminal A with balloons and banners. The excitement of the giggling little ones caught my attention and I stopped working on trying to fix my father’s e-mail (very long story) and watched. Approximately 8 kids, about 3-6, hopped, jumped and were acting crazy. As exhausted as I am, I thought, a .10th of an ounce of that energy and I can feel better.

One of the t-shirts caught my eye. Unmistakably Carolina Blue, I giggled a bit silently at the bravery of wearing that color in Florida given the Gators’ status as 2-time defending champion and all. I twisted back to see what the shirt said. “My Daddy Comes Home Today!” The little boy turned around and the front of the shirt was his father’s picture with the background that was most certainly Iraq.

I took a closer look at the people gathered. All walks. All types. The children were the uniting factor that had deceived me into thinking that this was one big group waiting for one person. The adults stood apart from each other. All fidgeting, glancing at the arrivals board, counting down the minutes until they could expect to see that first glance of a loved one.

People started to tell their kids to come back over as the first people made their way down into the terminal from the Atlanta flight. The adults protectively put their arms around the little ones: or, was it the little ones who provided the reminder that yes, a loved one really, really was coming home today. The kids, all post 9/11 children, knew not to run down into the terminal. I did not know anybody in this gathering but found myself wishing the process would just hurry up. You could feel the range of emotions. How much has changed forever? To simply the jumping jack wearing the t-shirt “My Daddy Comes Home Today”.

I felt this stupid lump in my throat and felt my eyes tear up. I have seen soldiers walking through airports but never seen a combat deployed solider reunited with a loved one. One by one, they appeared. All looked exhausted, proud and very glad to be standing among friends, family and loved ones. The Daddy of the jumping jack bent over the stroller – and picked up a baby. He is more beautiful in person, he said. I lost it. Tears streaming down my face, I felt like a voyeur, this was supposed to be a private moment, a parent seeing a child for the first time should not happen in the middle of the airport. He kissed his forehead. I glanced over at his wife. Her hands over her mouth and tears pouring out of her eyes, she shook, as if every prayer ever uttered from her mind was answered in that moment. It probably was.

What I know about being pregnant, I’ve learned from my siblings and friends. You pray for a healthy, happy child to be born. 10 fingers and 10 toes, but really in the end, it is the healthy and happy baby is more important than which side of the family can claim the nose.

All I know about being deployed into combat, I’ve learned from my parents. My mother told me, she prayed every day that my father safely returned from Vietnam. It’s never been said, but I would wager, my father had the same prayer.

I hate this war. It is stupid and dumb. Those are my political beliefs. I’m proud (?) of my generation for not taking it out on the soldiers when they come home. For recognizing the lessons of who is to blame (stupid president) and who is not to blame (the father of the jumping jack).

Every once in awhile, I see a welcome home sign hanging from an overpass on the Pike or on 128. But there was something much more tangible today. There were faces of relief, joy, pride and something that I never should have seen. He was a beautiful baby, big, big eyes and the sweetest smile. His father should have met him about 8 months ago. Not today, in an airport.

I started to wipe out my eyes and looked up. The person sitting across from me was doing the same. It never gets old, he said. But, I wish it did, I added.

We nodded went back to our computers and didn’t make eye contact again.

I hate this war. I really, really hate it.