Thursday, October 19, 2017

Suckered by Sears: The case of the nonexistent mattresses and the $500 theft


Our ten-year-old twin boys are giants – five-foot-five already.  It was time to get rid of the youth beds we’d bought them eight years earlier and buy a couple of extra-long twins to accommodate their future selves.
After more than a month of online research and phone calls, I found an awesome deal on Serta mattresses at Sears.  About $400 for both. I paid $69 delivery and set-up, and then another $14.95 for delivery within a two-hour window.
$487.72 total on our credit card.
Not bad, huh?
I placed the order September 19 and Sears promised delivery between 9 and 11 a.m. on September 26. Our twins were thrilled. The morning of delivery, my husband took apart their old beds and stored the mattresses.
We vacuumed their rooms.
Then we waited.
And waited.
And waited.
I’d received an email that morning and a voice mail the night before, saying the delivery was on schedule and that I should soon get a call from the driver just before his arrival. But the phone never rang and the mattresses never came. Shortly after 11 a.m., I called Sears to find out what was going on. 
Oh, the mattresses. We’re checking with the manufacturer to see whether they have any. We’ll get back to you soon. Maybe in a few days? Sorry about that. 
What?!
I’d been waiting for mattresses that didn’t exist.
I was livid, but what could I do? I cancelled the order and asked for a refund. Then I ordered mattresses from another company. The refund never came.  A week or so later, I called customer service again. This time, I left a message on their “corporate” line. A man called me back a few days later and asked whether the refund came through. I didn’t have access to my computer at that moment, so he told me to call back and gave me a number.
The refund should have gone through, he said.
It didn’t.
I called back on October 4 to inform Sears of the missing refund and find out what was going on. The phone number didn’t take me to corporate. It took me right back to their overseas call center. 
Oh. Your refund? We can’t process your refund. We need your credit card information again. We can’t put a refund through without a credit card number, silly! By the way, it will take seven to ten business days to process. 
Again: What?!
So here I am on October. 19, eleven business days later, chatting once again with an overseas customer service representative. What is my issue? Your company took nearly $500 from us for nonexistent mattresses, kept me waiting two hours for a delivery that wasn’t going to happen and now refuses to give our money back. 
“I understand how you feel,” she said. 
Really? Do you?
After verifying my mailing address, email address and phone number yet again, the representative said processing on the refund began October 4 and that I should have received it by now.
(You think?)
She asked me to hold while she determined what is going on.
(Did I have a choice?)
About a minute later, she was back, claiming to have contacted three other departments. 
“Unfortunately, I am unable to confirm the time frame of the refund or why you haven’t received it,” she said. “I have contacted our processing team. You will receive a phone call in 24 to 48 hours regarding your issue.” 
Can I have a number for this processing team, in case we don’t connect? 
“I am afraid I don’t have that,”she said. "Someone from the processing team will contact you." 
So that’s that. I have called several other numbers for Sears and I must say that I am impressed. Every attempt takes me back to their overseas customer service representatives. They are clever, if nothing else. I have since done a little research and found that I am not alone in my frustration. Check out this thread on Sears’ very own website. (Update: It appears Sears has taken down the page since I published this blog.)
The bottom line is that we are victims of thieves.
I was suckered.
Never again, Sears.
Never again.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

It's here!

Raising Identical Twins: The Unique Challenges and Joys of the Early Years is now available in paperback and in print! This project has been so much fun and a great break from writing fiction. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

From Amazon in paperback or for Kindle
From Barnes & Noble for the Nook

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Coming soon! Raising Identical Twins: The Unique Challenges and Joys of the Early Years


I remember that moment.
It was ten years ago and I was in a hospital bed recovering, just hours after giving birth to twins via a double-whammy (a vaginal birth and a c-section).
The pediatrician had arrived to do a quick examination of both boys. He sat on the edge of my bed, reached into the crib they shared and tickled their toes.
"Congratulations on your identical boys," he said. "They are perfect."
Identical?
That was a word I was unprepared for.
When we learned I was carrying twins five months into my pregnancy, my doctor assured us they were fraternal. The placentas had implanted on polar opposite sides of the uterus. Identical twins who have their own placentas implant close together, he said. They couldn't possibly be identical.
I was relieved.
Imagine all the ways parents could screw up identical twins!
Then along comes this hospital pediatrician, telling me our look-alike babies are identical. (Okay, so maybe we had our suspicions after we held them that first time.) Six weeks later, DNA tests proved him right.
That's alright, I thought.
I'll just Google some information on raising identical twins or buy a book.
But I found nothing anywhere.
Absolutely nothing.
So at my husband's urging, I started a blog. I recorded the development of our twins from birth through their sixth birthday, supplementing the posts with research, fun facts and advice from my own experiences and the trials and errors of others.
I felt a bit like a journalist again. It was fun and it was, according to the comments and emails I received, appreciated. I ended the blog on their sixth birthday, figuring they had reached an age where they deserved a new level of privacy.
But the emails didn't stop.
Several readers suggested I create a book, something they could give to relatives or to other new and expecting parents of identical twins. I toyed with the idea while working on my fiction. Finally, I put the fiction aside for a bit and dove in.
Raising Identical Twins: The Unique Challenges and Joys of the Early Years will be released in just a few weeks.
I hope you enjoy it!

  

Monday, May 1, 2017

When two worlds collide: motherhood and writing

I told a fellow writer recently I would not be attending two appealing conferences this spring and summer because of conflicts with my children's lives. One falls on the weekend of my son's first-ever prom and the other clashes with summer camp drop-off.
She commended me on my "sacrifices," but suggested I reconsider.
I need to put my writing first, she said.
I need to ensure that I am taken seriously if I want to succeed.
I was taken aback.
I just don't see it that way.
I chose my career, but I also chose to have children.
I believe in balance, but when I am forced to tip those scales, they will always tip in favor of my four kids. My husband is no different in his approach to his career, though it's less obvious because he doesn't have as much flexibility.
Motherhood has made me a better writer, so if it slows me down a little, that's okay.
My perspective is unpopular, at least that's what I gather from forums, blogs and books on the subject. We female writers are supposed to protect our writing identities at all costs and forgive ourselves the selfishness required by our career choices.
Don't get me wrong.
I am selfish sometimes.
Um, plenty of times.
Just this morning, I encouraged my sick ten-year-old son to watch YouTube videos so I could write in peace. The house could be a lot cleaner. I could put better meals on the table. I could be doing art and science projects with my kids during school breaks and on the weekends to keep them off their iPods and computers.
I could also take a regularly paying job and earn money for after-school activities, upcoming college costs and educational summer outings. I have sometimes worked part-time when our finances required it. Most recently, I was a taxonomy specialist for a media company.
But as soon as our finances allowed, I quit.
Why?
Because I'm selfish.
I want to write even if I can't guarantee that my writing will sell.
But I have my limits.
No conference is worth missing my son's first prom.
I want to see the flush in his face when I tell him how handsome he looks in a tuxedo. I want to see him give his date her corsage and wave as the two of them head off for a night of dinner and dancing with friends. I want to hear all about it when he gets back.
No networking opportunity is worth missing camp send-off.
I want to hug my twins before they disappear into their cabins for their first full week of overnight camp and squeeze my daughter before we let her go for two weeks, longer than we have ever been without her.
And no novel of mine is going to suffer because I didn't go to that one workshop.
Look at all the real-life experience I am getting through my kids.
You can't buy that.
We women have good reason to be protective and defensive when it comes to our identities as writers. Despite all the strides we have made as a gender, society as a whole still tends to see male writers as professionals and women as hobbyists.
But we don't have to deny one identity in order to reinforce the other.
I completed four novels while my children were in the most physically, emotionally and intellectually demanding stages of their lives. They still need me now, but their needs have changed. These days, the conflicts with my writing are more about the schedule.
Achieving a balance is easier and it will only get better.
If I get published now, my youngest kids are old enough to understand that I will have to travel for signings, to teach workshops or to participate in conferences. They are old enough to be excited for me, to be proud of me and maybe even to sometimes travel with me.
And it goes both ways.
I am secure enough in my identity as a mother to do all that without guilt, to enjoy success as a writer.
I have not sacrificed.
I have compromised to get what I want, an entirely different concept.
We are not going to change society's view of female writers by mimicking the success of stereotypical male writers. Why would we want to do that? We need to show the world something different. We need to show society that parenthood (fatherhood included) is a valuable asset for writers, not a complication or a burden.
I will go to a conference this year, but I won't miss a child's birthday, a school event, or a milestone to do it. Childhood lasts for only so long, but I intend to write forever.
Where's the sacrifice in that?
(Margaret Atwood, you are my idol!)

Friday, January 20, 2017

Why I march

While most of you slept, my daughter and I boarded a bus for Washington, DC.
We are joining hundreds of thousands of women for the Women's March on Washington, a massive show of solidarity among all marginalized groups and those who support them.
This is not a popular move in our area.
We live in a land of Trump supporters -- good, honest people who want change and who feel Donald Trump is the catalyst we need.
Most do not understand my motivation, especially for bringing our 15-year-old daughter to such an event. They think we are protesting Trump and his election to the presidency, and they don't see the point.
We are not protesting Trump.
This is not a protest.
This is a rally, intentionally planned for the day after the inauguration to help make the message clear. It is intended to raise awareness and show our strength. It is designed to help people bond and to empower them, so that days, months, years after the march, they can draw on this strength and these bonds to create change.
Donald Trump is our president.
The people chose him by the means provided by our Constitution.
This, I accept.
This is democracy.
What I don't accept are the attitudes expressed during his campaign toward women, immigrants, disabled people, Muslims, the LGBT community and people of color. What I fear is that these attitudes will work their way into our system of justice, both civil and criminal. What I want is progress, not regression.
I want to protect our daughter and our three boys, who share our values.
I want them to grow up in a world of tolerance and diversity.
I want to be an example for them.
I want them to see that I am willing to march for what I believe it, that I am not afraid to express myself publicly even when I am surrounded by people who disagree with me. I want them to see that I am trying.
I want our daughter to feel empowered, too.
Like any event of this sort, the Women's March on Washington will draw people with their own agendas. Those who fear what we embrace will narrow in on such individuals and hold them up as examples of why this march is so wrong.
Please don't do that.
Please know that most of us are marching for the country we love, the country you love.
Please remember that this is me, your neighbor and friend, that I love and respect you regardless of your politics. Please try to keep an open mind and I promise I will, too.
Something is wrong in America, and the majority of Americans believe Donald Trump has the skills and the leadership ability to fix it.
I hope he does.
I hope that his attitudes toward women, people of color, immigrants, Muslims, disabled people, the LGBT community and other marginalized groups were lies, that he threw them out there to pull in votes from certain vulgar segments of the population, people who believe the Constitution applies only to those who are like them.
I hope that he will take us forward not backward.
I hope that he will listen, not ridicule, when we march, and I hope that you will do the same.
Let us be heard.
Let us roar over the voices of hate and intolerance.
Let us march.

  

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Rest in peace, Keegan

A friend posted on my Facebook news feed yesterday that addiction is a choice, unlike other diseases.
I fought hard to control my anger.
She couldn't have known that just an hour earlier, my brother had called to say his son had died -- his sweet, intelligent, good-hearted son.
Keegan did not choose addiction anymore so than others choose heart disease, or diabetes, or epilepsy or other diseases or conditions. He was born with it. It runs in the family. It is, truly, honestly, sadly, a disease.
Nor did he choose to die at the age of 30.
Why would he?
He had everything to live for and he wanted, so badly, to live.
He tried.
Hard.
He sought treatment beginning at age 15 when he showed his parents the whiskey bottle he'd been drinking from daily. He asked for help and they gave it to him time and time again, with no regard ever for the financial and psychological cost to the rest of the family.
They were there through every Code Blue (and there were many) in the emergency room, through every rehab stint, through every halfway house stay. They stayed even when the therapist said it was best to give up on him and forget he existed.
They loved him.
Over the years, alcohol, opioids, gambling, all kinds of addictions fought for control over him because that's the way addiction behaves. It isn't particular and it is incredibly selfish. It wants everything from its victims.
It is cruel.
We like to portray addicts as losers. It's safer that way, to draw a line between us and them, to believe that it can't happen to us because we are way too smart for that. We like to believe it is a choice and that we and the people we love won't become addicts because we're not stupid enough to make that choice.
Keegan was not stupid.
He was highly intelligent. He did well in high school and in college. He held patents from a major food company at a young age. He earned a master's degree between stints in some of the most highly rated rehab facilities in the country.
I'm sorry, but you are not safe.
Your children are not safe.
No one is safe.
No one will be safe until we remove the shame, the stigma from addiction.
So think before you post.
Think before you degrade and judge.
Just think.
Rest in peace, Keegan.