fame and shame · Sartorial stuff

Day 388: Close Encounters with Customer Service

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m trying to wean myself off Amazon and instead support local businesses and ethically made products instead. The thing is, Amazon has really perfected the logistics—the correct stuff arrives the next day, and returns take a few small clicks and a walk to the mailbox. In contrast, the local businesses have taken a bit more time to deliver, and returns have required a bit more effort. One place even sent me two of a completely different item than the one I’d ordered. All of this, and they’re more expensive than Amazon by far. But can you really put a price on treating your workers fairly? Well, yeah. And this is it.

On the upside, any interactions I’ve had with customer service at these businesses have been very positive. Here are three of my favourites.


Dear Encircled,
I love the dressy leggings I bought from you, but I’ve washed them once (cold water, gentle wash) and the stitching is coming undone on the inner thigh. I’ve attached a picture. Is this a quality control issue?
Thanks,
Decemberbaby

Dear Decemberbaby,
That is certainly a quality control issue! I’m so sorry this happened. I’m sending you a shipping label so you can return the leggings to us—we’ll take a look at them to see what went wrong in production. I can either send you a replacement pair or refund your money. Which do you prefer?
Encircled Customer Care

Dear Encircled,
I’d love a replacement pair. These leggings are the best leggings I’ve ever worn!
Thanks,
Decemberbaby


Hi KnixTeen,
I bought a pair of underwear from you, ordering the correct size according to your sizing/measurement chart. They’re super soft and comfy, but they keep slipping down. Is this an issue of size? Or is there a different cut or style that might stay up better?
Thanks,
Decemberbaby

Hi Decemberbaby,
Sounds like those are definitely too big for you. Since this is your first purchase from us, I’d like to send you a new pair in the next size down. We can’t take back the original pair due to health regulations, but we ask you to please wash them and then either donate them or pass them on to someone who can use them.
Thanks for your business,
Knixteen Customer Service


“Reflections, how can I help you?”

“Hi, I just received an order from you today. The invoice is correct, but the items in the box do not match the invoice.”

“Can I have your invoice number, please?”

I recited the number.

“I see you ordered a stuffed animal. What did you receive instead?”

“Two tote bags filled with miniature stuffed animals and hardcover books.”

“Okay, I know which ones you’re talking about… I’m going to go ahead right now and ship you what you originally ordered, but my boss isn’t here right now, so I don’t know whether he’s going to want to have you ship it back to us. We’ll be in touch about the return label.”


I know, I know. The first and last examples are simply corrections of mistakes made by the vendors in the first place, but they were so nice about it. As for the middle one… who says, “Yeah, you bought the wrong size, so we’re just going to send you a free pair of the right size.”? Well, these guys do.

Fibro Flares · Independence · Keepin' it real · Kids

Day 387: Unneeded

I folded laundry this morning. It only came out of the dryer six days ago; I’m pretty proud that I did it in under a week.

Then I took a nap.

It’s the small victories, right?

I also managed to put in an online grocery order. Unfortunately my brain is still pretty foggy, so we might end up with a completely random assortment of foods that don’t combine into anything this family eats. Oh, the excitement! The anticipation! It’s like opening the front door in the middle of the day to find a box there: I’m ordering so many things constantly that I never know what I’m going to get when I open a package.

I've ordered so much stuff online during quarantine, don't even know what's  coming anymore. If UPS shows up with a llama tomorrow, it is what it is. -  America's best pics and
Image description: Yellow background with red text that reads “I’ve ordered so much stuff online during quarantine, I don’t even know what’s coming anymore. If UPS shows up with a llama tomorrow, it is what it is.”

Finishing the grocery order just about did me in, cognitively speaking, and an online choir rehearsal took me the rest of the way to “time to lie down now.”

Good think I’ve raised the kids to be fairly independent: they came to me this afternoon and said, “We’re going to the park. ‘Bye!” And off they went, all four of them. They stayed out for a couple of hours, and I rested.

There’s a common sentiment that it feels good to be needed. That’s generally true. But after thirteen years and three months of being needed almost non-stop (there was that one cruise Mr. December and I took) it’s a bit of a relief when they don’t need me for a change. Especially during a flare.

Fibro Flares

Day 386: At Loose Ends

Normally a fibro flare doesn’t last long for me. A day or two, maybe three, and then I’m back to normal. It’s just a few days; I can take those days to rest and do absolutely nothing strenuous. This current flare is now finishing day four; judging from how I felt going up the stairs just now, day five won’t be a picnic either. If we head into another whole week of flare (I hope not, but if,) what’s my plan? Am I going to do some light exercise each morning and then spend the rest of the day lying around?

The truth is, I have no idea. I don’t generally think of myself as someone who’s ill, although I acknowledge and make concessions for my variable stamina. I just don’t understand what I’m supposed to do with myself when I feel like this for a week or more.

It feels weird to lie around while Mr. December and the kids clear the table and load the dishwasher. I can’t help feeling a bit lazy, so I get up and do things, which leads to worse symptoms, at which point I remember why I wasn’t getting up and doing things… until the next time I forget and feel like I’m just being lazy. It’s a vicious cycle.

(Not a viscous cycle, not that I’m sure what that would even look like; It’s just that I keep seeing that particular misspelling of “vicious” and wonder what viscous substance we’re talking about. Honey? Tar? Hair gel? And how does that relate to a cycle?)

Just to be clear: I’m not unhappy, I’m just in pain. There’s a difference. There are just so many things I want to be doing—building, sewing, biking, playing—that a long period of idleness is almost intolerable. Reading is doable, at least until my arms get tired from holding the book, and the kids are always good for an hour or two of snuggling, but what else is a supposed-to-be-resting mom supposed to do?

bikes planes and automobiles · blogging · Fibro Flares · Kids

Day 385: Failure to Pace

Here we are again. Yesterday was such a beautiful day, and E was especially eager for a family bike ride, and I agreed to a shorter ride than we ended up doing. I overdid it yesterday, even though I biked very slowly on an easy gear and took lots of breaks. As you might guess, today was not a good day, fibro-wise.

Every day has its good parts, though, and yesterday I was tremendously proud of E. She biked six kilometres—three out and three back—on her own bike, entirely unassisted. She’s still too wobbly to do much riding on city sidewalks, but on the trails she’s doing fine. Better yet, she loves biking as much as I do.

It’s very hard to resist such an earnest entreaty from E: “Please, Eema! You said we’d take a bike ride together! We can go slow! I’ll wait for you! Please!” I had said no to her on Wednesday; I didn’t want to say no again.

So right now my legs feel like they’re made of lead (or maybe even Tungsten) and my brain feels slow and foggy. My arms are absurdly tired, too. I did very little teaching today and abandoned any pretense of schooling the kids after lunch. They busied themselves building another epic living-room fort while I zoned out in the back-porch hammock with my fuzzy blanket.

(On a side note, I went outside for some peace and quiet, which is pretty bizarre seeing as I live half a block away from a massive (and noisy) construction site. Still, outside was more peaceful than inside by far.)

I lay down for a while this evening and binge-watched some of Shtisel (season 3), which is just drama upon drama, but which I love because I can understand it without subtitles, even though they switch between Hebrew and Yiddish.

I think this post was supposed to be about how hard it can be to pace myself, but I’m seven (short) paragraphs in and haven’t really gone there yet. My brain feels like it’s been switched off. The kids are talking to me and I might as well be underwater for how much I’m hearing and understanding. Bed now. More blog later.

Early morning musings · Fibro Flares · Kids · love and marriage · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 384: Is *that* why I’m so happy?

Yesterday when I hauled my achy body downstairs in the morning, a full, fresh pot of hazelnut coffee was a very welcome sight. Mr. December had gotten downstairs before me.

“Kids,” I said after I’d had my first sip, “Your father is a prince among men.”

“Why?” They asked.

“Because he makes me coffee in the mornings; When I come downstairs I can have a nice warm drink right away.” I said.

“And that makes him a prince?” K inquired.

I nodded.

“Because he made you coffee, which he was making for himself anyway?” She prodded further.

“Because he makes enough coffee for us both to have refills. And he does it every time without my having to even ask. Besides, it’s not the grand romantic gestures that make love last. It’s all the little things you do to make each other’s day even just a bit better.” I’ll admit I was pretty proud of squeezing in an important life lesson before we’d even had breakfast. I looked over the rim of my coffee cup at the kids, watching to see how they digested what I’d said. K spoke up first.

“Eema…” she paused as if looking for the right words, “I think maybe your standards are too low.”

Darn Tootin' · family fun · Fibro Flares · Homeschool · Keepin' it real · Resorting to Violins · whine and cheese

Day 383: Doin’ it with flare

How does one homeschool their kids in the middle of a fibromyalgia flare-up? It turns out that the answer is: as little as possible, as honestly as possible, in as much comfort as possible.

It was a gorgeous day today, so I pushed all of us out the door and to the nearest park. We did our workout on the playground equipment. At one point N got lazy and started lolling around on the climber instead of doing the exercise. I set him straight: “Listen, mister. If I can do it today, then you sure as heck can do it too. Get moving.”

I find one of the most difficult things about fibromyalgia is gauging how hard I can push myself. Exercising during a flare-up doesn’t do any damage to my body; it just hurts. So I guess the question is how much pain I feel like tolerating, given the expected payoff. Going to the park with the family improved my mood substantially, but it didn’t help my pain level at all.

Mr. December worked on chemistry and math with the older kids while I helped E with her writing, reading, and flute (which is going really well, by the way.) The rest of my morning was spent ordering groceries on Instacart and sitting in a hammock alternately reading and spacing out.

The kids joined me in the living room to discuss their next writing assignment. I stayed cocooned in my hammock with my furry blue blanket and patiently answered all their questions. Then I went upstairs to lie down for an hour. I have no idea what the kids ate for lunch, but I think it’s safe to assume that if they were hungry they would have eaten something.

We reconvened in the living room after my nap and I read aloud about Ancient Greek democracy. Then, for art, I asked them to bring over all the sketchbooks and markers and introduced them to meandros, those Greek key designs that you can draw without lifting your pen (did you know the word meander comes from the name of a river in Asia Minor? I was today years old when I learned that.)

By 2:30 I was done. I went to the back porch and cocooned myself in the outdoor hammock for a bit of a change. Groceries arrived around 4:00 and I dispatched my child labour force to bring everything in and put the perishables away. Dinner—rotisserie chicken and potato wedges from the supermarket—was at 5:00 and by 5:30 the kids were clamoring for more screen time.

“Not until you’ve practiced your instruments,” I stared levelly at R and K, “You haven’t done that for a week or so.”

I’m proud (and a bit surprised) to say that both R and K went off and practiced on their own. After a while K invited me to join her on the back porch for her practice; shockingly, she was very receptive to my suggestions and did some really good work.

And now here we are, after an hour of British reality TV about kids of varying backgrounds having playdates at each other’s homes (E loves this show,) and I’m about to tuck in three of the four kids.

Everything still hurts, possibly more than this morning. But I did it—I managed to preside over some learning, music practice, and dinner, which feels like a massive accomplishment right now. I think a warm bath and a cup of tea is what’s needed now, and then maybe if I get lucky somebody will tuck me in.

bikes planes and automobiles · family fun · Kids · The COVID files · waxing philosophical

Day 382: Siblings and Friends

One of the greatest gifts the pandemic has given us, I often think, is that the kids relate to each other as friends. Sibling rivalry doesn’t seem to be much of a thing anymore (although it could just be in the last week or so; My memory for such things doesn’t go much farther back than that.) Instead I’ll glimpse moments where they’re encouraging, comforting, entertaining, and supporting each other—moments that are so sweet they take my breath away (or maybe I just need to use my blue puffer. Not sure about that one.)

Today we went on a family bike ride, the first one where E has ridden her own bicycle instead of being on a tandem trailer behind mine. She’s still a bit wobbly, but she rode three kilometres before we stopped to play at the park (and a final kilometre to get back home.) As the rear guard, I got to watch as R cycled alongside E, shouting encouragement and advice as they went.

“You can do it, E! We’re almost there!”

At the park R immediately climbed up a freestanding rock wall and then called to E to try it. As I spotted E from below, R called out pointers and persuaded E to keep trying when she wanted to quit. Eventually E made it to the top where R congratulated her and showed her the most secure place to sit up there.

After dinner I refused to give E more screen time. “Go do something else!” I instructed before sticking my nose back in my book. She came to me some minutes later with a dominoes game, asking how to play, when K sauntered into the room. I offhandedly suggested that K could play with E; after telling them the basic rules I went back to my reading. I thought K would play maybe one round with E—but they played four or five games before deciding to do something else. K spoke softly, patiently, and she treated E as an equal.

I store up these moments in my mind and in my phone, greedily, against the day when they go their separate ways, each with their own peer group. I often comment that it’s wonderful being married to my best friend; it’s pretty wonderful that the kids get to grow up as close friends, too.

Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Jewy goodness · Keepin' it real

Day 381: Kitchen Turnover

For those who don’t know, on Passover we change over our entire kitchens—dishes, pots, utensils—so that there will be no trace of leavened things, which we’re forbidden to have on Pesach. Most of the people I know call this “turning over the kitchen.”

There’s a particular feeling of accomplishment in having washed, dried, and packed up all of the Passover kitchen stuff within 24 hours of the holiday ending. We don’t use our dishwasher on Pesach, so this is always a monumental task. I did it today and it took about three hours. I felt so proud of myself.

I did have some help: R got up early this morning and started to wash the dishes herself, so I wouldn’t have to do it all (thanks, R!) She came to me when I was still waking up and told me that she’d broken a plate.

“That’s okay,” I said, “these things happen.” Meanwhile, my inner voice cheered, That’s one less dish to wash! Whee!

Anyhow, everything was finally packed away by dinnertime and I was feeling very satisfied. Then after dinner I went to get a tupperware container for leftovers; I opened the drawer and my satisfaction evaporated. There in the drawer were my Passover casseroles and serving dishes that I had entirely forgotten about. I wasn’t done after all.

I closed the drawer quietly, turned away, and tried to pretend I hadn’t seen its contents. I’ll deal with it tomorrow. Sufficient to this day is the kitchen turnover thereof, or something like that.

Image description: two open drawers, one above the other, containing some glass casseroles, a colander, and some jars. Evidence that I’m not done turning over the kitchen yet.

bikes planes and automobiles · el cheapo · Keepin' it real · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 380: Anti-Theft System

There have been a lot of car thefts in our area lately. It seems that every few days someone else posts on the neighbourhood Facebook group that their car was stolen, and the comments section is soon peppered with discussions of Faraday cages, The Clubâ„¢, and other anti-theft measures. Despite all this, I have no fears of my car being stolen; you see, I have my own patented anti-theft system that I use for my car and my cellphone.

Here’s how it works: my stuff is functional but old-looking (and usually just plain old.)

Our car is a 2012 minivan with peeling paint and a dented side panel. It’s a workhorse that hauls lumber, bikes, and people. It’s pretty comfy to boot, with seat warmers in the front and a separate heat/ac system for the passengers in the back. It’s served us well for the past nine years and we plan to drive it for at least another six.

My phone is a 2016 iPhone SE. I bought it used in 2017 and immediately covered it with the most waterproof, shock-proof, me-proof cover I could find. It’s not new, pretty, or flashy, but it takes good photos and serves as my external brain; I don’t need or want anything fancier.

My anti-theft system works because, as Mr. December drily observed, even thieves have standards—and apparently, their standards are higher than my own. Just further proof that lower standards are the key to happiness.

blogging · family fun · mental health · waxing philosophical

Day 379: I didn’t expect this… but here we are.

We finished watching The Sound of Music tonight, all snuggled together on the giant beanbags in the attic. I love, love, love this movie—I sing along to the songs and sigh in all the romantic places—which is why I’m upset about how it made me feel tonight.

(Spoiler alert: if you haven’t seen the movie yet, what rock are you living under? It was made in 1965, for heaven’s sake!)

In one of the final scenes when the family is hiding in the abbey, the brown-shirted men come running in with their flashlights as the family cowers behind a tombstone. That’s about when I got a sudden jolt of adrenaline. I felt it in my chest and hugged the kids a little tighter to help myself feel better. It helped, but not by enough. When the movie ended I dragged Mr. December out for a walk, hopeful that the exertion would use up all the extra adrenaline. It didn’t. Even now, writing a blog post two hours later, my body is still on high alert.

I had a similar reaction the last time I saw The Sound of Music, but it was a live production and there was an actor dressed as a Nazi soldier, standing not three feet away from me, that gave me the sudden urge to duck beneath my seat and hold my breath. I assumed that my reaction in that case was because I was part of the scene and it felt so real. I still don’t really understand how just seeing the action projected on a wall in front of me, as I snuggled down safe in my house with my kids, could provoke this feeling of panic and dread.

As we watched that scene (where one of the Nazi soldiers hid behind another gravestone to wait and see if the family would appear), I pointed out to my kids, “If you’re ever hiding from someone, stay hidden a lot longer than you think, even after you’re sure they’re gone.” It’s a bit disturbing that part of me fears they might actually need to know that one day (God forbid.)

A quick web search suggests that this is what’s called collective trauma, or maybe historical or cultural trauma.

“It kind of makes you understand a bit more about how and why people can get so upset about microagressions, doesn’t it?” Mr. December philosophised as I speed-walked along the sidewalk.

He’s right. It does. And it’s also a potent reminder that we don’t know what other people’s baggage is. Sometimes even they might not really know or expect it. I certainly didn’t expect it tonight, but here we are.

I don’t really know how to end this. Not the blog post—that, I can just press “publish” and send it off into the ether, with or without a solid conclusion—but the panicky feeling I still have. Mr. December (well-read on a wide variety of subjects) says it can take hours to come down from this kind of state. I certainly hope not.

And just for the record, The Sound of Music is still one of my favourite movies, hands down. I guess I’ll just stop watching before the end from now on.