Friday, November 30, 2012

dear Amnesty International.... (rant)

Note: I debated posting this for some time, but finally decided to go ahead. You may want skip it and come back in a week or two. Be warned that it's a rant I felt I needed to get off my chest. It's not likely to be of much interest to anyone else. It's neither funny nor insightful. I promise my next post will be more in line with the usual stuff I write (which, now that I think about it, may not be funny or insightful either, but that's a different issue).


Dear AI:

I've got a suggestion I'd like to pass along: As a general rule, it's a bad approach to make your donors, especially your regular donors, feel like c@#%.

Disclaimer - I've been sick, so am not feeling my best. Also, I was pretty busy when you called. And we don't have caller ID on our land line.

And just to be clear, my complaint isn't really with the man who called. He was was reasonably pleasant (though rather insistent).

When you called last night I answered because I thought it might be my wife and if it had been, I could have asked her about preparations for dinner. It wasn't. It was a man calling from AI.

He started by introducing himself and then launched into what has become the standard for organizations calling to ask for money: "First of all, I'd like to thank you for all your support…." which is a red flag telling me that I'm about to be asked for more support. It might not touch a hot button if, perhaps, you occasionally called simply to say "thank you" without asking for anything more, not that I need or even want such a call, but when you regularly link any "thank you" with a new request, I'm starting to feel a bit used.

But I knew he was only doing his job, and because I appreciate the work you do and support your efforts (which is why we make a monthly donation), I let him go through his spiel  And yeah, I know there is a world-wide problem with treatment of women. I abhor the fact that anyone, anywhere, would use rape as a tool of warfare. It makes me sick to think that young girls are kidnapped and used as sex slaves, and that others are married off at ages not too far from those of my two daughters (both of whom are upstairs and wanting my attention ss I listen to your caller) so this issue does touch me. Once he's done explaining what you want to do if you had the funds, he makes his pitch for an additional donation of $100.

And I've been expecting it and I tell him that 1) we never (I mean never) commit to any money over the phone, and 2) we're tapped out at the moment.

And he tells me he understands, which is the indicator that he's going to thank me and hang up.

Note: In this less-than-perfect world, where callers of organizations I support cannot know that I'm sick, busy and cranky, this is where things ought to have stopped.

But he doesn't and they don't.

Instead he launches into a second routine about working within the US on the same issue, and asks if I'd make a donation of $50. Which is an indicator that either he wasn't really listening to me, or that he's got a script he is required to run through.

So at this point, I've already spent more time on the phone than I would like, and it appears that he needs to ask for the smaller amount if the larger one isn't going to fly. Which means, even if he really had heard me say that I wasn't going to commit to an amount over the phone (and I'm not sure he did), he goes ahead and asks me a second time for money.

And here's the thing. I really and truly do support the work AI does, and I really and truly believe there are some horrible things happening in the world related to treatment of women. I'm helping to raise two young women that I hope grow up in a world where rape and sex slavery and child marriage are fading, declining events. But I am needed upstairs, and I need to get started on dinner, and to be honest, my head aches like it has all day and I really need to blow my nose again.

So I tell the man again that I don't commit to any money over the phone, and this time I tell him that I NEVER commit to money over the phone.

And he starts again to tell me that he undertands, but he also starts to launch into something else about sending the card and needing to …. But I interrupt him to say "Never" again and that if he wants to send the card he can and we'll look at it and decide. And he says that if we're not going to send any money, they don't need to send the card. And I'm really ready now to be off the phone because I'm feeling bad for being rude to someone who I know is just doing his job, and worse, being rude to someone who is doing his job for an organization I support.

After fending off his inquiry about whether I want to be part of the text alert system (I'm already subscribed to email alerts and to be honest, I've had enough of AI for the evening, so he could have asked if I'd like a free AI Hat and I would have said no), I hang up while he's either saying his thanks again or starting to pitch something else, and I feel awful.

Which is the point of my suggestion to you. It strikes me as bad business to make your donors feel awful.

Yeah, I know you're doing good work, and as I've already said a couple of times, I support that work. But if doing so means I'm going to feel sh@%#y, I may decide it's not worth it and shift the money I send to you each month to one of the other rights organizations I support. The ACLU for example.

Hindsight: I wish I'd asked him to put me on their "no call" list, since I already donate monthly, and they're not  in the business of calling to simply say "thank you" (and honestly, I don't want any organization I support to spend any of their resources doing that sort of thing!).

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

definitions: toebottoms / sobbing wet

It's another double-definition Tuesday, and today we get two from the Divine Miss L.

toebottoms (toe bottoms?) - noun, the opposite of stretching to see something you're too small to see without stretching. Compare to tiptoe.

(I'm combing my hair after a shower, rushing to get out the door in time to catch the last watertaxi of the morning. L is brushing her teeth beside me.)
L (mouth full of toothpaste): Daddy!
me: Hmm? Spit that out before you talk. You're getting it all over.
L (spitting into the sink, sort of): Daddy! Look! I'm standing on my toebottoms!!
me (wiping up toothpaste): Huh. Yeah, you are! You're tall enough now to not need that stool.
L (looking proud): I know!
M (from out in the bedroom): Maybe we can get rid of that now.
L (looking shocked): No!
M: No?
L (shaking her head): Uh uh.
me (glancing at my watch and realizing that I may not make the boat): Why not?
L (shrug): Because, we need it.
M: Maybe we can take it to the downstairs bathroom?
L: Yeah.

sobbing wet: adjective, describing something that dripping with moisture.

(the family is staring out at the dreary PNW fall weather)
b: I want to go somewhere. I want to do something!
me: It's soaking out there.
K: Yeah, let's stay here.
M: That's our homebody.
L: I want to DO something!
K (a look in our direction): Well, it's wet outside!
me: Yes, it is definitely wet.
L: It's sobbing wet!!
me (looking at M): Uh, yeah, it is in fact. Sobbing Wet.

note: Miss L regularly shows up "sobbing wet" after a good cry over, oh, something like a failure to draw a Santa exactly the way she would like, a critical analysis often contributed to by her older sister who regularly advises her that she can't draw good [fill in the blank]s.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

sister sunday - ... ah ooooo, werewolves of...

... the bathtub!

bubble bath after a cold hour at the beach

prelude to a warm bubble bath

What you can't really see is the 32 degree windchill coming off the water, the other beachgoers in down and fleece, and the odd looks the girls got as they tossed aside their boots and rolled up their leggings. (Note, too, the lack of jackets.)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

sisters can ring my bell....

Yes, it's another sister sunday, and this one is sugar-coated.

mermaid, pumpkin and pumpkins

Such a classic picture, no? The jack-o-lantern on the lower left of the group of 3 is the one the girls and I carved. They came up with the face, and I did the surgery. (The other two are plug-in ones from Target or something like that.) We were happy with the way it turned out, and the collaborative effort was fun for all of us.

Trick or Treating this year was... interesting. We went early, during a window between rain squalls, and it was still just barely light, it was dry (though the ground was soggy wet and Miss L ended up with soaked shoes), and it was deserted. Not many kids out at that time. Which meant the girls didn't really have many role models to follow, which in turn meant that they weren't very good at going up to doors and knocking or ringing. We went to three houses, one belonging to their friend down the street (who was still getting dressed up), and then they refused to do any more. So we went home in frustration (me) and with nearly empty candy bags (the girls).

We went back out later, when it was darker, wetter, and there were a few more children out and about, and this time the girls found some random girls from outside the neighborhood which helped to get their courage up, and we managed another 4 or 5 houses before coming home for good. It was a short run, and I was just as happy about that (fewer stops = less candy).

They sat on the living room floor and counted and ate (a few, we cut them off after 4 or 5 candies), and then we got them into jammies, brushed teeth, read stories and got them into bed. All in all, a "frightful" time!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

... by the light...

One of my big challenges as a parent is that of staying "present" when dealing with the girls. It's not that I want to avoid them or what they're doing, but I often notice after the fact that I've missed something that seems important, even if relatively small, due to allowing myself to be distracted while talking with them.

earlier morning walk

It's far too easy to give the girls just some of my attention, rather than all of it, when they're asking me a question or telling me about some small moment in their day. They say something that seems insignificant, that sounds like a passing comment, and hours later it'll strike me that it was something significant, at least to them, and I ought to have paid a little more attention, given them a bit more interest, concern, or simply joy.

K: Daddy, do you like my costume?
me (distracted with… almost anything): Yeah, I do.
K: I think the kids are going to laugh at me.
me (still distracted): No, no one is going to laugh.

And later I realize that she was looking for some reassurance, and while I gave it to her, it was perfunctory, and I hadn't really been there "with" her during our conversation.


L: Daddy, guess what?!
me (stirring spaghetti): Hmmm? What?
L: In class today I had to do the calendar twice!
me (remembering): Oh yeah, you were snack master. How was that?
L: Fine. But I had to do the calendar twice!
me: Really?
L: Yeah!!
me: Can you tell your sister dinner is ready?
L (yelling): K, dinner is ready. Daddy?
me (serving up pasta now): Yeah, do you want water with dinner?
L: Daddy?
me: Here, sit down.
L: Daddy?
me: Yeah, L?
L: I had to do the calendar twice….
me: Right. K! Dinner!

From the grownup perspective, the things they want to tell us, the stories they need to share, are small things. But in other senses they are huge.

For a child, nearly everything is new, their worlds are expanding with each experience, whether it's a face plant into a muddy puddle (like K did this last weekend while I was at work and M took the girls to the aquarium) or a classmate peeing in his pants during calendar (as happened when L's was snack master and doing the calendar so she had to restart calendar after things were settled), it's all part of what they're taking in and experiencing, and they want to talk about it. And if they can't talk about it with us, who can they talk about it with?

Weekend before last, we had a candlelight dinner after a chilly afternoon of hail and icy winds and family movie "night" (watching The AristoCats which was one of our more successful choices) and as we ate I realized that there were moments worth noting, even if they were simply questions like, "How many more bites of chili do I have to take before I get a piece of candy?" :

L, with chili
(and candles)

I have this theory that if I can be here while they're learning about being little girls and making friends and being snack master, listening in ways that lets them know I think what they have to say is important, then maybe they'll continue to share their stories and experiences with me when they're older, and they're busy learning about heartaches and love and successes and failures and are starting to stretch their wings and fly a bit….

I really would love to share a tiny bit of that with them.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

sister sunday

note: i never did manage to get this one posted, back in September, so I'm using it now.  I'm not even sure it was truly "finished" but this is the web, and "finished" is for old farts and sticks in the mud (with more time on their hands than I've got). It seems complete enough to give you a good sense of that first week of school, so I present to you:

Twisted Sister Sunday, the better late than never (and today I've got excuses!) edition


How I had a great photo of the girls planned for Sunday morning, but events conspired to make me late posting it, and then life conspired to create events that needed writing about, but I was too shellshocked to do so.

"not having fun" at Jack Block Park

So, this last week has been a long one. First week of school (starting Weds) for one thing. We've got a 2nd year preschooler and a 1st grader!

And I know I've already written a post about this, so I won't go into it further, but the complication this year was that M had an event that meant she was working 6.30a to past 10p Weds/Thurs/Fri, which meant I was working from home and both dropping the girls off and picking them up. And for those of  you at home who aren't paying attention, or who, perhaps, have no kids or don't remember what the first week of school is like, what this all means is that we were running ragged by the end of things.

The girls did quite well. M and I dropped them off together on Weds morning, and I picked them up that afternoon. Everyone was in a good mood. We made it through both afternoon, dinner, evening, bath, reading and bed without too much trouble.

The evening routine is complicated when it's just one of us. The girls like significantly different things read to them (Bedtime for Baby Bear vs The Boxcar Children - the Lighthouse Mystery, for example). And we're at a point where both girls like to be laid with while going to sleep. This means that K has to listen while I read to L, and then L has to chill while I read to K. On Weds, L fell asleep while we were reading, which simplifies things greatly.

Anyway, Thurs morning went fine as well, as I dropped the girls off without them even seeing M. That afternoon things went fairly well as well, with the usual conflicts and yelling. Nothing out of the ordinary. I was getting tired though, so while the girls played in the tub, I scrambled to get some stuff done online and in the kitchen, and that was a mistake.

There were conflicts in the bathroom that resolved themselves (the girls are actually pretty good at resolving conflicts, though often it means K compromises in the face of tropical storm L), but when I went in there was water everywhere. Mind you, the girls were fine again with each other, but I got cranky and said something like "Ok, that's it! OUT!" and K hopped out in order to get her reading, but L laid in the tub and refused to budge.

I dried K off and then managed somehow to coax L out, but her mood had turned, so that evening we took forever to find pajamas that would work. In contrast, on Weds night we went up and both girls grabbed PJs and were dressed and brushed in minutes. On Thurs, L went through literally 5 different sets of clothes over the course of dressing/brushing teeth/reading book, and every time she realized that her pajamas weren't going to work, K had to sit and stew, waiting for her chance to be read to. I got frustrated (first week of school quiz - Q: What's the worst thing you can do in a situation like this? A: Get frustrated and show it.). Somehow we managed to muddle through, but there were tears, great fountains of tears, and K got bent out of shape which was one more thing to get me, and finally she started having her own personal meltdown in retaliation, which of course made things worse. And when she has this sort of meltdown, she hisses and gets in her sister's face.

In retrospect, I wonder how things would have gone if I'd kept my cool better in the bathroom when faced with .... but that's all just water over the floor.

The upshot is that we managed to get ourselves into bed, with me lying with L who was stuffed up from crying, and K thrashing in her own bed muttering (loudly) things like "Well, I guess you're not going to lie with ME tonight!" and me whispering that I would be right over once L fell asleep, and K loudly opening and drinking from her water bottle and then kicking the wall and saying "You don't even act like you want me to be your daughter!" and me whispering that I would be right over to her bed once L fell asleep (you can see that once I hit upon a winning response I don't change it).

Luckily L fell asleep quickly, so I managed to crawl in with K before she  fell asleep, and we snuggled and she thanked me and said she loved me and then she promptly fell asleep and I crawled out of her bed and downstairs to clean the kitchen.

Friday morning M was here long enough to see K (or was it L...? The whole thing is a bit of a blur now), and then she was off again to work and I was going to make the girls pancakes but didn't have baking powder so we fell back to the usual (toast, egg whites, some cinnamon cereal with chocolate milk in it), and somehow things spiraled downhill with K actiing up in major ways, getting into her sister's face and hissing, hitting her, and doing other things I'm sure I'm forgetting. The upshot of this morning was that K lost the privilege of video and books on Friday, and video on Saturday as well. I wasn't too worried about Friday because my company picnic was that afternoon, so I figured we would be busy anyway, but the Saturday thing was a case of shooting myself in my foot because I could have used the distraction on Saturday, and I knew she was going to be pretty distraught about not getting to watch something. Her response though, on Friday morning was "I don't care!" and as she sat on her bed in a timeout, she wanted me to know that she didn't even like me as a father.

I don't even remember how I got them off to school, but I did it, and then got about 4 hours of work done before picking them up. I was leaving it up in the air as to whether or not we were actually going to go to the picnic, based on behavior on pickup, but they were both fine, and we went to the picnic and they had fun and didn't eat properly and then we went home around 7ish, which is later than they are usually out and is about the time we're into pajamas, but they were filthy and M was home and so we did bath and then bedtime was rotating tap of meltdowns with first one and then the other girl in screaming tears, each setting the other off, while M and I lay with L and K respectively. It was.... a special evening after a long week. Oh yeah, congratulations on being done M, and welcome home!

Saturday was M's birthday, and we had presents for her and had foolishly (?) arranged for to host a few folks to celebrate that evening, which meant cleaning and prep work... without video. Needless to say, we had a few meltdowns over the course of the day, but somehow managed to get the house cleaned and food made and were ready to celebrate M's birthday. That went well, but the girls got into bed late (9-ish) and didn't sleep as long as they ought to have and so....

Now we're to the point I really started writing about, Sunday.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

... dance with me...

it's another Twisted Sister Sunday, and today we're going back to the beach (because the weather has been getting me down):

dancing on the edge

I love watching the girls at the beach, even though K will come and ask things like "Daddy, is it ok that I'm getting my skirt sandy?"