Tag Archives: thoughts

Gender Non Conforming…and Me

31 Jul

First of all, let me set some things straight.  I’m not gay, lesbian, transgendered or bisexual, and I never have been.  With that said, I do have immense empathy for most of the issues plaguing the LGBT community.  I’m not homophobic, and I know without a single doubt that I will never “catch the gay”.  I’m also old enough that I’m not shocked by seeing public displays of affection between same sex couples, as long as it is within the same boundaries of good taste that I expect from heterosexual couples.  In regards to PDA, I’m probably a bit on the conservative side.

I also live in a small town in the South.  The Bible Belt isn’t particularly sympathetic to the LGBT community, and it’s highly unlikely that I’ll see a gay couple strolling down the street holding hands anyhow.  I suspect that most gays in our small town prefer to remain under the radar or even in the closet rather than face the consequences of coming out.  I guess I don’t blame them.

I’m a bit non-conforming in a lot of ways in regards to the Bible Belt, such as my interests in the paranormal and non-Christian religions.  For this reason, if you knock on my door and I open it, you will not see my bookshelf.  Instead, you’ll see my sewing machine.  The bookshelves are out of sight, preventing me from rocking the boat of any neighbor, witnessing Christian, or casual visitor.  I’m not an evangelist for opening minds, and tend to be a recluse who prefers to be unnoticed in my own neighborhood.

My husband and I, (Gregory is a male and was born one, btw!) knew that we were buying a home in a conservative blue collar neighborhood in a small town in Mississippi.  We have chosen to live here for personal reasons, and they do not include religion or politics.  We also do not debate the topic with our neighbors, although we have talked some local issues with our representative to the city council.  We’re a pretty normal couple, I suppose, other than we spend much more time together (almost all day every day) and rarely have actual angry disagreements.  We get along better than most couples, it seems, but we’ve also only been married a few years.

While this is my second marriage, I still regard my relationship with Gregory as the first healthy relationship I have ever had.  Maybe, as I hovered at the half century mark, I was finally mature enough to do so.  We share a deep respect for each other, as well as love.  We also accept each other’s idiosyncrasies and individual needs.  He’s my best friend, and the first person I sound things off of as well.  I do not feel a need to keep secrets or avoid letting him know certain things about me.  I don’t even mind letting him read things I’m writing when they are still in that vague first draft state, although he isn’t inclined to do so without a lot of encouragement (okay, without me being really PUSHY about him doing so.)  He accepts me, and I am comfortable letting him see me as I actually am, good and bad, along with the mostly in between stuff.  He knows my fears and dreams too.

He also knows that I am a gender non-conformist in many ways.  I was labeled a tom-boy as a child, and since my given name is actually “Georgia” rather than Gia, I grew up being called George, just like my father, even though him and I were nothing alike.  Calling me Georgie was a certain way to end up with a confrontation that usually resulted in someone getting hit, and I was perfectly willing to deliver punishment to anyone that dared do that.

I was also a bit slow to become interested in the opposite sex in any way other than as fishing partners.  My daughter, hearing me talk about my own childhood and adolescence, is firmly convinced that my maturing was retarded.  I don’t know–I do know that my body matured earlier and faster than the other girls and I was immensely uncomfortable with it.  It felt like my own body was betraying me, and being forced into even more “girly” clothes was increasing my own discomfort.  I hated dresses, ruffles, silky fabrics, lace, etc.  I felt stupid in high heels, and despised wearing makeup.  I had little interest in doing my hair and fussing over it like other girls.

It didn’t change much with adulthood either.

I worked non-traditional jobs.  I felt awkward when forced into a traditional feminine role anywhere, except as a mother.  Of course, this didn’t include my sexual side.  I was attracted to men, not women.  I was not attracted to men who demanded a woman behave traditionally, however.  Rumors that I was actually a lesbian were always fluttering around me.  Of course, in a small town, that isn’t uncommon–men who are turned down for sexual favors or even dates are often going to say that you have to be a lesbian.  It’s unfortunate, but true–it’s how small minded men (they are not all like that, obviously) can preserve their own dignity, since I obviously could not turn down such a prize as they are, right?

Yeah, small town life can be interesting sometimes.

As a teen, I shopped in the men’s department.  I preferred Levi 501s, flannel shirts, and football jerseys to anything that was regarded as feminine.  I refused to wear anything with ruffles and bows without a great deal of protest.  Since it was the 1970s, I lost the protest often.  School activities often forced me into outfits that I despised and made me feel like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  I sometimes wondered if something was wrong with me.

As an adult, I didn’t change much in terms of my clothing.  Part of it was my physical build.  From the back, I could easily pass as a boy or young man.  Only my bust size, which I regarded as immense and garnered a lot of staring from guys, told the world that I was a woman.  I used my boyish appearance a lot when walking around at night, dressing to appear as a boy, with my hair in a hat, I was unlikely to be harassed.  It wasn’t hard–a tight t-shirt under a loose shirt or jacket, combined with a ball cap, and bingo, I was neutral.  I felt safer in neutral anyhow, I wasn’t “fooling” anyone then.

When I did have to show up somewhere dressed more feminine and fulfill somebody else’s idea of formal attire, I chose clothing that was more tailored and understated.  I still refused the ruffles and bows.  I still hated high heels, and finally repeated knee injuries made them something that I had an actual medical reason to avoid–they could cause me to seriously injure myself again.

I also had predominately male dominated hobbies and interests, and most of the company I kept was that of males.  I felt more comfortable with the guys, usually.  I understood them.  With women, I always felt like I was missing something, that I had missed a critical chapter in the book of womanhood.  I was lost in that world, whereas the men’s world was comprehensible.  I’d rather buck hay than sit around discussing soap operas, childbirth and the latest cookie recipe.

I often felt inadequate with my daughter too.  She wanted me to be friends with her friends’ mothers, but I couldn’t find common ground.  I finally explained that to her, and as she was navigating her own way through puberty, she began to understand where I was coming from.  She also discovered that the world considered it very peculiar that her mother taught her how to use power tools such as circular saws and drills, as well as how to cook, build a fence, saddle a horse, clean a horse’s hoof, fix the roof, etc.

I do remember a guy friend telling me that I was not feminine though too.  He wasn’t a romantic interest, we were genuinely just friends, and he happened to have a huge crush on my best friend at the time.  He spent a lot of nights at my house, sleeping off a drinking binge on my couch, then playing games with my son the next morning.  At the time, I was confused and hurt.  I was really trying to get with the program, and I obviously was failing if I was obviously not feminine.  So, I asked him what feminine was.

I pointed out that I did all of the expected things: I cooked and baked, I sewed, I did crafts, I wore makeup and did my hair, I wore clothing from the women’s department (and some home sewed items as well).  I wasn’t ugly.  What was wrong with me?

He had no idea what feminine was, even if he did recognize that I was not actually feminine in a traditional sense.  He thought it might be  partly related to my independent nature and the fact that I was very capable of solving almost any problem on my own.  I was not needy in any way, and he thought that maybe, most men found that threatening to their own sense of masculinity.  He might have been right, but I also was not interested in the kind of man that wasn’t totally confident with his own sexual identity.

Still, his comment has haunted me for decades.

I was further confused when a lesbian friend of mine confessed she had a crush on me, and that I appeared to be a lesbian in everything about me, except for my long hair.  (I’m not sure what that really had to do with anything, but okay?)  In my case, I loved her as a friend (and still do) but I had zero interest in a romantic or sexual relationship with her.  She was able to understand that, even if her girlfriend at the time could not.  The girlfriend remained intensely jealous and suspicious of me, as well as openly antagonistic.

It seemed that I was a miserable misfit.  I appeared to be a lesbian, but I wasn’t and didn’t want to be.  I was not feminine.  What in the hell was I?

Then, I saw a video about clothing for people who are gender non-conformists.

Hot damn, I’m not alone????

I had actually come to terms that I was as some oddball misfit.  I was okay with who I was, even if I did dress funny.  I was now past fifty, the mark when women in the South are totally allowed to be eccentric and odd.  I’d found out what kinds of skirts were comfortable in the hot summers, even for me, and learned what I was comfortable wearing and not.  I’m also much heavier than I ever was before, and that has meant that many of my tastes in clothing have changed, as well as my desire for “fashionable” clothing that I was comfortable wearing.  I’d long since gone to wearing women’s suits, choosing simple designs without the embellishments I despised.  I loved blazers with either pants or a skirt, over a plain blouse.  I preferred flat shoes.  I often still shopped in the men’s department (and still do for some items).  I was perfectly happy pairing a men’s shirt with a skirt.  I had different rules than most women did.

A decade or two ago, I would have been thrilled to buy clothing like they are selling to the gender non-conformists, although the price tag would have likely stopped me.  I’m not willing or able to pay the price for a tailored suit, and face it, there weren’t shops that offered tailored-to-fit clothing in Flagstaff, Arizona, in the 1990-2003 era either.  (That’s the closest city for shopping when I lived in Northern Arizona, prior to moving to New Orleans.)  Northern Arizona was okay for someone like me anyhow–I got by with my jeans-and-flannel-shirt look as well as my peculiar assembled outfits without much attention there.

Maybe it’s silly, I’m in my fifties, and after a lifetime of fighting against wearing labels, I’m suddenly ecstatic to have found one that fit me, at least beyond the ones like mother, grandmother, wife, daughter, sister, etc. that I was already comfortable with.  But it defines what it is like to be me to a world that honestly doesn’t “get it” any more than I got the whole feminine thing my entire life.

Greg and I talked about it tonight too.  Not like the fact that I was me was a big surprise to him–he knows me pretty well.  It was the label that we talked about.  We even had the lewd jokes and sexual innuendos that a couple will share privately, because the label doesn’t bother him.  He doesn’t need to see me suddenly become someone else in order to stroke his own ego or make him feel safer with his own sexual identity.  He doesn’t need me to feign being helpless to do so either, although disabilities have made me far more needy in terms of help with various things than I ever was before.  I don’t have to pretend to be stupid or vapid, inept or foolish.  He isn’t attracted to a woman like that.  He loves me, because I am me.

So if I’m happy that “gender non-conformist” is a label that suits who I am, then it makes him happy.

I think the truth of it all is really that I am happier knowing that I’m not a single freak in the entire world.  Nobody likes being a freak, even if their freak status isn’t putting them in the side show at a circus.  I’m happier knowing that being who I am is not that uncommon really, even if I hadn’t been dwelling on it every minute of every day.  I really was uncomfortable with the unpleasant remarks about some of my views, opinions, behavior, and attire being inappropriate and somehow wrong though.  Being honest about who I am is part of who I am, and that should not make me wrong or a freak.  So I’m not feminine in behavior and tastes, that’s no big deal.  So what if I act and appear somewhat masculine despite long hair?  It doesn’t matter if I have an aggressive walk or stance–it’s not that I’m challenging anyone, but rather how a woman who doesn’t behave in the way society has determined she should behave is perceived because she is walking, talking, and standing more like a male.

I laugh because so often, my voice and name has people conjuring up an image of an Italian model to match me and the radio show.  That is so not me!  Sure, I have (or actually, had–it’s going platinum now) dark hair and dark eyes.  That’s not an Italian exclusive thing.  I’m told by many male listeners that my voice is “sexy” and that makes me laugh too.  I actually look more like the stereotypical grandma than I do that Italian model image.  I’m short, overweight, and dress badly.  Tonight, I’m wearing a pair of olive drab shorts with a far too big navy blue scrub top.  My hair is confined in its usual folded pony tail that is neither a tail nor a bun.  I wear oval granny glasses to see with, either my “computer” glasses or bifocals.  My shoes of choice lately are tennis shoe-like clogs that just slip on.  I’m sitting bolt upright in an antique “occasional” chair that is in serious need of re-upholstery.  It’s late at night, and I’m sipping now cold coffee.  When I finish this blog post, I’ll likely either put the finishing touches on a skirt I’m sending to my great niece or work on my writing…or both.  I have big plans for tomorrow–Greg and I will make some ginger-pear preserves from pears from our neighbor’s tree.  We also need to take the box for my niece to the post office and send that to her–she’s expecting twins.  Their big sister is getting some skirts similar to the ones I have made for my granddaughter.

So I’m a gender non-conformist.  I still bleed red blood.  I still love my family and friends.  I still have a husband I adore.  Is it any wonder that I think the LGBT community should have the same rights to have a spouse and family as I enjoy?  In my case, my gender non-conformity is confined to my interests, hobbies, and clothing.  Sexually, I identify completely as female.  I just was never comfortable wearing those badges that society has determined I should wear because of that sexual identity.  I also was and still am uncomfortable with the unreasonable restrictions that sexual identity has put on me.  A woman’s body IS different.  It means that I had less upper body strength than a man of equal proportion, but I had more lower body strength than a man of equal proportion.  I had to deal with a menstrual cycle, cramps, pregnancy, boobs, and mood swings.  It didn’t mean that I couldn’t do a job because I did those things, nor should it mean that I should get paid less because I was a bit short tempered a few day a month.

But that’s a rant for another day, isn’t it?

Just for a head’s up…

This blog is being MOVED to www.exogenynetwork.com in the next month.  At this time, posts are being made on both sites during the transitional phase.

Pro-choice, pro-life, or pro-abortion?

30 Jul

The whole abortion debate is a hot one in Mississippi, as the state fails to close its last abortion clinic in Jackson.  Tempers flare quickly when the pro-choice topic comes up, but much fuss is over a lack of understanding rather than an actual difference of opinion, at least in my case.

Living in Mississippi and being pro-choice is sort of like being an atheist and living in Spain during the Inquisition.  Definitely hazardous to one’s health and well-being. All across the nation, the debate is fiery and often turns violent.

I have to shake my head.

I don’t get some of the more rabid fanatics of the pro-life faction.  They claim to value life, but they then resort to actually killing abortion clinic workers.  They claim to be Christian, but then they harass patients who approach the abortion clinics, when the usual reason for going there is not even abortion.

I’m unable to see how they justify their behavior.  It’s utterly alien to me.

You see, I’m pro-choice, but also anti-abortion.

Huh? How can that be, you wonder?

They are not the same thing.  I’m pro-choice, because I don’t feel that I have the right to choose for all women in all circumstances if and when they would opt for the abortion.  I don’t think that abortions should be used as birth control either.  To me, abortions are a last ditch solution to a problem that actually has no solution.

It might be rape.  It might be genetic flaws that would leave the fetus to grow into a baby that would die young, after many months of struggling and even pain, never getting to enjoy even its mother’s arms.  It might be a baby that has some birth defect that means that it will die during or shortly after birth.  It may be a case of incest, a girl too young to safely give birth, a woman too old to safely go through childbirth, or a woman who’s own health is so fragile that pregnancy and childbirth are apt to destroy her physically if not kill her.  It might be some sort of circumstances that I have never thought of.

But it isn’t my responsibility to predict when and if a woman should be able to get a legal abortion.  That’s her moral and medical decision, one that she should not take lightly either.

I’m in my fifties, going through menopause.  That does not mean that I am sterile, however.  I never conceived easily, and when I did, it usually ended with a miscarriage.  It’s not impossible (though highly unlikely) that I could end up pregnant now.  When I was a kid, “afterthought” children were not uncommon, and they typically were the result of a woman thinking it was all behind her, and then surprise, here’s a baby of your own that is younger than your grandchildren!

Now it’s true, Greg and I would welcome that baby, despite the adjustments that it would require in our lives.  But how would I feel if I found out that there was something seriously wrong with that baby, that it had little to no chance of anything resembling a normal life, and that carrying it to term would also endanger my own health?  Would I want to take the risk to have a child that was severely handicapped or would die anyhow?

I don’t know.

Making that decision in a hypothetical situation is not the same as making that decision and then having to drive to an abortion clinic either.  I don’t know what we would decide, and I’m not going to pretend that I do.

But nobody else has the right to make it for me either.

That’s why I am pro-choice.  My aversion to the idea of killing a fetus makes me anti-abortion.  Who knows, that fetus might have been the next Mozart or Einstein.  At the same time, it could be the next criminal or mass murderer too.  No woman knows for sure, but no woman in her right mind with anything resembling a moral compass would make the decision lightly to opt for the abortion.

I’d cry.

I would cry as I agonized over the decision, and I’d cry on the way there.  I’d cry on the way home too.

But I would also remember the woman I heard about.  She was pregnant, and the baby was kicking inside of her the way they do that last trimester.  She could feel it, alive and moving.  The whole time she felt it moving, she knew that when it was born, it would die.  There was no chance of survival beyond a few minutes.  She carried that baby to term, knowing from the first trimester that it was going to end that way, and then, she gave birth and the baby died, just like the doctors had known all along it was going to do.

I could not bear that agony. That knowing that there was absolutely no hope for that baby and that his fate was sealed at the moment of birth.  There was nothing that the doctors could do about it, his defect was not repairable.

She was a far stronger woman in her convictions than I would be, I’m afraid.  I would likely have opted for termination once the reality of the situation was known without a doubt.  I don’t think I could have deluded myself into a fantasy where there would be divine intervention at the last minute to change the course of fate.

I would have also thought about the immense amount of money being invested into a non-viable situation.  How could I justify that when so many go without medical care at all, even when the medical care would spare their lives?

I’m anti-abortion, but pro-choice.  I believe there are times when modern medicine and the mother agree that the pregnancy is a really bad idea.  I believe there may be other situations in which the pregnancy is a horrible thing, beyond inconvenience or embarrassing for the mother.  I agree that there are times when a girl’s body is well developed enough to become pregnant, but not developed enough to manage a pregnancy without causing her harm.  I don’t see where there is an up side to telling a 10 or 12 year old girl that she has to carry a baby to term after being molested, even though it is likely to leave her unable to bear a child when she’s old enough to actually be a mother.

At the same time, I don’t think that even the parents should be able to actually force a teen to have an abortion.  I remember a girl I knew when I was a teenager.  She became pregnant and hid the pregnancy from her parents until it was nearly time for the baby to be born, using baggy clothing and even a girdle, as well as half starving herself to keep her weight down.  She told no one, not even her closest friends, about her pregnancy, fearful that word would get back to her parents in the small town.  She was certain that her parents would physically drag her to an abortion clinic and force her to terminate the pregnancy.

It also meant that she had no  prenatal care, and it all resulted in disaster.  Whether it was a preventable disaster is probably debatable, as the boy was born with some genetic issues and a severe type of dwarfism.  At five years old, he was the size of an infant, yet able to walk, run and play the same as any other five year old, and without any apparent intellectual handicaps either.

I still remember the fear in the young mother’s face as she talked about what her parents would have liked to do, but that she had managed to hide it too long for it to be an option.  At seventeen, she did not have the legal right to refuse the abortion (in that state, at that time–laws are different in most states).  She did, however, have the legal right to refuse to put her son up for adoption, and she did raise him, at least through the age of five, at which point I lost contact with her.

As her teen peer, I agreed with her that it was wrong for her parents to be able to do that to her and the unborn child.  I still agree with her on that front.  She should not have had to hide the pregnancy to prevent the abortion.

But she should have had the choice.

That choice is why I am pro-choice, even if I am anti-abortion.

I hope that it has helped you understand that there is a difference, and it is a really big one, between being pro-choice and being pro-abortion, and that being pro-life does not mean that you have to be anti-choice either.  When I say I am pro-choice, I’m also saying that I don’t have the moral right or responsibility to decide when and if a pregnancy should or could be terminated.  If women are opting to use abortion to kill unwanted children over and over, then we have an issue with their morality and that is what needs to be addressed.  Surely it is far cheaper and easier to use birth control to prevent conception than it is to endure repeated abortions anyhow, and the few women that I know that have ever had an abortion weren’t exactly thrilled to have the opportunity either.  It’s a tough decision, and none of them chose it lightly.

 

 

The Life Debt Concept

27 Jul

Many years ago, I first had the life debt concept explained to me, and it has altered the way I perceive the world ever since.  It’s not a difficult concept and while it is undoubtedly a philosophical concept, it lacks the usual high brow association that most people give the entire realm of philosophy.  It’s actually pretty down to earth.

From the moment we are born, we owe a life debt.  It starts with the debt that we owe our mothers for giving birth to us.  It’s a big debt too, for she endured physical discomfort and pain to give us life.  In some cases, she may have endured emotional pain that we will never know about as well, even if she isn’t the woman we’ll call our mothers through childhood, we owe our birth mothers that initial debt.

We continue accruing debt as we’re nurtured through infancy and early childhood, when we are incapable of paying back any of that life debt.  Then we enter our childhood, the part that we can remember through adulthood, and begin expanding our network of life debts.

Every single relationship, whether positive or negative, involves an exchange of life debt.  Friends and enemies alike exchange a portion of our initial base life debt, along with teachers, mentors, siblings, extended family, even medical personnel who help us be as healthy as possible.  Each relationship we establish with another person means that we take on, often unknowingly, a piece of their life debt, as they take on a piece of ours.  This invisible exchange is the foundation of those relationships, and the larger the exchange, the stronger the relationship is.

In our youth, our elders invest heavily in our bank of life account.  It’s the natural order of things, to invest in the future generation.  They take on more than a fair share of the debt we’ve already accrued in order to give us a good start in life and our life debt account.  In due course, when we mature and become elders ourselves, we’ll repeat the same process with the next generation.

The goal is to live a long life, paying off our life debt as we go through our lives.  At the same time, not everyone pays off their debt at the same rate.  Just like any other debt, some people may be inclined to not do more than pay a minimal payment, while others work harder to pay down that life debt at a faster rate.

Is there a tangible difference?

It’s not like we get a life debt balance sent to us in a statement each year.  It doesn’t work that way.  We can’t call the bank of life and demand customer service give us a running total either.  It doesn’t matter what your religious beliefs are, what you may or may not call a supreme being, or even what day you have designated as a day of rest.  It doesn’t matter if you are saved, a heathen or die a religious martyr. You don’t avoid the life debt concept by being an atheist.

There won’t be any big splash across a magazine cover telling us who the richest people in the world are in terms of their life debt balance either.  Nobody else knows how you are doing with your balance, nobody else can see you make payments, and not even the Joneses know whether you are keeping up with them or have surpassed them.

The only one who can know how you are doing with your life debts is you.

That’s the real clincher.  You don’t make the payments to impress anyone or to improve your credit score.  If you don’t make the payments, there won’t be a collector calling on the phone to remind you.  There is no option of insurance to cover the debt either.

There is no bankruptcy option.

Oh, sure, there are people who tell you that you’ll pay a spiritual debt when you die, but none of us know for sure what happens when we die anyhow.  We have to believe in something after death, without proof.  That’s a tough one–this vague threat.  It’s like hearing “just wait until your father gets home” when he isn’t going to be home for a long, long time.  We can forget and ignore the threat.

At the same time, there are times when the debt is reneged upon.  We call that suicide.  The person has opted out, failed to pay their life debts, and that’s that.  There can be varying amounts of unpaid debt, of course, as suicide can occur at any stage of life.  For some, there is likely to be little, if any, debt remaining, as the suicide occurs near the end of their life due to illness or infirmity.

There are other kinds of reneging though too.  One can isolate themselves from others to the point that there is no possibility of making a payment.  It can be a physical as well as emotional isolation, or it can simply be one or the other.  It can be by simply refusing to pay forward too, and becoming selfish and self-centered.

Everyone has their own concept regarding death and afterlife, if any.  The same goes with being judged after our lives are over.  I’m not going to tell you how your life debt will or won’t affect you after your life ends.  That’s going to be a huge surprise for me, just like it will be for you.  We can believe whatever we choose to be true, but just like in life, that belief does not make it so.  It’s still going to be a surprise.

I’m holding onto the hope that it’s going to be a wonderful surprise though.

Customer service?

27 Jul

Almost all big stores, especially with chains, are going to have a customer service desk.

Well, that’s what they call it anyhow.  They really should call it the customer annoyance counter.

Why is customer service so hard?  Why is it so hard for companies to find employees that will honestly try to do their jobs to the best of their abilities while remaining courteous to customers?

I have a few ideas on the subject.

The first is that good old bottom line.  Most companies are not particularly concerned about the quality of employee they hire and retain, but rather how cheaply they can hire and retain someone that does what they are told.  Even retention of employees isn’t a huge concern for most companies anymore–it’s cheaper to rehire than retain, especially if there is a possibility of having to pay for benefits or retirement somewhere down the road.

Employees who really try to do their job are even apt to be penalized for doing so.  We’ve all seen articles about employees who did a good deed of some kind while at work, ones that didn’t cost their employers a penny, and yet they were terminated for some technicality.  Many of us have been the employee who was taken advantage of repeatedly by unethical co-workers and employers because we did try to do our jobs well, only to end up missing out on promotions, overworked to the point of burn out, failed to get promised raises, or had some other less-than-wonderful result from our hard work.  Immediate supervisors will often even deliver disciplinary action or termination as a result of trying too hard, simply because it makes other employees or the supervisor themselves look bad.

Corporations may have a lot of power in the political world, but they are also incredibly powerful in everyday life.  Everyone either works for one or is forced to do business with these large corporations because of the monopolies they have in many areas of our live in America.  Telephone, natural gas, cable television & internet providers, and electric companies are all privileged to have monopolies in most communities.    Other companies have apparently coordinated their needs with their so-called competitors, resulting in contracts that prevent customers from terminating service with them for a prescribed length of time, typically from 12-36 months.  In these situations, the corporations have very little motivation to try and please their current customers.  After all, if they don’t like the service or the customer service, what can the customer do about it?

Manufacturing companies have moved many of their production facilities overseas for cheaper labor and fewer regulations, and quality control seems to have become random in how stringent it is.  Companies that were once known for high quality products no longer can boast of that same quality.  Unfortunately, they have also often moved their customer service centers overseas too.

Then, the American consumer is inflicted with a customer service representative that may not understand their particular dialect of American English, and it is just as likely that the customer is going to have a great deal of difficulty understanding the representative’s  version of English.  A number of people have claimed (unverified by me) that these representatives are judged by how often they have “successfully resolved” the customer complaints, and that disconnecting the call is one way to successfully resolve the issue.  I don’t know if this is true, but I do know that with certain companies, disconnections are frequent as soon as it is apparent that the issue is not going to be resolved easily or if the customer asks to speak with a supervisor.

Even with American based customer service call centers, there is the “wrong department” issue.  It’s always that you have called the wrong department and then you will have to be transferred.  These transfers usually occur after an extended wait time for a human to begin with.  (I’ve waited as long as an hour.)  Then, without a number to skip the wrong department and go to where you are supposed to call, you end up disconnected.  How many hours do you want to spend on the telephone to get a warranty replacement of a $50 small appliance?

For businesses, the latest buzz has all been how to use social media to engage their customer base.  It’s gotten to the point of more annoyance than engagement, however, as they follow some plan dreamed up by a guy who didn’t shop there to begin with.  Do you really want to “like” that company or follow them on Pinterest to enter that contest or get that coupon?  The end result is that customers feel like they are being coerced, and it does little to endear the company or product with their potential customers, especially if they are using the current customer disservice model that most seem to be using.

So what is the real reason that companies no longer bother with good quality customer service?

It still boils down to that bottom line, folks.  It’s the fault of the consumer.

Accepting crappy customer service from any company, whether they have a monopoly  or not is allowing their bottom line to show that they don’t have to supply customer service.

So what can you do?

Complain.  Loudly.  Repeatedly.

  • Use the normal channels, whether it is a call to their call center or via their website.  Don’t scream or use profanity-that’s always counter productive and provides a good reason for your call to not be taken seriously.  Don’t use threats either.
  • Use promises.  Promise that you will never, ever shut up about how unhappy you are!
  • Record the calls.  If you get an exceptionally bad one, post it to YouTube. Keep the calls on file–you may need them later.
  • Write down names, phone numbers, dates and times.  It’s a great reference as your complaining becomes more prolific too.
  • If you are a blogger, blog about it.  Even years after I tossed my Tassimo machine, I still get hits daily on my experience with their crappy customer service.  It’s a great way to spread the word.
  • Review the product everywhere you can, including the customer service experience.  Many retailers will accept reviews on products even if you did not purchase it from them, such as Amazon and Walmart.  If you are reviewing the retailer or service provider, post those reviews anywhere and everywhere you can find as well.  Sure, it takes time, but what else do you have to do while you are sitting on hold?  I actually put my phone on speaker and then I can type with both hands.
  • Got Face Book? Twitter? Pinterest?  Speak up.  Tell everyone about your experience.  They may not be shopping for that item or service or company now, but they will remember what you said about them later too.  You may be surprised at how quickly someone from the company in question makes contact with you as well.  They may try and resolve the situation, which will make you happier than if you are ignored.  Some corporations often ignore social media complaints (yes, I’m talking about you,  Tassimo, Microsoft & Comcast!)  Smarter companies do monitor social media to engage dissatisfied customers and attempt to improve the customer service experience.
  • Post reviews to review sites such as Viewpoints.com as well.  For local companies and services, there are sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List (they require membership with a substantial fee,) Yahoo, etc.   Even lawyers, dentists, doctors, and medical facilities are reviewed!
  • Write the company an email.  Often, the corporate office is separated enough from customer service that they may not be aware of the type of experience you have endured.  Typically, the corporate website will have a “contact” tab at the bottom of the page.  Some have it in a bar at the top as well.  Be polite and explain the problem(s) clearly, along with your customer service experience, using dates, times, and names when possible.  Don’t forget to add what you expect the company to do to resolve your complaint as part of the letter.  Be reasonable with your expectations!

On the flip side of that coin is the excellent customer service experience.  When you have one of these, be just as vocal about your compliments, and use the same venues that you would use for complaints to voice your positive experience.   I had a terrible experience with Overstock.com once, and complained about it via Twitter.  Their representative on Twitter contacted me, we resolved the situation, and since then, I have enjoyed great customer service as usual with Overstock and would not hesitate to purchase from them again.  I also love shopping with Zappos.com and Penderys.com for the same reason–they provide good, dependable customer service.  I wish my representative and senators to Washington were as responsive to me as they are!

Expect reasonable and efficient customer service to be delivered with courtesy, and when you don’t get it–do something about it.  Do not ever accept it as just the price of doing business because it is not.  Make companies accountable!  That’s your job as a consumer!

Just a dream?

26 Jul

I’m a pretty practical, feet-on-the-ground sort of person.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t have my otherworldly moments though.

It’s 4 a.m. and I woke up after a most peculiar dream.

It’s not like the usual dream for me, in which a life event is relived or something innocuous and normal is played out.  It wasn’t a case of working out a problem in my dreams either.  This wasn’t even one of the weird singing chickens or babies in loaves of bread dreams.

This was like some kind of star crossed romance dream.

Sometimes, when I dream, I’m not “me” as in the normal everyday me.  In my dreams, I’ll often look at my feet to see if it is me, and if it is me…when it was me.  Yeah, it’s weird, but feet are easy to see and as identifiable as faces when it’s your own pair.  Sometimes, it’s not me, not in this lifetime at least.

I didn’t look at my feet.  Ever.  In this dream.  So, I don’t know who it was or if it was even anyone I know.

In the dream, the “hero” was a Native American drummer, and he happened to be almost totally deaf.  Sometimes, he would play a flute too.  He was a strong sort of hero, but he had his hidden, more sensitive side too.  I was hitchhiking with the heroine, the object of his affections.

They weren’t a young couple.  They’d been around the block a bit, and life hadn’t been kind to either one.  Somehow, they encountered each other and a cautious romance had begun.  Both had been bitten hard in previous relationships, which isn’t uncommon in the older crowd.  We don’t age unsullied by romance gone bad.

The dream is fragmented in my memory as I write this–it’s funny how a vivid dream begins to fade as the dreamer wakes, but it does.

There was a beautiful beaded tunic that had belonged to his previous partner/wife/girlfriend, which was given to the heroine.  It fit her, and was beautiful, but there was a bitter-sweetness to the tunic’s fit too.  The hero’s sister, roughly the same age as the  couple, had gotten it out and had the heroine put it on.

The deaf drummer sang a song, and it was heart-wrenching to hear him sing.  It was perfectly pitched, a difficult thing for a deaf singer, I suspect.  His song showed her how he heard things through his limited hearing somehow.

He heard things in a different way, he explained it.  The sounds of feet and hooves, the wind, engines…they all were distinct to him.  He also explained otherworldly characters to her, giving names to them.  There was one that I remember.  They were scary looking to her, inspiring near terror.  They were like tall narrow piles of mud with faces, and he called them the Urdu.  (I looked up Urdu, and this is a language spoken in Pakistan  today.  I couldn’t find any variation of the sounds that gave me any other search result either.)  He cautioned her from speaking to them or acknowledging them, as to do so would lessen her ability to connect with him, to be his true love, and she would have to conquer her fear of them as part of the trials and tribulations of being his partner.  There were other things too, of this otherworldly nature, that she had to conquer her fear of, for he had strong otherworldly connections.

Ultimately, their relationship was fracturing, and was doomed to destruction, partly because of his inability to allow her into his life.  A young man, 20something, was taking a table apart and explaining how taking the table apart ended a relationship.  (I don’t get how a table equates relationship/marriage, but in the dream, it did.)  The heroine then lifted up large pieces of a table top, completely unlike the fitted together squares that had formed the younger man’s table top, and took out things that had been pressed between the layers, including photographs, magazines written in a foreign language she did not speak, clippings, and other papers.  She would sort and stack the papers, and the young man took them away.  Finally, the older hero arrives and takes the foreign language magazines, exhibiting a holier-than-thou attitude over the magazines and the fact that she does not understand that language.

Sometimes, with a dream, we can find meaning that can help us with our lives.  It isn’t always immediately apparent.  Other times, no matter how long or how hard we search, there is no meaning to be gleaned from the dreams.  I’m not sure where this dream would be filed yet.

Certain key points are apparent, though.  One is this concept of star crossed or doomed love.  Another is that the heroine is being forced to try to live up to impossible standards and ignore things that are terrifying to her with little support from her partner, that was played over and over as she was faced with various supernatural entities that were scary at best.   Another was that the heroine was being pushed by others into wearing the same clothing (the tunic) of the previous partner of her object of affection.  That indicates to me that she is being forced into a pigeonhole that may not actually fit as well as it appears it does.  Next, the disassembly of the table really correlates with the disassembly of a relationship, and that is actually explained by the younger man who is busy with his own disassembly of a relationship.  She then proceeds to disassemble her relationship with the man, whom she does still love, by the way.  She takes the layers apart, and sorts out the memories (the papers, photos, etc.) which are then taken away.  Finally, the hero appears for one last taunt: he illustrates the holier-than-thou attitude about taking away the things that make no sense at all to the heroine.

It puzzles me that none of this pertains to me, at all.  My husband isn’t deaf.  He’s not a drummer.  Our relationship isn’t fracturing. I can’t even imagine him taking this kind of an attitude towards me.  So why did I have the dream?

Sometimes, it’s as though I’m either watching someone else’s dream or something.  It’s one of the weird ones, that while I can interpret it, I can’t match the dream’s meaning with anything in my own life right now.  Maybe I’m wrong.

Then again, maybe I’m not, and it just wasn’t my dream.

With all of that said and done, I hope I can go back to sleep–it’s hours until dawn!

 

Where’s the owner’s manual???

25 Jul

Being grandma is supposed to be just the fun stuff, right?

Turns out there is a clause in the contract.  It has been brought to my attention that grandmas are supposed to have answers when things aren’t going right.

Like when your darling grandchild misbehaves and keeps missing the boat that is delivering the message of why people are upset and they are in trouble.

Where is the owner’s manual???

I’ve always found owner’s manuals to be a wealth of information, but where the hell is this kid’s owner’s manual? It turns out that just like when her mother was born, there is none.

Each kid is different, even with the same parents, same household, and same everything else.  It is compounded by some unknown number when it’s a grandchild.  I have no real idea what happens when I’m not around, and everything from parents’ relationship to daily routines affect how a child behaves and misbehaves.

Good lord, how can I be expected to have answers to an unknown problem?

That’s the other unknown perk to being a grandparent.  You are supposed to have answers and give advice, but ONLY upon request.  Deliver it before that request, and you are a know-it-all, interfering busybody.

Oh, and there is another rule…

Never, ever say “I told you so.”

You will not win points.  You will not get $200, and you definitely won’t get past “Go home now.”

So what are my answers to the problem?

Suggested alternative punishments, suggested speeches (ones I already know will fall on deaf 3 year old ears, btw!) and perseverance.  What else could I offer?

I’d just had three days with the little darling, which had come to an end with a 4 a.m. wake up call,  breakfast being catapulted off of a fork, continual whining about when we were leaving to go home, and the last shred of my patience.  It had then been crowned with demands for presents and soda pop, along with trying to banish me after her demands got denied.  Endearing? Nope, not even to a doting grandma.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love her, spoiled brat moments and all.  And she was acting like a totally spoiled brat.  I was frustrated with her utter refusal to straighten up and fly right.  Nothing seemed to get the message through that her behavior was not cute, nor was it appreciated by mom or grandma.

But on the way home, I stopped at a flea market, and instead of buying a switch or a time out chair, I bought a “Hello Kitty” necklace for her.  (She’s a huge Hello Kitty fan for some reason, but I have no idea why.  Does this character even have a cartoon?)  It’s got beads in her favorite color: purple.

I have it, but she may not get it for a while.  Just like I have several toys for her that she hasn’t gotten yet.  I like spoiling her, but I do not want her to think of me as the lady with the unending presents for her.  I don’t even believe in saving things for special occasions and I don’t shower her with the gifts.  She’s had a lot of gifts lately, and I’m withholding now for a bit.

Is it fair? Since life isn’t fair in general, I’m not worried about fair.  She is my one and only grandchild and yes, I do spoil her, but within reason.  She’s developed an attitude of entitlement over the past few weeks for some reason, even though I’m innocent of delivering anything to her in that time frame other than a skirt that I made for her.  That took about three weeks from fabric selection (she picked it out) to delivered finished ready-to-wear skirt.  (I am also slow to get projects done due to the limited amount of time I can work on them in each session.)

I’m going to make the other two skirts that I had planned for her, but I’m afraid she’s going to find that grandma doesn’t deliver a lot over the next few weeks, whether it is Hello Kitty, My Little Pony, Disney princesses, OR Minnie Mouse!

14 Years of Grief

22 Jul

Fourteen years ago, I was pretty sure that my life had ended with his.  Nothing is like facing the death of your child, and I suspect it’s no different when you know that their death is inevitable due to a disease rather than the sudden swipe of some unexpected fate.

My son was my best buddy.  No, I didn’t love him more than I loved my daughter, but the whole relationship was different.  They were very different people, right from the time they were born.  There was also nearly 8 years between their births, which made me practically a different mom to each one too.

No child arrives with an owner’s manual or a warranty, but I doubt that we’d read the chapter on dealing with their deaths if it did.  It’s unthinkable, and I recently had a young father say that he couldn’t imagine losing his son, who is now 3 and my granddaughter’s playmate.

I told him not to ever imagine it.

Nobody deserves the kind of pain that goes with that happening, and imagining it is to endure a piece of the pain for no real reason.  I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

I won’t lie either.  Not to myself, not to my daughter, not to a stranger.

The pain doesn’t go away.  That vast hole in the center of your chest never gets any smaller, and the tear drops don’t stop coming.  I dread the month of July, and it gets worse as we approach the end of the month, along with the anniversary of his death.  This year has been particularly agonizing for me, as the photographs of the children murdered during the whole thing in Gaza are plastered all over the internet.

Each one rips me open again as if it was his body laying there.

My son didn’t die a violent death.  He died in his sleep.  He was my borrowed child, and I loved him with a fierceness that was only matched with the fierceness of my love for my first born, his big sister.

I can’t pretend to imagine what the parents of those dead children in Gaza are feeling.  I didn’t have anyone to be angry with.  I didn’t have anyone or anything to blame for his death.  They do.  I know there is nothing I wouldn’t do to bring him back or to even keep his sister as healthy as possible.

Nothing.

I don’t see it having a positive effect on relations between the two groups, not with dead children as a tool towards antagonism.

But it confuses me too.  How can no one care about all of those dead kids?  How can people kill their own children here in the United States?  How can they abuse and abandon them?  It’s incomprehensible to me.  I loved being mom as much as I love being grandma.

There is that.  I have a granddaughter.  My son would have been over the moon over her–she’s the picture of beauty in his mind, with long hair and a bright smile.  She’s as free with affection as her uncle was.  She even chews her nails like her uncle did at her age.  She doesn’t really look a thing like him though, she is the spitting image of her mom.

This past year, she was also the inspiration for another first post-grief step for me.  I put up and decorated a Christmas tree in my house for the first time since his death.  It was in her honor, as her mom was going to be in the hospital on Christmas day.  (We actually celebrated a day or two after The Day to let her join in the fun after she was released.)  That little girl has made the holiday fun for me again, as I look forward instead of remembering the empty spot in the room.  It doesn’t mean I don’t miss him then too, because I do.  She didn’t fill the hole, she simply brought in bright light to make it less painful, I suppose.

I get depressed as we near the month of his birth, and that is always another mountain for me to travel up and over.  April Fools Day is always accompanied by a sense of relief.  I have survived it, and while I remember his birthday always, sometimes even baking a cake, it still hurts that I have no one to hug that day.

It’s the little things that bring out the tears too.  Power rangers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a brown eyed boy with a Dutch boy haircut, a boisterous boy pretending to do martial arts as he dances around his mother, a shy smile, or someone playing the first episode from Star Wars with the boy Annakin.  Memories.  That’s all I have now, is those precious memories.

Things like the funky doggy smell he got when he played in the hot sun and got his hair all dirty and sweaty, or how he destroyed socks and jeans.  Of building a Hand of Thyme herb bed shaped like a hand.  Making pickles.  Of the birthday I told him he could have all the “juicy eggs” (eggs over medium) he wanted for breakfast until I cut him off at six (I think he was about seven years old).  Of the horrible messes he could make with flour from the time he was first walking right on until his death, and how he could not resist touching flour if opportunity presented it as a possibility.  I don’t know what it was about flour that called to him, but it called to him.

I share the memories, we talk about him when we’re together, his sister and I.  My mother.  My other extended family.  His face is over my desk in the last family portrait we had taken, and my granddaughter knows all three faces in the photo.

I’d have adopted more kids, if we could afford it.  We can’t…we’re just not financially stable enough to qualify, even for older children.  That’s sad, but it is the truth.  Instead, we have three dogs and one granddaughter to spoil.  We spoil friends’ kids when we get the chance too.  Sure, it’s not the same, but that’s all we have now.

I know his generous nature.  He would have been horrified if I had become bitter and unpleasant, or shunned other children.  I try to be the person he thought I was when he was ten, and I still knew everything and could do anything.  Some days, the “do” anything can be a challenge, but I always try to keep learning new stuff.  He wanted to have 150 kids (he really did say that…often).  All I can do is try to give forward the love that he gave every day he was alive.

But damn, I miss him.

Sure, I have heard all the platitudes about how he is in a better place and all that.  Don’t ever say that drivel to a grieving mother.  If you are lucky, she ignores you.  If you aren’t, she may try to send you to that better place too.  To a mom, there is no better place for her child than alive and with her.  No exceptions.

I still want him back.  Badly.

Yes, I know its impossible, but if I am going to dream, I’m going to dream big.  Sometimes I still relive the day he died in my nightmares and I wake up with the grief as raw as it was that first day I put it on.  Some days, I never cry a tear that shows.  I can laugh.  I love.  I smile.

And sometimes I still rage when I see a parent treating a child unjustly, and I think, if they knew how much that child really means to them, would they still do that to the kid?

Do me a favor.  Hug your kids like it is the last time you can ever do so.  Do it three times a day. Never imagine losing them, but do it and remember to never take tomorrow for granted, because sometimes…it never comes. Ever.

Then all you have left is that last time you hugged them.

 

The Homosexuality Contagion

12 Jul

I’ve heard a lot of anti-gay rhetoric.  I live in the Bible Belt where there seems to be a genuine fear that they are going to “catch the gay“.  There is a lot of statements about how people don’t want gays in their neighborhood, schools, workplace, restaurants, or churches too.  I have to assume that they truly believe that it is somehow contagious and they are afraid that they too, will become gay.

I have also read a lot about how people are gay from birth, as well as arguments that people are homosexual because of their upbringing, experiences, choices, etc.  I can’t answer those questions, and that’s not what this blog post is going to address.  I’m only going to look at the fear of “catching the gay.”

I have had a number of friends who were homosexual over the years.  I’ve gone camping with them, eaten meals with them, cooked and laughed with them, and on occasion, even shared a drink with them.  I’ve had plenty of opportunity to “catch the gay.”

Guess what?

I don’t have a single symptom of being gay.

I’m married, I’ve had kids, and I’m totally comfortable with my sex life as a monogamous heterosexual.  I don’t feel threatened by gays, whether male or female, unless they are armed and specifically state that they are threatening me.  Of course, I would feel equally threatened at that point, regardless of sexual orientation.  I have to also admit that I have never once asked anyone who was threatening me with bodily harm about their sexual orientation.  It just never seemed relevant at that point.  The assailants that were known to me also happen to not be gay, so I also don’t regard homosexuals as potentially threatening individuals.

I’ve also heard that homosexuals are basically child molesters in training.  Thinking back to the years that I worked in law enforcement and corrections, I try to remember a single case involving a convicted child molester also being a homosexual.  Guess what?  I don’t remember any.  That’s not to say it is impossible, but I don’t think the two have anything to do with each other.

The next bit I hear is how the Bible specifically forbids homosexuality.  Well, sure it does, but the Old Testament has a lot of things that we don’t regard as moral or legal in modern society, like incest, polygamy, stoning, etc.  Besides, what happened to that bit about separation of church and state that is in our constitution? Or maybe the whole bit about “thou shalt not judge”?  Or even all that bacon, sausage, pork chops, etc. that America buys in the grocery store each year…that is forbidden too, if you want to get right down to it.  So, we’ll toss out that Old Testament bit, and the New Testament mostly talks about tolerance and love, and stoning homosexuals is definitely out.

I’ve also been told how the gay community and especially same sex marriages are going to threaten the “sanctity of marriage.”  When it comes out of the mouth of a man who has been repeatedly divorced or has been publicly pointed out for extra-marital affairs, that’s hardly going to fly.  Personally, I just don’t get the sanctity of marriage thing when 50% of marriages in the USA end in divorce in 5 years or less.  I also don’t see where having a gay couple who is married as neighbors is going to threaten my marriage, unless my husband was going to “catch the gay” (since I’m obviously immune to it.) I also don’t think that a gay couple’s children are going to “catch the gay” or expose my children or grandchildren to the risks of “catching the gay.”

Homosexuality isn’t a disease, and it isn’t a virus.  You can’t catch it.  You either are or you aren’t, that’s all.  Okay, there are people who are bisexual, but that’s another thing entirely.  I’m not addressing that.  Since I’m not bisexual or homosexual, I can’t pretend I understand how or why it is.  The only person that truly knows your own sexual orientation is yourself.

I don’t understand why people are so afraid of homosexuality unless it is because they have not addressed their own sexual orientation and find that thoughts of the same sex indulging in sexual behavior is arousing, and therefore is “bad” and must be suppressed.  I do know that my mother always insisted that those who persecuted gays were afraid of their own sexuality and sexual urges, which is why they became so angry and fearful when exposed to gays.

I think she may have been right.  I don’t fear them, I don’t find that they make me angry, and I do support same sex marriage.  I think it would be great for the economy too.  After all, most gays never have children, and have far more disposable income as a result.  That means that they will spend a lot more money on things like their weddings, anniversaries, homes, cars, etc. over the years than those of us who devote our lives to raising another generation.  Same sex marriages also means fewer children being born–which will mean more economic and educational opportunities for the children that are born into this world.  The same sex marriages will also probably pay more taxes over the years, as they will not qualify for the child tax credit, will be able to concentrate more on career advancement, and will probably make more money in their lives to be taxed as well.

Sure, they can adopt.  They can use surrogate mothers and sperm donors too. Some of them will have kids, and that’s okay too.  They will have jobs, buy houses, build neighborhoods, attend churches, buy goods & services and do all of the other things that other families do.  Why should I care if Johnny and Jane have two dads or two moms?  Why should I worry about their parents’ sex life at all?  Or any of my neighbors for that matter?

As long as they aren’t breaking any of the other laws we have, it doesn’t matter what orientation they have or don’t have.  It doesn’t matter and it shouldn’t matter, nor should we even give a second thought to what their sex life is about.  I honestly have never gone to a PTA meeting and sat there discussing the other parents’ sex lives or lack thereof.  There are some things that I just do not care about. I also don’t worry about co-workers, other church members, the shopkeeper, or any of the other people I may come into contact with in the course of a day.  In fact, making me visualize such a thing about any of those people is probably going to leave me with an “ewww” and a mental desire to scour out my brain to get rid of it.

The world will be a much better place when we all quit worrying about whether or not everyone else has a better sex life than we do and we start concentrating on our own issues.

Just get over it.  You won’t “catch the gay” even if your neighbors are a same sex couple and they come over for a bbq one weekend.  You can drink after them without it happening too.  You are more likely to catch hepatitis or drug resistant tuberculosis, and neither of those diseases care what sexual orientation you have.  Their marriage won’t make you get a divorce, and your husband isn’t going to run off into the sunset with a gay guy because of it either.  (If he was going to do it, he’ll do it even if you have nobody that is a homosexual in your neighborhood.)  Your wife isn’t going to start lusting after the pastor’s wife either.  You are safe, honest.

You are seriously not that stupid, are you?

22 rules to get more real followers on Twitter

7 Jul

If you use Twitter, you have been bombarded with temporary followers that sport a blatant advertisement to induce you to spend your hard earned money to buy followers, usually to the tune of $29.95.

Are they worth it?

It depends on your goal.  If it’s just about numbers to you, and you don’t care who follows you or how many people actually read your posts, then it is likely a bargain.

On the flip side of that coin, if you are looking for engaged followers, which means people who actually care what you tweet, read your tweets, and maybe even click on the links you provide, then no, these ghost followers are about as useful as a chicken with teeth.  (That should give you some real nightmares, since chickens are a murderous lot and will kill & eat their companions when stressed.  Then, there are also the foul tempered roosters, who may attack if they feel you are threatening their harem and are already equipped with nasty bone-like spurs on their feet.)

Buying followers is a lot like buying blow up dolls to be the guests at your next party.  Sure, they give you a great body count, but their conversation sucks.

So, since you can’t run out and buy the kind of follower you need to make your Twitter account really pop, how do you do it?

It’s not rocket science, actually, and anybody can do it.  Here is a brief list of 22 things to do with your Twitter account to help you gain more followers fast.

  1. Post a picture to your profile and get rid of the universal egg.
  2. Fill out your profile–make it reflect who you are and what is important, while staying brief with your character count. Don’t just put your name or website, or even a series of hashtags–you want to attract followers who are interested in you!
  3. Tweet regularly, at least once a day.  It doesn’t have to be something profound, it can even link to your website or blog.  Just tweet something, for heaven’s sake.  It’s so sad to see accounts that are four or five years old, and have under 5000 tweets.
  4. Follow people who interest you or have similar interests to yours.  If you are a company or brand, then follow people who tweet about your products/services, from your area, or reviewers of similar items.
  5. When someone follows you, follow them back if they appear to be a real person.  There are a lot of fake or “bot” accounts that tweet continual spam on Twitter.  You don’t have to do anything more than look at what they tweet to figure out if they are a porn bot or continual stream of advertisements for various things, etc.
  6. Reply to tweets that catch your interest regularly.  Make this a habit to ensure that you tweet back to people at least several times a week. You can even have real conversations, albeit in 140 characters or less, with others via Twitter.
  7. Retweet other people’s tweets when they are interesting or relevant to your interests.
  8. Mention other people’s Twitter nickname when it is relevant.  It’s a kind of compliment, and it increases their visibility.
  9. Thank people via a tweet when they mention you or retweet something you’ve tweeted, even if it was just retweeting your retweet.  This is a kind of courtesy, increases people’s visibility on Twitter, and since people like to see their name, they are more likely to retweet other things in the future.
  10. Retweet tweets from people who have retweeted your tweets.  They like it, so they’ll retweet you more often.
  11. Read your “notifications” section daily.  This shows you who and when and what has happened while you are not reading Twitter.
  12. Avoid using DMs or “Direct Messages”, which are a kind of private tweet.  Never just automatically send DMs to others–it’s annoying, usually ignored, and many people will not read or respond to DMs.  (I’m one of them!)  DMs have become the hallmark of spammers.
  13. Do not become the kind of Twitter account that everyone despises–the unfollower.  These account holders follow people just until they are followed back, and then they unfollow the account.  It is rude, and many people use an app to show them who is doing this, so that they can reciprocate.  You won’t win friends with this behavior.
  14. Be prepared to spend some time using Twitter.  You learn a lot reading other tweets, as well as have more reason to interact with other Tweeple.  Most people will spend an hour per day minimum reading, retweeting, and posting tweets.  This can easily be broken into smaller segments of time, with as little as 2 minutes spent at a time, although 15 minutes is a more reasonable segment.
  15. Keep your language clean of obscenities, profanity, etc.  It offends some people, and may cost you some credibility with others.  (I am assuming you aren’t a teenager seeking to impress his/her peers here.)  Besides, 4 letter words are not going to create the impression that you are a brilliant tweeter with the 140 character limit.
  16. Don’t be a troll–nobody wants to be your victim, so nobody is likely to follow you just to be one.  Be pleasant, even when you don’t agree.
  17. Don’t post anything on Twitter that you would not want displayed on a billboard in your neighborhood.  It’s a public forum, not a private encounter group. That includes things you do not want your boss, spouse, parents or children to read as well.  Things you say today may also bite you five years from now, so even if you are single & childless today…you might not be that way forever.  If in doubt, don’t!
  18. Don’t be a Twitter stalker.  Stalkers anywhere are creepy, and you don’t want to frighten people away. Reputations spread via the internet, so if you develop one as a stalking creep, you will soon be tagged.  It’s great to admire someone, it’s great to tweet to them or about them, but if you are becoming obsessive about everything they tweet, etc., maybe you should step away from Twitter and seek some professional help.  Don’t do it to your ex’s either–it’s still creepy.
  19. Don’t get into Twitter wars.  They may be your ex-best friend, your worst enemy, etc., but getting into a Twitter war puts your reputation on the line and you won’t come out of it as a winner.  Drama is only amusing for so long, before no one wants to see your tweets anymore.  Follow your mother’s old adage! “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”  It’s not bad advice sometimes.
  20. Be yourself. Everyone is tired of the fake people, the fictional characters, etc. that have plagued internet conversations for so long.  Very few people are rich, powerful, beautiful…and have time to sit on the internet all day.  Nobody buys that song and dance either.
  21. Have fun.  Relax & enjoy yourself.  Vent frustrations and aggravations.  Tell people about important things.  Find out about local events.  Find out where your friends are hanging out on the weekend.  Tell people where you went to get great barbecue or a good deal on tires.  Tell them about the lousy service from Company X too.  Get people to read your blog, check out your new book, or read the book review you posted.  It’s all good!
  22. As you increase your followers, your limits on who you follow are lifted as well.  When you reach the point where you have an unbalanced (in Twitter’s opinion) of followed versus followers, it may be necessary to unfollow some people who may no longer be active on Twitter or may not be following you back.  (Follow backs are not mandatory!)  There are also some less-than-ethical Twitter users that follow you just until you follow them back and then unfollow you.  There are  a number of apps available  that are free at least at the basic level that can show you these accounts and make unfollows a little easier and quicker to do.  Most will appear in tweets on your account at some point, and they shift and change according to how recently Twitter has changed their rules and code.  Try them to see which ones you like.

I hope this has helped demystify and make Twitter a little easier to navigate through.  It isn’t hard to get followers, by simply being yourself and interacting.  It isn’t instant either, and it does require some investment of time and effort.  As a result of this effort, you can have followers that are interested in what you have to say, as well as ones that are saying things that you are also interested in.

If you would like to follow me on Twitter, my nickname is @giascott.  I have less than 10,000 followers, and I have never paid for a single one of them.  I have been using Twitter since 2009, but until this year, I was guilty of being a sporadic user–I would sometimes go weeks or even months between tweets.  I also only use Twitter on my computer and Kindle.  I don’t use any apps for Twitter–I log in through a browser.  I don’t even regard myself as a Twitter expert, but rather as an “average user.”

Writing, as always

5 Jul

I’ve published a lot of small cookbooks in the past year, on a variety of topics.  They’ve been popular, too. So have the books about camping, whether it was food or other facets of camping.  The Time of Chaos was well received too.

Fiction, I have to admit, is my first love.  Even so, with my practical side, I really love non-fiction books too.  Most of my own books are actually non-fiction.  I’ve learned a lot from well written non-fiction books, and I’ve also encountered the sort that was written in “engrish” that wasn’t even worth the time it took to open the cover, digital or print.

Those really awful ones are kept in my mind as the example of “don’t-do-that”.  The file, I must admit, is getting thicker with time, as new editions of awful are filed away there.

But despite enjoying putting together the non-fiction books, it seems to be time to take some time and explore my own abilities and creativity.  I hadn’t tried to do a lot of creative stuff since my accident, which was nearly 5 years ago now.  It was partly out of fear, as I learned that my new restrictions had eliminated one of my previous pleasures from my future.  Some things, I’ve learned to work around, others I have been forced to gracefully accept as no longer possible.

I’ll never know the joy of swimming again, but I can still play in the shallows.  I can hang onto something floaty and kick through the water, with my life vest on.  Sure, it’s not the same, but I will live.

Today, I tried something that I have been afraid to try, even as my sewing machine sat there, just waiting.

I tried sewing.

I can do it too. Sure, it’s a lot slower and cutting out fabric is sheer agony.  Thankfully, I have a husband who is both willing and able to help me with things like that.  Maybe I’ll see about electric shears to make it easier.  I am making a simple elastic waist skirt for my granddaughter.  Once upon a time, it would have taken me about an hour to have cut it out and assembled it, with another fifteen to thirty minutes to hem it, press it, and have it finished.

Okay, I confess, I have to stop and take breaks.  A lot.  Sometimes its because I forgot some detail, like how to tell my machine I’m going to baste rather than stitch a proper seam, and I have to go read the digital copy of the manual (I have no idea where the original manual is now) to figure it out.  Sometimes it’s because I just need to stop and relax a bit.  Physical tension happens to trigger a lot of negative stuff for me, and apparently, I was getting tense today.

But I used to really love creating things with the sewing machine.  I often made my own patterns too.  This project, on the complicated scale, wasn’t going to push my limits in that regard.  It was going to be a simple project to see where I was going to have problems and give me an idea how to fix those problems so that I could do it again.

I’m ecstatic–I have faced a boogie man and conquered it.  I was afraid that it would be like trying to swim, only to discover that I absolutely couldn’t do it.  I didn’t want to admit defeat on this one, and I had delayed it so very long.  Of course, it helps that in this case, I’m not going to drown if I have to stop for a bit and come back to it later!

So, now I have a few budding projects in mind.  Two things that I’ve done a LOT of over the years–a specific (and rather simple) doll and customized dog coats.  I’m thinking that I may write a couple of how-to books for those kinds of things.

Hey, they are low calorie!

Yeah, that’s the other issue.  The recent muffin book was tough on us–that was a LOT of muffins to try, even over 6 months. It’s also summer on the Gulf Coast, and cooking is not my idea of a good time.  I also have another complication.

The day that The Big Book of A-Z Muffins was first available was the day our cook top died.

I’m now cooking on a camp stove until that issue is resolved.  Since a cook top is expensive, and I’m not even sure I want to have another one, it’s not getting an immediate replacement.  I actually would like to do away with the electric cook top and put in a regular gas stove with an oven, and get rid of the hated wall oven, aka “Easy Bake Oven”.  It’s undersized, not level, and I despise it.

I can also remember my Granddad’s saying when you figured something out and were finally able to do something right, “Now, you’re cooking with gas!”

I do prefer a gas stove.

So, without a “real” stove, writing cookbooks isn’t a very practical idea.  Of course, I could write a LOT of books about cooking with one burner.  Two years of our experiment of living in a travel trailer and years of using a camp stove when camping had pretty much perfected the art.

But I’m in the mood for something a bit more creative without worrying that my blood sugar is going to skyrocket.

So, I’m concentrating on the fiction for a bit.  I’m playing with sewing again.  Summer isn’t eternal, even in the South, so my aging dogs may appreciate some new finery for fall, right?

And I have a beautiful granddaughter who can wear it, as well as is old enough to start enjoying dressing her dolls.  My niece is expecting twins.  I have a nephew who has a beautiful baby girl too.  I used to love making 9 patch quilts in the throw/baby sizes, and they were another fast & easy project.

There has been a whole new world opened up.  That’s pretty cool, when you have had too many doors that slammed shut for you in the past few years.

So stay tuned.  Who knows what will be coming next!

 

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