Lead Balloon

I got a new sink for Christmas!
December 30, 2006, 5:54 pm
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The Luckeys have had such a wonderful holiday. While we have been busy every night of the week this past week – we’ve been able to spend time with family and friends – some who we rarely get to see. Real time, not just a quick hello and dinner, but hours of time with our loved ones. Hours. The idea of going back to work on Tuesday makes my stomach turn a little bit. I could get used to not working at all, I think. Or maybe not. I don’t know. I do know that each Christmas my nails grow a little longer and healthier – my nail biting is obviously stress-induced. My new job hasn’t reached the stress level that I had with the last one…yet. But maybe I’ll add the “no nail biting” to my list of new year’s resolutions that doesn’t exist.

I’m glad for 2006 to be over, I’m ready for 2007 and a fresh start. Sure, many good things happened in 2006, but thinking back it seems easier to remember the tough times – issues with the house, job stress, the miscarriage, stress from watching family or friends go through difficult situations. By no stretch of the imagination was it uneventful, but nonetheless, I’m ready for 2007 and what it has in store for us.

We’re already off to a good start, I think. We have completely broken up with Vonage, Verizon is our new partner for phone and Internet service. We haven’t severed all ties with Time Warner yet, as they don’t have a hockey package for cable TV. Once hockey season is over, our cable will be switched as well. It’s amazing to talk on the phone and not have your call dropped. It’s amazing that I’m making this post right now with no Internet interruption. Amazing. Life is good.

2007. Looking at that number just brings to light the fact that years just keep rolling by me at light speed. Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday that we were bringing in the new year with 2005? Even 2003 seems like just yesterday. I’m not sure where the days go, and how they can turn into weeks and months and years so quickly, but it is very obvious that time is a thief. It’s a healer. It tries my patience, that’s for sure. I resolve to make the best of the time I’ve got — every day, every month, all year long.


The Power of One
December 21, 2006, 3:27 pm
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People, do NOT use Vonage for your phone service. If I could shout this from the rooftop of my house, loud enough so that everyone in the world could hear, and immediately switch their service back to a regular phone provider, or toss their Vonage direct mail pieces into the recycle bin without reading them…I would do it.

I work from home and am very dependent on a dependable phone line. Since I began working from home and using the Vonage service, I have been dropped from probably 75% of my phone calls. In the middle of a conversation, the call is dropped. Out of nowhere. And these aren’t just “Hey, how are you?” calls, these are client calls. Presentations. Conference calls, where I am the host. Where, when my call is dropped, everyone else gets dropped, too.

I’ve talked to customer support. Hundreds of times. Maybe THOUSANDS of times. They clearly outsource their customer service to an off-shore company which is still getting up to speed on the intricacies of the human language. And understanding numbers 1 through 10, and how they are different. Did I post on here already about the one lady, who, in the middle of trying to help me said, “If customer says no, then say…” Reading directly from the script. Or rather, the script instructions. Even when she said “V as in Victor” I couldn’t understand the “Victor” part. Not helpful. I’m sure they are very nice people there at Vonage customer support – but they’ve got no clue about how bad the service is. It sucks being the support end of a sucky product. Trust me, I worked for three years in an environment like that.

From time to time, they tell me, “Okay, I’ve optimized your service now, you will receive no more dropped calls.” So I ask, “The service wasn’t optimized before for no dropped calls?” The answer, “Your service has now been updated so that you won’t have any dropped calls.” They are trained to tell the customer only what will make them feel better. Letting you know that they’ve fixed things, when I’m doubtful that they’re fixed at all.

There’s also some sort of 911 thing with Vonage – apparently if you don’t have their e911 service, then if you call 911 in an emergency situation, the 911 operator doesn’t have a record of where you’re calling from – the number/address doesn’t automatically show up. I’ve had nightmares about dialing 911 with the phone behind my back while being held at gunpoint by a home intruder…and the operator on the other end yelling, “YOU MUST HAVE VONAGE! WE’D LOVE TO HELP YOU, BUT WE HAVE NO IDEA WHERE YOU ARE! PLEASE SWITCH TO VERIZON SO WE CAN BETTER HELP YOU IN THE FUTURE WITH ALL YOUR EMERGENCY NEEDS! HANGING UP NOW!!! BUH-BYE!”

I tried to get a better understanding of the e911 service, and the last operator I talked to finally explained to me that there’s no additional charge for the service, you just have to set it up.
Lauri: “Okay, then can you please set it up for me?”
Operator: “No, you have to do it.”
Lauri: “So the right kind of emergency service isn’t default with Vonage, you have to specifically request it?”
Operator: “Yes.”
Lauri: “And even though I’m requesting it now, you can’t set it up for me?”
Operator: “No. You need to dial this number and see what it says – it will tell you if you have e911 set up.”
Lauri: “And if it’s not, how do I set it up?”
Operator: “weoiurn oweruoia hr8iow ohiuofogqb ousoifbaou”
Lauri: “Thanks. You’ve been very helpful. Hope I don’t slip and fall in the shower this morning. Have a great day.”

It’s interesting to me how the calls I make to Vonage never get dropped.

The Mall
December 20, 2006, 4:03 pm
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This year, Christmas completely surprised me. Where did it come from? Todd and I have been rushing around this week to get our shopping done, I’ve been wrapping presents each night until late…next year I will be better prepared.  I promise.

Last night and the night before, we decided to act like it wasn’t Christmas and go to the malls anyway. Usually, we can get all of our shopping done without having to set foot inside a mall, but that wasn’t the case this year. We dreaded having to do so, but it actually wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t as crowded as I thought it would be. Granted, we had to park a mile away in a sea of cars. But once we got inside we didn’t find it to be too crowded, the lines weren’t even that long. Maybe all those people were in the bathroom. Or sitting on Santa’s lap.

What I always love most about the mall is the people watching. Last night, I shopped alone (Todd had his own errands to run, hopefully he was out buying me that new Volvo cross country wagon that I want), and I was able to watch the people, uninhibited.

What is it with young teen-aged boys wearing girl’s jeans?  Tight girl’s jeans? They wear their hair long and over their eyes, very tight t-shirts, and very tight fitting, made-for-girls figures, jeans. All that I can surmise is that they really want to be girls. Early onset cross-dressing, for sure. Parents everywhere are just waiting for the day their sons give them an invitation to their debut appearance in “Rocky Horror Picture Show”…thinking, “Well, maybe one day he’ll at least make a career of it. That’s all we can hope for.”

I noticed at the Food Court that the Asian shoppers don’t eat at Panda Express. The Mexican shoppers don’t eat at the Mexican food place, and just about everyone loves Burger King and Cinnabon. As I was eating my Teriyaki bowl from Panda Express, I wondered if the fact that the Asian shoppers were herding toward the BBQ place and Burger King meant that maybe I should steer clear of the Panda? 

The people in those kiosk things (not sure what you call them) in the middle of the mall..They’re not so aggressive during normal shopping times, but they’ve obviously got a quota during the holidays to pawn off their useless shit to innocent passers-by. If one more person asked if they could clean my jewelry, I thought I was going to punch them in the face. Am I the only person who wonders if they throw your ring into this container and someone sitting under the table takes it out from the bottom, exchanges it with a cubic zirconia version of your ring, takes yours and pawns it? Okay, I admit that’s a little “conspiracy theorist” of me. But why else would these persistent, odd people want to clean your jewelry so badly for you? 

I really like my personal space, and I don’t like for people to touch me if I don’t know them. You know those things made of bandanas that hold some sort of gel, you put them in the freezer and take them out on a hot summer day, wrap them around your neck and they keep you cool? Apparently some genius has made one that keeps you warm in the wintertime. Except it’s rather large, and heavy. And ugly. And completely useless as far as I’m concerned. I mean, we live in Dallas. Anyway, walking through the mall, out of nowhere, some weird dude walked up to me and placed one on my shoulders. Did I mention it was heated?  And heavy? “Want to keep warm this season!?” Thirty minutes earlier I was forced to remove my jacket and stuff it into one of my shopping bags because I was so hot. Now this guy is following me around with what amounts to a cordless heating pad, touching me, uninvited. Then he got pissed off at me when I told him that he was freaking me out. Like I’d just offended him or something. Get away from me, dude.

I like how some of the retailers really don’t give a damn how much you pay for things – just get out so I can help the next person. I was at the Nieman Marcus close out store buying something last night.  The lady said, “This was 20% off, right?”  I said, “No, the table was marked at 50% off.”  “Okay,” she said.  Rang me up and got me out of there. It really was marked at 50%, I didn’t lie to her. But there is a little part of me that wanted to go back in, gather up a bunch of stuff and take it to her check-out station and tell her it was all on the 85% off table.

My favorite part of the mall during the holidays is watching all the men competefor seats on the benches in the mall, waiting for their wives to hurry up and finish their shopping. There are those few lucky husbands who score a seat in Brookstone on one of their three or four vibrating massage seats. Those are prizeseats – you’ve got to get there early to take advantage of one of those. If you don’t make it in time, you can settle for standing inside the store and using one of the hand-held back massagers. But, after a while you just start to look really weird and then you’re relaxed so much that you really must find a place to sit down, or you’ll be forced to lie down on the store floor and get some rest.

Then there’s the heartbreaking part of the holiday mall trip. A husband and wife shopping for their kids, in line to check out, and their credit card is denied. That breaks my heart. I’m sorry for how embarrassed they feel, and I’m sorry for how stressed and helpless they feel.

I’ve got to finish it all up tonight. Wish me luck.  I hope that you’re done with your shopping. I imagine all of you, sitting at home each night this week in a very clean house…The tree sparkling – the lights almost blinding you, glimmering off of the just-polished wood furniture in the room. The smell of evergreen in the air. Your pets, dressed in their Christmas-plaid printed sweaters, sitting next to the tree, not even trying to eat the bows off your presents or balls off the tree…You’re sipping on egg nog (and it’s really loaded with a lot of alcohol, you’re even a little tipsy), watching “A Christmas Story” (or maybe “Christmas Vacation”…you choose…), and you’re knitting a sweater, for me, maybe. The lights on your house outside are so wonderful that there’s a line of cars outside just waiting to see them. You’ve had them up since the day after Thanksgiving and you’ve already arranged for a service to come take them down on January 2nd. The wreath on your door is hung perfectly, and you’ve been so damned good this year that Santa has already placed the stocking stuffers into your stockings.

That’s my dream for you this week.  🙂

December 12, 2006, 10:27 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized


Funk and Update
December 11, 2006, 3:54 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I have been in a funk lately. I don’t know why, maybe it’s PMS. But the smallest of things get to me, and I make them bigger than they are. Then I think to myself, “But that IS big! You should be upset!”, then I think, “You are a crazy person.” Perhaps I am dealing with multiple personalities and I don’t know it yet. That, and I’m convinced that I have mouth cancer. It’s either mouth cancer, or the pointed end of one too many Hershey kisses poked the roof of my mouth too hard and bruised it. Or again, mouth cancer.

I had a good weekend. My mom and stepdad came in on Saturday and installed a new garage door opener for us. So exciting! My car is in the garage right now, all warm and protected from the elements. While the boys did the installation, my mom and I got to spend some time together shopping and “fingering the goods” as some might say. Such a weird phrase. And kind of gross. Anywho, it was a wonderful day and we are very thankful for the gift they brought and installed for us.

Later Saturday, my friend Kelly, who I never see and miss very much, came over with her 17 month old son. It was great to see them, and to see how much he has grown. He terrorized Jack the entire time he was here, trying to “ride” him, pulling his hair. The only part Jack liked was the fact that the little one gives open-mouth kisses, and Jack was able to french kiss him all night long. Oh, what a treat. We chatted, caught up, ate dinner and it was time for them to leave. How is it that such a close friend can live in the same metroplex area, and you never can find time to see each other? The answer is that it takes work, and we need to work harder.

The new job is going well. I knew when I took the job that it’d be more travel than I’m accustomed to, and the travel has already started. I’m in Massachusetts most of this week – why we can’t find clients in Hawaii, I’ll never know.

This weekend I added some neat things to my Christmas tree – stars made of pine cones and bird houses – for the birds, of course! And my sister sent us a *perfect* ornament for the tree – it’s a “New Home – 2006” ornament in the shape of a bird house. It’s lovely. But I can’t help but think, every time I add something to the tree, “Man, this is going to take forever to take this shit down.” Is that the spirit? I don’t think so. But still, I put up a smaller, mini-tree in the entry as well. I just keep putting the stuff out.

I hope everyone is having a good Monday thus far, and has a wonderful week.

PS – My friend Will has a blog now, linked to the left. He’ll need to update it and actually add content in order for you to enjoy it, though.  🙂