NaNoWriMo

Okay, folks!  It’s that time of year again where I indulge in self-torment, high quantities of caffeine, demonstrate my ability to not forage for food, and agonize over all the crap that has to be done before I can even sit down to write.

This is your warning.  Your only warning.

I may or may not be blogging at all for the wonderful month of November.  I’m pretty sure my stress levels will be determined by how I have failed to do laundry or dishes or clean the house.  Hopefully my boyfriend will get the hint.  Or not.  I can anticipate him providing me with provisions though, as Adele (or Queen) mourn their tales of woe through my iPhone while the clacking of the keyboard mounts a tempestuous tale of its own. Maybe I’ll include some BlackBriar, Sara Barielles, Ellie Goulding, or Eminem to proffer as the muse for my novel.

Sylvia Plath and Hemingway simply will not do as an audible.  But, by the end of November, I may find myself at the end of a rope.  Not to hang myself with but more as a cliffhanger in anticipation of my next novel.  The line is dangling and the fish are already biting.  I’ve had a few read the first few rough drafts of my current novel.  They are begging for more.  One of them even slapped me on the arm, wanting to know where the rest of it is.  I simply tapped my temple and said, “In here. Locked safely away until next time”.  She was mad at me.  Until I promised her the first signed copy.

She will be getting the very first signed copy.

I’m on the hunt for an editor.  Someone majoring in English Lit at a local college will suffice as long as there is the understanding that I can only pay in coffee or use of my culinary skills.

Yes, I have skills.  Guys like girls with skills.

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The Life of a Retail Worker

As the holidays approach, do you think about the people who assist you in retail stores or even scan your items for purchase?  Working retail is a very thankless job.  It’s one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever worked.  There is no gratitude in it. When is the last time you said “thank you” and meant it to someone who helped you?

Although not everyone can be pleased, there are a handful who are satisfied with the service they’ve received.  At many stores and restaurants, have you noticed the website and code on your receipt?  It’s a survey. If you’ve ever had good service at an establishment, by all means, PLEASE fill that survey out!! Many jobs rely on providing wonderful customer service and by letting the company know about the service you’ve received can determine how the company can grow.

As much as I have protested against pronouncing my profession, I am a pharmacy technician.  I do my best to assist my patients (I prefer to call the people I help rather than customers) with excellent customer service.  I work at a very high volume establishment and often deal with cranky, albeit polite, patients.  I am the friendly voice that you hear on the phone.  I am the smile you see at the window or cash register.

I understand that you’re tired.  You may not be feeling well either.  I empathize with that.  I’ve had days where I’ve worked with one of the most intense migraines or perhaps a vicious bout of insomnia.  However, I don’t let that deter from my service.  I have no reason to treat anyone poorly.  I do no like making any patient wait for their medicine.  I may be having a horrible day but I want you to feel important.  You are important to me.  Why?  Because without you, I would not be able to feed my family or have a roof over my head.

I have encountered some of the most awful retail workers around.  I was polite but determined to change how the cashier treated me.  I’ve had many examples but what impacts me the most is how I can make a difference in someone else’s life.  I want you, as a customer, as a patient, to remember me when you come into my pharmacy.  I want to be the one who changes your day and makes it better.  It does not matter to me what kind of day I’m having.  Your day is just as important to me as mine is.

A couple of weeks ago, I was working the drop-off window and had to answer the phone.  My greeting is always the same:  “Thank you for calling your pharmacy, this is Mia.  How can I assist you today?”  On this particular day, a woman was on the other end.  Her first statement to me was, “Wow!  You are so friendly and I really like that.”  She then proceeded to tell me how her experience with my pharmacy has been so bad during this past year that she really didn’t want to get her medicine from us.  I was apologetic and asked how I could make her experience better.  Then, she said if my coworkers could be as kind as I am, then she would continue to come to my pharmacy.  I then proceeded to take her refill request and gave her a time to pick it up.  Unfortunately, I was at lunch when she picked up her medicine but she told the cashier that she enjoyed talking to me and hoped to see me next time.  What the woman didn’t know, was that I was stressed to the point that taking my medicine was useless.  I was so stressed, that I spent my breaks and lunch crying in my car.  She never knew that.  None of the patients I was waiting on knew what kind of day I was having.  Their day was much more important and if I can make them smile, it makes my day.

On the opposite scale, last week I received a phone call from a customer (she didn’t have any medicine to be ordered) who was looking for a particular OTC (over-the-counter) product.  I had a patient at the window and a few others in line.  I asked the woman to hold for a moment as I had to finish with the person in front of me, then I could go to the floor.  I finished with Mr. Smith, then informed the next patient that I would be right with them.  I went to the floor to find the product the customer wanted and memorized the pricing.  I resumed the phone call with the information the customer requested, let her know that there were a variety in stock along with the request that she come in to find which exact item she wanted.  She then told me that I wasted her time and I was totally worthless as a person.  I politely thanked her and told her to have a nice day.  Honestly, there is no point in being mean or rude, despite the desire to bite back when a customer is nasty.  The next patient at the window more than made up for what the mean lady said.  Yeah, she was a mean lady and I’m grateful that I don’t have to deal with her.

I did tell my manager that a customer said I was totally worthless.  I was laughing as was she.

It’s not every day that I get thanked for what I do.  At least not by patients or customers.  Think about it for a moment…  The cashier who is ringing up your purchases says nothing.  Not a single word.  Not to the customer before you (as you witnessed the transaction while you waited in line).  Not to the customer after you.  Not to you.  The cashier has their head down as they scan your items.  No eye contact.  No smile.  Just a simple “thank you” as they hand you your receipt.  I’m willing to bet it does not make you feel very good as a customer.  You most likely won’t return or keep your business to a minimum (if it’s the only store in town).

That cashier feels defeated.  At some point during his/her shift, a customer was mean, rude, and downright nasty to them.  The customer most likely complained about the products or services.  It is situations like this that make retail workers feel like they don’t matter.  We do matter.  We are just as valuable as you are.  It is the customers who make us feel like we are doing something worthwhile.  It is so simple, to make someone who works hard for what little they make, for them to feel as important as the customer.

Over the many years I’ve worked retail (in all capacities – cashier, manager, etc.), I have performed a social experiment.  While I’ve not kept track on paper of my study on humanity, I have come up with some helpful tips.  These tips or ideas if you prefer, will help you survive the upcoming holidays as you shop along with any other time you shop at a retail establishment.

  1.  Greet your cashier/assistant by their name.  It’s on their badge.  If the badge is flipped or missing, ask them their name. Saying their name makes them feel human, like a person.  Like more than just a retail worker.
  2. Ask them how their day is going.  They are will ask if you’ve found everything you needed but beat them to the punch and ask them about their day. They may respond with something as simple as “fine” or “good” or “busy”.
  3. Smile at them.  Even if you are struggling to find your smile after a long day at your job or your child is in the cart screaming because he/she didn’t get that toy they saw.  The cashier often will understand and provide you with sympathy about your day. (You will get the cashier that doesn’t understand what you have dealt with during their day but don’t let that stop you from coming back – you never know when I’ll be providing excellent customer service to you.)
  4. Thank them for their assistance.  A THANK YOU can change everything for a retail worker.  It sounds easy but sincerity in your “thank you” is the kindest thing you can give a retail worker.
  5. Do not hesitate to fill out a survey or tell a manager about the service you received, especially if your cashier/assistant was helpful.  Also, if they were not cordial, a manager that is not aware of the issue cannot rectify the situation.

Retail companies depend upon shoppers to stay in business.  I enjoy my job.  Particularly because I believe that something so small as a genuine smile can make a person feel better than any other type of medicine.

The holidays are coming, so please be kind to the person assisting you with your purchases!

Edit: Today, when I helped a patient in the drive-thru (there were two), I received this note when she returned the carrier:

This made my day (as the other patient yelled at me). I really appreciate this note.

FINALLY!

I’m so very sorry that I’ve been MIA.

It’s been very crazy for the last month that every time I sat down to write, I fell asleep. No joke.

Let me catch you up. I’ve moved. From the unfamiliar country terrain of southern Illinois to the wilder, bigger, yet still unfamiliar terrain of Indiana. Between packing, working, and officiating a gorgeous wedding, life has been hectic to say the least.

Now that I’m a bit more settled, I promise to write more. NaNoWritMo is coming up and I plan on finishing my novel then.

What would you like me to write about?

The Philosophy of Relationships

I have this philosophy about relationships. For me, every man is different. Every man is unique. Therefore, every relationship between me and a man is different.

I don’t go into a relationship believing that the new man will be just like the one before him. It is not a fair comparison. My current beau is nothing like my ex. Nothing like any of my exes, in fact. Not in looks or personality or character.

Shocker, right?

My friends know I have a “type” when it comes to men. My boyfriend doesn’t fit the bill and broke the mold.

Somehow, he found the key to the cage around my heart. But first, I have to tell you about him. You already know some of the things he’s done for me. Things he’s done with no expectation of a return.

Jay* is a couple of months younger than I am. He’s also a couple of inches taller than my short self. He’s got these amazing blue eyes that resemble a deep blue sky. He looks at me with nothing but pure love, not like he’s undressing me or that I’m a sex object.

He touches me with a gentleness that I had never felt before. I love curling up next to him, place my head on his shoulder and hold his hand. My hands are so tiny next to his!

Last weekend, I had missed a couple of doses of my medicine. Normally, my anxiety levels are sky high when this happens. I would have multiple panic attacks and a major meltdown. None of that happened. I was calm. I was at peace. He is my zen.

He has a daughter. She is quite a beautiful young lady and you can tell she is her father’s child. She’s about to turn 14. I made a gift for him to send to her. I haven’t met her yet so I was a bit nervous about the gift. I just hope she likes it.

Jay and I were just having a casual curiosity conversation. I brought up the idea of “hall passes” in a relationship. I asked him who his hall pass would be. His initial response was “Dead or alive”? I replied that it didn’t matter and he said he had to think about it. Later that evening, he said he didn’t need a hall pass and that he was happy being with me. I nearly cried.

We talk about everything. Nothing is off limits. Our conversations are endless. We even talk about our sex life. I think this important for any relationship.

This man is getting my heart. He is getting all of me. Does he know what he’s getting himself into?

When we are apart, I feel like a piece of me is missing. Like I’m not a whole person. Jay is an extension of me and I of him. Nothing is the same when we aren’t together.

I love his voice. He’s an incredible singer. As much as I love to sing karaoke, he is far better at it than I am. I love singing in the car with him!

By far, my favorite thing about him is his congruence. Jay truly cares for me. I can see it in his eyes. I can feel it in his touch. I can hear it in his heartbeat when I lay my head on his chest.

He’s turning me into a romantic. Whatever will my friends think? They can think whatever they want. Some of them have noticed a difference in me and it’s been good.

Is it obvious that I’m falling for him?

Falling

Wise men say, only fools rush in

But I can’t help, falling in love with you

That’s such a good song by Elvis Presley.

Are we foolish for falling in love with someone? What makes love foolish? Is love only a game for fools?

It’s easy to love someone. My friend K once said that I am a very easy person to love. Looking back on my life and relationship history, (sorry if I sound narcissistic here), I can see how someone could fall in love with me.

As I’ve gotten older and have experienced the hardships of life, falling in love hasn’t been easy. I’ve been more jaded and cynical about love. I can love someone I care about fairly easy but it’s a different kind of love. It’s a way for me to say “I care about you”, “I’m concerned about your wellbeing”, or “I want to know what is going on in your life”.

It’s not necessarily about romantic love and intimacy. It’s a way for me to draw closer to those I genuinely care about.

I’ve surrounded myself with an invisible wall over the last several years. My heart has been barricaded and I’ve not had a reason to take a sledgehammer to the bricks. It’s as if a cast-iron chastity cage has been erected and oxidized with no hope for rusty disintegration.

Love is a risk. I believe my walls have come down, brick by brick. That cage is still around my heart.

However, my boyfriend is working on that. It’s his actions that have broken down my walls. I’m beginning to trust again. I don’t feel the need to walk on eggshells. I know I can tell him anything without worrying about how he will react to what I say. Even the trivial stuff.

He’s experienced one of my infamous meltdowns from a distance. He’s comforted me during a rough week. I feel relaxed and at peace in his presence. He has become my zen.

I was talking to him last night about this very thing. We both agree that it feels like we’ve known each other for a lot longer than actuality. I feel disconnected, and like a piece of me is missing, when we aren’t together. I count the days until I see his handsome, smiling face again.

It will be this weekend and I’m meeting his parents.

Until then, I’ll dream of him…

Am I a fool for falling? Or is it the wisest thing I could do for an amazing man who deserves my whole heart?

What Is Love? Pt. 2

My boyfriend and I had the following conversation last night:

I’ve spent most of today thinking about what love means to me. I’ve come to believe love is circular in many ways. Think about it for a moment…

A wedding band is a never ending circle demonstrating the emotional bond between two people. Love is two hearts sharing a single beat. Does your heart skip a beat when you look at your significant other? Mine does. Perhaps it’s my heartbeat syncing with his as I fall in love.

Love can be symbolized in many ways. It is often seen in the form of a heart. When love, we’re supposed to love with all our heart, right? The symbolism of the heart equating to love began in the 15th century. It’s a great way to write love. Red roses also represent love.

For me, after much thought, love is more of a demonstration rather than the verbal or written word. My boyfriend shows me his love (maybe I shouldn’t use that word just yet in regards to him yet) by doing little things for me. He holds my hand when we walk through a store or at the movies. He holds me when I need to be held, without even saying a word. He came to see me this past weekend after the horrible week I had. I didn’t ask him to but he knew I needed to feel how much he genuinely cares for me.

He’s filled my gas tank on more than one occasion. That demonstrated so much of how he feels about me. Case in point – I drove nearly everywhere and my ex never once offered to pay for gas. Not even for the 45 minute one way drive to pick up his ex-stepdaughter. Sad.

Gifts from the heart are great for birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas but they don’t truly symbolize what love is. Material goods are not a replacement for real love.

Actions speak louder than words. The same goes for love. Anyone can say the words. They’re just words. Do they have meaning? Yes. When said at the right time and in the right context, those three little words have a powerful impact on its recipient.

Love is a very strong emotion. It is possible to love unconditionally. I mean more than just your child.

Love is the ability to give all of yourself, every fiber of your being to another person. It is the internal swelling of your heart when you look at him. It is in the way you kiss – kissing him like you miss him, even when he was simply in the next room. It’s resting your head on his shoulder and holding his hand while watching television.

It is communication. It is finding the words to lift each other up, especially during arguments. It is being supportive during hard times. It is finding the time to just be imperfect together. Nobody is perfect.

Love is a learning process.

It is the process of two hearts becoming one.

Suicide Note

I wouldn’t do it myself, but I understand the pain and courage it takes to commit suicide. In light of the two high-profile suicides this week, Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, I have pondered death and the lives left behind.

If I were to end my life, this would be my note to the world…

My dearest loved ones,

Since you are reading my final farewell, there are some things you should know. I loved you all to the best of my ability. I know that this note will not bring you understanding, closure, or comfort.

I tried to be strong. I tried to find the hope and good in my life. Unfortunately, my strength was gone and I let go of the rope.

Dad, Mama, and Mom, I know you loved me. You’ve showed it and I saw it everywhere. Sadly, I couldn’t feel it. It was if those feelings were blocked by an impenetrable steel wall. You reached out to me. I knew I could open up, be vulnerable, and express my inner thoughts without judgment. I never found the words to say what needed to be said. Just always remember me and hold me close to your heart.

To my brother, you’re not going to have the right words to explain to my nieces why I’m not here to watch them grow up. Perhaps the best way to explain it is to tell them I am their special angel and I am watching them grow from heaven. I love them very much but that love was not enough to keep me here.

To the rest of those I love, I’m sorry. Sorry that I wasn’t strong enough to continue breathing in this life. Sorry that I cannot give you the comfort you seek during this difficult time. Sorry that I’ve left a hole and an ache in your heart that will never heal.

Just know that behind the smile, the laughter, and the love, the pain is now completely gone. I’m free from the anguish of my earthly existence.

I love you.

Just remember me.”

National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK

Or you can talk to me. I’m always listening.