Friday, August 28, 2015

Moving On

If you follow pro-football, and especially if you follow the Steelers, you know all about the brouhaha surrounding the Steelers' signing of Michael Vick. People have threatened to boycott the games and burn their jerseys. I have no doubt some have and some will. Animal Rescue League, an organization that I financially support yearly, really made a statement when they pulled out of having their gala at Heinz Field, after first having removed all Steelers-related auction items from the event.

I get why they did it, though, to be fair, the Steelers don't own Heinz Field. And there are plenty of other players on the team who seem to be decent. But as for the rest of us? Well, for sure we can all choose to support or not support a team for whatever reason. But personally, I think some people are taking it a bit too far.

Michael Vick did a terrible thing. [He pled guilty to bankrolling a dog fighting enterprise and participating in every aspect of it, including killing dogs that refused to fight. He was sentenced to two years in prison, and eventually declared bankruptcy.] I think very little of him for that. No, I think nothing of people who are involved in dog fighting or animal abuse in any way, shape, or form. I would never want to be friends with that kind of person. If I were single, I would never date someone like that. Just as I would never date or want to associate with someone who had abused women or children.

But here's the thing: Michael Vick went to prison. He made (some) restitution. He has done speaking engagements against dog fighting. He has donated money to animal charities. He is trying to move on from the very terrible things he did. He is or at least was good at football. He was suspended. And now he is not (and has not been for several years). So don't buy his jersey. Don't cheer for him if you don't want to. But can't the man go on to make a living and live his life? Do the rest of the Steelers have to suffer because of what he did (and I realize probably none of the Steelers are "suffering" because of this)?

Again, what he did was awful. Inexcusable. One of the worse things you can do (next to doing the same thing to humans). My beloved Sadie was a pit bull mix who had scars on her face. Not sure if she was abused by a person or got into fights with dogs, but either way, I feel very strongly about pit bulls and dog fighting.

But if we forever crucify people who have done their time, then why even let them out of prison or make a living? Let's just keep everyone locked up forever. The 18-year-old black kid who shoplifted and beat up a store owner? Nope, sorry, no second chances for you. Even if you go to prison and repent. Forget it. You should not be able to hold a job. People should boo you whenever you walk by. The 24-year-old white woman who abused drugs for years, including selling them to teenagers, some of who probably OD'd? Well, you may have been clean for a few years and have gotten your life back on track by speaking to youth, but, no, we should forever scorn and hate you. Because no one can change. No one deserves forgiveness. No one should ever be able to move on from anything. Right?!

I know I am comparing apples to oranges, but, hey, both are fruit! The point is, is that people deserve second chances. Sometimes even third chances, particularly if you have done your time. And I have never been down with punishing or hating an entire team, college, town, etc., for the acts of one or a few. It makes so little sense. Even PETA had this to say: “As long as he’s throwing a football and not electrocuting a dog, PETA is pleased he is focused on his game.”

If I go to a Steelers game, I won't cheer Vick. But I can assure you I won't boo him. And I sure won't stop being a fan.

Moving on.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

It was a good weekend.

This weekend, I got about 8 hours of sleep two nights in a row. That surpassed the number of nights I got 8 hours of sleep the previous 20 days. I have not slept well this month of August. Between work stress and my mom moving, and throwing in anxiety about my kid starting 7th grade and worrying about various things around that, sleep is elusive.

But I don't want to dwell on that. I want to just acknowledge the weekend for what it was. It was busy at times.

But it was a good weekend.

I slept.

I had some Blue Moons. I liked the cinnamon one; I was not fond of the spiced chai one.

I cut three weeks' worth of coupons.

I cleaned the bathtub well (every 2-3 weeks, I give it a deep scrubbing/cleaning; the other weeks it gets a perfunctory wipe-off).

I went through my credit card receipts.

I watched some TV with the kid.

I slept.

I spent some time with the hubby, just hanging out.

I walked the dog, and I ran the dog.

I lifted weights.

I went with J to a friend's house (the mom wanted to meet me, which I support; J has another good friend whom I have driven somewhere twice, and I have yet to meet the mom, which I find odd).

I finished school supply shopping (I think). I got a great deal on a sketch pad, which made up for my making a trip to Kmart yesterday thinking the filler paper was $.25 (that started today).

We had the hub's mom over to celebrate J's birthday, and we had a DQ Blizzard cake (chocolate chip cookie dough).

I slept.

I did some laundry (not fun, but necessary).

I "balanced" my checkbook (i.e., I used to online banking to write down everything I forgot about into my checkbook).

I talked to both brothers and my mother this weekend. And so far I am doing okay with my mom being so far away.

I had a delicious dinner (shrimp, garden peppers over pasta that hubby made).

And I slept.

I have a feeling most of what I wrote above would not have matter so much had I not finally gotten the sleep I so needed. But, as my post title says, it was a good weekend. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Yep, Verizon has officially made my blood boil! [with an update that makes me hate Verizon slightly less]

On Thursday evening, the first day of "The Verizon Plan," the kid and I walked into a local Verizon store ready to make my soon-to-be 7th grader a smartphone owner. A woman greeted us, and I proceeded to tell her exactly what we wanted:
  • the new plan for two smartphones for $20 each monthly
  • one new smartphone for my kid, a Galaxy Core Prime, which I wanted to pay for outright
  • 1 gig of shared data for $30 monthly
Nicole mentioned a cool phone case she had, and I told her we would look at it, but we had already found something on Amazon we liked. Then she went to the back to get the stuff.

After a few minutes, Nicole returned with the phone, a case, and a cover, and explained the plan she recommended, which contained 3 gig. I said that I had yet to use 1 gig in any given month, and my child would be using wifi only at home, so there was no need to spend the additional money ($30 versus $45, not including the 20% off the bigger plan with my Pitt discount). She then mentioned the $7/month phone payment plan, and I told her, again, we would be paying for the phone outright. She kind of looked at me as if I were crazy, but I said it was a gift for my kid, and I just wanted to pay for it now. [FYI: The payment plan is not a bad deal; there is no interest for those 24 months.] The case/cover she brought out was about $40, so we declined, knowing the fancy one J wanted was about $6 on Amazon, and highly rated.

Once she started checking us out, I said to Nicole that I did not think I would still get my 20 percent monthly Pitt discount, since our plan was only $30 (I read it had to be $35), but she said that I still would. So that was great news. And not even 10 minutes later, we were out of there.

Unfortunately, later that evening, I logged into Verizon, and discovered two highly irritating things:
  1. There was a $40 activiation fee that Nicole failed to mention.
  2. I was not, in fact, going to get that 20 percent discount.
The next day I called Verizon Wireless to complain. I told the woman I spoke with that there is nothing on Verizon's site about the fee on the FAQs, at least where you would expect it. I also said that CNN Money wrote an online article saying there was no activation fee. I then told her it is sad that I knew more than the salesperson regarding the discount. The woman was quite apologetic, and she ended up knocking off $15 from the fee. I felt better, but I still was not happy.

Later that day, J received a text from the Verizon store wanting to be sure we were 100 percent satisfied. I texted back, explaining we were absolutely not satisfied, and explained why. Today, J received a text back, and Nicole called my phone a short time later. She also was apologetic for not knowing about the activiation fee or that I could not get the discount. She said we were there the first day of the plan, and they were still learning about it. She then said she had good news. She could up me to the 3 gig plan, and I would pay only $1 more a month. I was still pretty sure I would not need the extra 2 gigs, but for $1, I said sure. I also said I would be happier if I did not have to pay the fee. But she did not offer me any discounts.

About 30 minutes later, I logged back into Verizon, and discovered that my new 3 gig plan was $36 (45 less 20 percent). $36 is not $1 more than $30 I was paying for 1 gig. I was so incensed. So I called Nicole back, and left a curt message, saying just that. A short while later, she texted me back saying she would switch my plan back.

She offered no apology whatsoever. Sigh.

I always thought Verizon had decent customer service, despite what others said. I now have a completely different picture of Verizon.

I would highly discourage anyone from switching to Verizon. I am going to check out AT&T. If they have a similar plan, I may bail. But if I have to pay an activation fee there, I guess I will stick with Verizon, though I will continue to loathe them.

I also intend to call Verizon on Monday to complain again.

Not cool, Verizon. Not cool at all. How sad is it when a customer knows more about your plans than you do, and it is even sadder when one of your people errs not once, but twice, and nothing is done.

UPDATE: As soon as I finished this blog post, I received an email linking me to a Verizon satisfaction survey. Verizon could not have had worse timing with that. You better believe I nailed them, and in great detail. Within an hour or so, I received a call from the store manager and then a text about an hour after that. He said he was completely unaware of what happened. He apologized, and he agreed to drop the $40 fee. Equally as important, he said he talked to Nicole. I would feel bad if she got in trouble, but after her second screw up, that cannot go unnoticed. He asked if there was anything else he could do. I had half a mind to say, "How about an iPhone 5S for half off," but honestly if this never happens again to anyone else, then that is worth something. I certainly won't get back my hours of complaining, blogging, checking Verizon's site, filling out the scathing survey, and talking to various people. But I do feel a lot better. I still don't love Verizon, but I am willing to forgive them.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Decisions, decisions

J will be 12 in just over a week. We decided now was a good time to get her a cell phone. The vast majority of kids in her class have a phone; some have had one for years. J never needed one until this past school year, when she joined the drama club, which sometimes resulted in play practices being cancelled, added, or ending early or late. During those occasions, she had to borrow someone else's phone, which was not so convenient, to text the hubby, who, like many of us, hates to answer his phone for a number he does not recognize.

What solidified the decision was last month, when J spent a week at a Carnegie Museum day camp. I signed her up as a self-sign out, which meant, as the name suggests, that she could sign herself out each day, rather than wait for me. I had no intention of her actually doing that, but I figured if I ever ran late getting there (I was a 5-minute drive or a 9-minute walk), then I could just meet her at the entrance. Unfortunately, her very first day there, 6.5 hours after I left an extremely nervous child, I got stuck outside of the parking lot on my way to pick her up. There was a malfunction in the gate, and I did not get to a parking space until 10 minutes after sign-out. I was panicking like crazy the entire time, wondering if she would be sitting by herself somewhere. When I finally got out of my car, she was, in fact, standing alone, but, fortunately, she was quite cheerful. Still, the thought of my baby being outside in the city alone was quite unsettling. I very much regretted that she did not have a phone at that point.

So I have spent quite a few hours in the past week researching options. Having been with Verizon for most of the past 20 years, I have not really looked into anything else in a long time (lazy!). But when you are about to incur an additional monthly expense, and neither your nor your hubby's pay is going up, well, you should put some thought into it.

What I have found is that you can expect to pay around $30 to $40 per month for unlimited text and talk and some data. In many cases, it pays to have multiple people on the plan. I really, stupidly, thought I could add J onto my Verizon plan and pay only another $15 to $20 per months, but, alas, that is not the case. I get a 20 percent discount through work, but that is now on the data, not the phone lines, and data is the thing I don't need a lot of. In fact, after over 2 years on my current plan, I have yet to hit 1 gig in any month. J understands this phone is to be used for texing and talking primarily; data will only be used when she is home using the wifi. So getting a plan with a lot of data is just wasting money.

Fortunately, because I am indecisive and throw out many things to my FB friends, I took that route to ask for people's wireless experiences. A friend posted that Verizon is changing its plans this coming Thursday. That was surprising to me, as I had just read last week that they were going to a non-contract model. But this new plan/deal is actually pretty good. For $50 a month, a person can have unlimited text and talk plus a gig of data ($20 for the phone and $30 or the data). You can add another phone for another $20. Right now, I pay about $67 (with my discount) plus taxes to get 450 minutes of talking (and unlimited mobile-to-mobile), 250 texts, and 2 gigs of data. If I go with this plan, I will pay just $3 more to add my kid (but I lose a gig of data). I don't get the discount on data since I would be going with the smallest plan, but, still, you can't really beat that. I will, however, have to buy J a phone, so there is that additional expense. But one I feel okay about.

However, as I said on FB, I would not be surprised to find out that I really can't do this; the article the friend forwarded to me said, "Current customers can keep their existing plan or move to the new plan, with some restrictions." Hopefully the V-chat transcript I printed out from today will be the "proof" I need when I walk into the store later this week and a salesperson tries to tell me I can't do this.

Stay tuned. Here's hoping my next post sings Verizon's praises.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Déjà vu

I have pretty much never written about work. At least not in detail. Not this job. Not my last job; well, until I was let go. And then I wrote about it afterwards. I still think my good-bye email to the office was one of my best pieces of writing to date.

Things at work have been slow. That is pretty typical for the summer. And we work pretty hard throughout the year, so it is not altogether unpleasant to be slow (though I prefer to be busy), particularly when we get out .5 to 1.5 hours early most Fridays. But things were becoming unnervingly slow. We did not have many contracts on the horizon. Then we heard about people (the people whose work we do) leaving. First it was one person. Then another. When we got to the fourth and fifth, I was downright panicking.

And then last week, we were told about a mandatory, full company meeting on Monday (yesterday). I did not like the sound of that. Not one bit. I felt very uneasy the entire weekend. The only reason I was not in a full-on panic was because I spent most of the weekend helping my mother pack up her things so she can move back to TX this week. Again. That makes me sad, and it will become another post someday soon. But fortunately dealing with that helped keep my mind off work and the feeling of impending doom.

On my way to work on Monday, I heard Green Day's "Time of Your Life." I heard that same song on my last day at my last job (the one I was laid off from). I almost threw up in the car at that point.

When I got to work, my stomach felt no better. Five of us who are pretty friendly at work spent the 2.5 hours until the meeting speculating. Then the meeting came. It ended up not being what I expected. It was mostly worse, but no one was let go on the spot, so there was that! I won't go into details, partly because some of it is unsettled/unofficial and partly because I just don't do that on here. But throughout the very uncomfortable meeting, my friends/coworkers and I exchanged various looks, ranging from panic, fear, and annoyance.

When the meeting was over, five of us headed to lunch, convinced we were not going to be employed for too much longer. Lunch was kind of a blur. Many cuss words were flying. I was responsible for 2/3 of them, I am sure. We tried to figure who of us would stay and who would go and what we would do. A few of us decided we had to talk to the boss. We hated to jump to conclusions, but the imminent ending of our jobs seemed soon.

I emailed the boss as soon as I returned, and she said she could see me right away. I told her I needed to understand what was going to happen. I said I liked working there, that I think I did a really good job, that it was a good fit, that I worked hard, etc., but I needed an idea of what the near future would hold. Much to my surprise, she said my job was safe through the end of the fiscal year (about 10.5 months away) and hopefully longer. She could not guarantee anything (who can), but she seemed confident that my days were not numbered (well, at least not in days and weeks, anyway). I asked her a few more thing and she gave me mostly reassuring answers. But the big takeaway is that I still have a job. Just 15 minutes prior to that meeting, I figured I was heading back to teaching (subbing) come the start of school.

Unfortunately, not all of my coworkers were so lucky. A good friend's job is ending at the end of the month. So is the job of another. A few people have not shared what their fate is.

I was worried since I was the last one hired for my position (there are five of us who do what I do). But since I work on my team solo, unlike the other four people, that ended up being a great advantage. I never would have thought it would come to that. But I am glad and relieved. And, I also like to think it is because someone (or someones) recognizes what I bring to the job. I know when I told the fellow I work with that I was staying, she was about as happy as I was. It is nice to be appreciated.

I don't know what the future holds. I can't say where I will be in a year. I may not even be at the same place in six months. But I can be cautiously optimistic. I sure would love not to have to pay for my kid's college...