Coming Out and Coming Home (a working story) Chapter 1

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It was a kiss….just a simple kiss. It was a closed mouth, barely gaping, pressed against her cheek, in the back of her dad’s El Camino after the Volleyball Team’s loss to North Hills. To the giver of the kiss (Susie Beechum), it was no big deal, but to the receiver (Julie Carson), it was everything.

 

For Julie, it would be the beginning of a 3 year unrequited love affair. It would be, at least for a while, the kiss that Julie would use as a standard for which all kisses would be compared. More importantly, Julie would spend the remaining of her middle school and high school years perfecting the art of kissing girls.

 

She remembered, quite vividly, every kiss she experienced during these years. She could recall the feeling of every pair of soft lips which tasted of strawberry lip gloss, snuck behind the bleachers or behind the closed doors of the bedrooms of innocent young girls. Some of these kisses were given, some were taken but they were all very much forbidden.


It was funny to Julie, in hindsight, how an innocent kiss on the cheek could create such a strong awakening for her. It was funnier, still, how the same kiss was so small and meaningless for her good friend, Susie.

 

This was Julie’s precise thoughts as she read the wedding announcement for Mr. Billy Sanders and Mrs. Susie Beechum (high school sweethearts). She was setting at her breakfast nook, in the one bedroom condo that she occasionally shared with her sometimes girlfriend, Tawny.

 

As she sat and listened to the chaos Tawny was creating in the bedroom, she tried to wrap her brain around everything that had happened this afternoon. She had been outside, working on a large canvas piece when the phone had rang, so now the piece of paper in her hand was covered with rainbow colored fingerprints.

 

The phone call was from Susie Beecham, herself. She had called to ask if Julie had received the wedding announcement. Julie had received it, weeks ago but she had tucked it in the bin with her coupons and past due credit card bills. It was still unopened. She wanted to forget that it existed.

 

“Well” Susie’s voice promted.

 

“Huh” Julie replied.

 

“The invitation. Have you received it, yet?”

 

Julie lied. “It just came this morning, there must have been a problem with the mail. It’s beautiful.”

 

There was a silence on the other end of the phone. Julie felt her face flush. She knew that Susie knew she was lying. Susie cleared her throat before speaking, again. “It’s plus one. You could bring a…” Susie paused longer than necessary. “You know, you could bring a friend, or whatever.”

 

In the next room, Julie could hear Tawny throwing things and cursing. “Um, it’ll probably be just me.”

 

“Oh…Oh!” Susie was cheery again and she spent the next 15 minutes gushing about seating charts, flower arrangements and her eventual, unnamed children. To all this, Julie just nodded and added the occasional “Uh-huh” and “Oh, really?”.

 

It all felt very surreal and Julie didn’t realize that she had actually agree to attend the wedding until the conversation began to wind down and Susie said “I can’t wait to see you, you know.”

 

Julie’s heart thudded against her chest when she heard those words but all she could muster was a weak, “Yeah, me too.”

 

There was another long pause before Susie spoke again. “Hey, I have to go. Is this a landline phone?”

 

The room was spinning. “Uh, yeah.”

 

“Well that’s charming. I’ll see you soon.”

 

“Yeah”

 

“Okay, buh-bye”.

 

“Bye, girl”

 

‘Click’

 

Julie steadied herself on the kitchen counter, retrieved the invitation from the coupon bin and opened it up.

 

There she sat, running her fingers across the golden embossed letters on the front of the invitation. She held that damned RSVP card in her hand for a while. She considered taking it outside and setting it on fire as the ruckus in the next room grew louder but she gathered the energy to fill it out. She left the check mark in the plus one box empty, placed the card in an envelope, and took it outside to the mailbox. For a while she sat, looking at the rainbow fingerprints on the return envelope.

 

When she walked back inside, Tawny was in the front room, taking books off the bookshelf and stuffing them in her little pink suitcase.

 

“Going on a vacation, babe? Julie asked.

 

There was a moment’s hesitation as Tawny paused, made eye contact with Julie and then took a deep breath. Julie recognized the gesture as the calm before the storm and she raised one eyebrow. This was a challenging gesture and Tawny answered it with a barrage of anger….and so they danced. It was a dance of fury as they recounted every ounce of pain that had occurred throughout their 3 year on again and off again relationship.


Angry, nasty words flew from their mouths like blades of agony as they waltzed from the living room to the kitchen and into the bedroom. Tawny threw things and Julie apologized. Julie begged and Tawny yelled. To anyone on the outside of the dance, it would look like hate but Julie felt nothing but passion toward Tawny. What she found in the language of hate from Tawny was love and the strongest, most earth shadowing lust.

 

She imagined, as Tawny berated her with the foulest words, was herself wrestling Tawny to the floor and tearing at the slinky silk shirt until nothing but the red lace bra was showing.

 

She imagined herself crawling on top of Tawny and smothering her in deep throbbing kisses. She imagined her mouth covering Tawny’s until she could speak no more angry words.Then, she would slip her hand into Tawny’s matching panties and Tawny’s filthy words would be replaced with deep, aching moans.

 

She would caress the angriest parts of Tawny until she came and the two would collapse into one another, without another word. Only then could they continue to live the life they had built together. If this was a dance, Julie knew that was the only way it would end.
But she was exhausted, emotionally and physically. She had grown old and tired of Tawny’s dance and so she vowed to let her go, for good this time. She felt no real anger or sadness at the thought of this. In fact, the only thought she could muster was the sound of Susie’s cheerful voice, and that damned RSVP card. So, she let Tawny yell, grab her bag and then walk out the door.

I Was Once So Full of Hope…Now I’m Reaching For A Shot Glass!!!!

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This was my first #NaNoWriMo but I’m in a similar boat this year and my kids are with thier dad so I might #drinkandwrite this year…

Indie Ashley

I started out Nano a day late. In the beginning days, hope welled inside me and I filled my pages quickly. The words fell on top of each other and I delighted as I reached 5,000; 10,000; 12,000 words.

“It IS possible to pen 50,000 words in a month!” I exclaimed.

Then, life happened. Now, I blog and update my status. I read articles about writing, rather than actually writing. I have made a Pandora Radio station for my MC and have even resorted to cleaning out of boredom!

What’s happening to me? The writer that I was yesterday is replaced by a listless, wandering soul today. Perhaps Earnest Hemingway was on to something with his pairing of alcoholism and writing…who thinks I should take a shot before I write my next chapter????

*Disclaimer: I am in solely in charge of 4 impressionable children. I am a horrible person for…

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Coming Out of Hiding….#Nanowrimo…@NaNoWriMo

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Another year has passed: a full 365 days of work, and kids and friends and parties. It has been a good year but a non-productive one, literarily speaking. My writing over the past year has been sporadic to non-existent, leaving my followers to wonder about my wellbeing.

So I’m writing this post to let everyone know that I have not been abducted by aliens or eaten by a Hungry Hippo. I have not contracted a flesh-eating disease or Polio. Finally, and contrary to popular belief, I have not decided to trade my life of luxury to live in a cave, amongst a pack of wolves.

I have been living a beautifully charmed life. My children are growing and learning to read and write and create stories of their own. I have a new job, working in a Toxicology lab and I’m gearing up for a new tax season with H&R Block. I met a beautiful woman and so my circle of (already amazing) family and friends is growing, as we begin to build a life together.

With all this, comes struggle…struggle to balance it all, to find time to think and feel and quench the thirst that is writing…

And the struggle is real!

So, again, I am thankful for the beginning of National Novel Writing Month because my commitment to it will force me to make time for writing (something that I have failed at miserably for the majority of 2015).

At this point, I’m a veteran of sorts. As I begin my third Nanowrimo novel, I know exactly what to expect from the month-long sprint to write 50,000 words of a perfectly imperfect novel.

This year, I’m doing something different. I generally write Sci-fi, Fantasy, or Horror Fiction (YA optional). This year, I will be writing a Women’s Fiction novel (VERY tentatively) titled: Coming Out and Coming Home. 

Basically, the novel centers around the MC as she travels home to her very small home town to attend the wedding of the first girl she ever kissed…and so it shall be a novel about coming out and coming home. It shall be full of romance and dysfunctional family dynamics.

And of course, I’m pantsing it.

I have had literally no time to develop characters or setting. Shit, I don’t even really know what the full plot line is going to be yet. All I know is that this story is personal. It’s a way of connecting to a part of my own life’s story. It’s a scary thing, to flesh out something so close to my heart…to put it into written word and make it a real breathing thing to share with others.

But really, this year’s Nano novel isn’t for others. It’s for me…I feel certain that this novel will be the closest to my heart of anything I have ever written…

And that’s the best motivation I could ever hope for.

So, good luck to all my fellow Nano participants! May you win and if you don’t, you shall certainly end the challenge with plenty value! I welcome all the contact and you can follow the links below to find me on the social medias….after all, the greatest thing about National Novel Writing Month is finding a community of authors that can relate to the insanity that is the waking of the sleeping mind.

All My Social Medias

Facebook

Twitter

Tumblr

Instagram

Scribophile

Goodreads

NaNoWriMo

Justice: My Imaginary Friend…#Poetry…#Baltimore

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Disclaimer: I am not a poet! I wrote this poem for a poetry contest on Scribophile. However, I ended up missing the submission deadline so I thought I would post it on here, so the work put into it doesn’t go to waste! The prompt was “My Imaginary Friend”…I hope you all enjoy it and don’t forget to leave your thoughts in the comment section

Justice: My Imaginary Friend

She calls to me at bedtime,

When her skin is shrowded

By the Darkness of the falling night.

Justice is her name.

She is my truest friend

And my most dangerous enemy.

Her voice is pure and kind

Like the sweetest taste of honeymelon

From my childhood dreams

But her face is twisted out of form

And her hair is matted

With the flesh and blood of our innocent youth.

Tonight, she cries over the bodies in the street

And she throws herself, weeping,

Into the fires of social unrest.

After she burns, she stands next to me;

A weeping, fiery mess.

Together we walk

Down the middle

Of a Baltimore street

And as we walk,

They reach for her;

Both sides certain that she is their patron.

Yet she shuns them

Becuase she knows no truth but her own

And she is no friend to those who blaspheme her.

“They are not my own.” She whispers

And I advert my eyes from the condemned

As she leads me back to my blistful rest.

So when they tell me

That justice is dead,

I will call them “liar”

For she is my imaginary friend;

Living both within and without

Of my most vivid dreams.

She judges without prejudice

And she loves without mercy

But her blade is sharp and hungry for the blood of the unjust.

Why Can’t I….

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Why can’t I dictate text? I often daydream about how easy my writing would be if I could. While I was doing dishes, I could be writing….While I was driving, I could be writing….While I was in the shower, I could be writing. I wouldn’t have to put my life on hold and retreat to the dark corner in my office or hide in the bathroom with my phone to get the story out of my head.

I’ve tried, many times, to dictate text…as the thoughts are flowing, I have tried to speak them but I can’t….I just can’t.

It’s almost like there is a corner of my brain; a quiet still place that I go to when I write. Like I must retreat within myself and retrieve the story that’s dying to get out. For me, writing is very internal. Is this weird?

Or maybe, my writing comes from someplace else…or something else. Maybe I draw my stories from the same place I draw my energy and that place isn’t accessible unless I stop and listen. Maybe writing is a meditative practice for me.

Whatever the answer, it is sure that writing is not exactly a science, for any of us. As authors, we all have limitations and quirks that make our writing style our own. What are your little writing quirks or what limitations do you have, as an author? Am I the only one who finds it impossible to dictate text?

 

Writing for Profit or Writing for art, does it matter? #NanoWriMo

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The month of November is coming to an end and thousands of novels are coming close to their completion (as a first draft, anyway). Some of those novels will end up in the hands of literary agents and publishers and some will end up being self-published. Somewhere in the world, a writer will look in the mirror and say (as I did last year), that I CAN be an author…and so they will become one.

Probably the most important question asked of any author is “Why do you write?” The answers to this question vary from author to author, from project to project and from interview to interview and perhaps the greatest debate about the answers to this question is “Do you write for the money?”

This is precisely what the IRS wants to know about your writing activity and the answer can have a bigger impact on your tax return than you may know.

When I enrolled in the HR Block tax course, I was surprised to learn that there are a few ways writers can claim their writing earnings and expenses.

  1. Writing as a business
  2. Writing as a “Passive Activity”
  3. Writing as a Hobby

Writing as a Business

This is probably the most common method used for claiming writing income and expenses but, it’s not always the best way and it’s not always necessary. If you claim your writing activity as a business, you will file Schedule C: Profit and Loss from a Business, along with your regular 1040 return.

You will be allowed to claim expenses against your Writing proceeds and if you have a loss, the loss is deductible against other types of income (such as wages or interest). In the case of a business, however, you will be required to pay Self Employment Tax, which covers the cost of Social Security and Medicare for Self-Employed individuals.

Writing as Passive Income

Royalties from writing can also be claimed by filing a Schedule E: Passive Income Activity. Writers who file a Schedule E, will not be required to pay Self-Employment tax but Passive Loss from writing is only deductible against other Passive Income. So, a loss from writing as a Passive Activity will not reduce income from wages, interest or other income (but may reduce income from a rental or other Passive Activity).

Hobby Income

If writing is purely a Hobby and the writer has no expenses, whatsoever, to claim against the profit from writing, the income may be entered directly on Line 21 of form 1040: “Other Income”.  The full amount will be taxable and may result in a tax liability for the author (if the income is large enough to produce more taxes owed than was overpaid from other sources of withholding).

****Although losses from Hobby Income can be claimed on Schedule A: Itemized Deductions, this is often not the best route because the expenses would have to be more than the standard deduction for your filing status (along wiht other itemized deductions, of course).

How to tell if you’re writing for Business or Passive Activity?

The IRS defines a business as an activity “that which occupies the time, attention and labor of men for the purpose of livelihood or profit.” So, we see that the most important concept that separates writing as a business from writing as a Passive Activity is intent. Obviously, if you are a career author and you make your entire living from being an author, you are writing as a business.

However, if you are a self-published author, an independent author or you have other (more significant) sources of income, it may be a little more difficult to determine if you should file as a business or file as a Passive Activity. The IRS gives the following guidelines for determining whether an activity qualifies as a business or a passive activity (the full article can be read here)

In order to make this determination, taxpayers should consider the following factors:

  • Does the time and effort put into the activity indicate an intention to make a profit?
  • Does the taxpayer depend on income from the activity?
  • If there are losses, are they due to circumstances beyond the taxpayer’s control or did they occur in the start-up phase of the business?
  • Has the taxpayer changed methods of operation to improve profitability?
  • Does the taxpayer or his/her advisors have the knowledge needed to carry on the activity as a successful business?
  • Has the taxpayer made a profit in similar activities in the past?
  • Does the activity make a profit in some years?
  • Can the taxpayer expect to make a profit in the future from the appreciation of assets used in the activity?

***The IRS notes that if a business activity shows a loss for 3 out of 5 years, it is (by defult) Passive Income (and vica versa).

In the end…

I wrote this, to educate Authors of their options but in the end, each situation is unique and it is important to have a Tax Professional look at your personal tax situation to determine whether your writing activity should be claimed as Business Income or as a Passive Activity.

I would also like to urge you not to attempt to file your own taxes, if you’re still not sure about what is your best option (or what counts as expenses). The great thing about the age that we live in is that you never have to leave your house to get quality tax preparation by a Tax Professional.

If you would like me (a fellow author), to prepare your tax return this year, all you have to do is email me your tax documents at my HR Block email: ashley.willis@tax.hrblock.com. I can prepare your tax return and email your return to you for review. Once you give me the okay, I can electronically file your return, from the HR Block office, and you never even have to move out of your favorite writing chair. 😀

Either way, I am always open to help fellow writers and answer questions about all of this. My work email is: ashley.willis@tax.hrblock.com and my personal email is acwilliswriting@gmail.com. Feel free to email me if you have a question which applies to your particular situation.

#Nanowrimo, @HRBlock, and #Life…OH MY!!!!

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It’s that time of the year, again…

As the wheel of the year turns and the Cailleach rises to bring winter storms, there is a great awakening of creative spirit. Nanowrimo falls on the first day of the Celtic New Year…the perfect time for resolutions and new beginnings.

I have looked forward to this day, since December 1, 2013, when last year’s Nano was over. I tried Camp Nanowrimo but it wasn’t quite the same and so I resigned to wait…and wait I did.

Now, it’s here and while I’m as nervously excited as I thought I would be, I’m also starting that I might be a little bit crazy for going at it this year.

Last year, I won Nanowrimo…

…but since then, I’ve kind of been a lazy author. I suppose lazy isn’t the best word…I’ve been increasingly busy with other things…

Sometimes life just rises up and steals away the time and creative energy of an author. I suppose that’s the greatest battle that we fight. We live in this world between worlds and sometimes one of them (the “real world” or “the alternate”) reaches out and consumes us.

Last year, I was busy; mostly with my kids (now ages 5, 4 and 4)…But also with the daily ins and outs of life, being a housewife and the pending holidays. This year, I’m swamped. My kids have grown a bit and started Preschool and I’m on the edge of a Divorce (I’m filing December 1).

I had this image of all the time I would spend writing, once my kids started Preschool but the reality of it is that I spend the majority of my newly “free” time with appointments and volunteering; conferences with the teacher and projects, homework, and fundraising…It’s a new kind of busy…one I had not anticipated.

Oh, and I had an adult Tonsillectomy a week ago…I wont get into the details about how horrible an adult tonsillectomy can be (or the obstructive sleep Apnea I’ve dealt with over the past year due to constant tonsillitis) but if you’ve had one as an adult or you google “adult tonsillectomy”, you will understand how this affects every aspect of my life.

…and all the ways in which my life has changed since last  year, I am sure that it will still get in the way as I attempt this year’s Nano…

…And Then There’s Work….

It’s hard for a single mom to find a job that (1) pays well and (2) works around a “schedule” (because who can afford daycare, these days?) and (3) is actually satisfying work….That is to say that the Single mom, although brilliant, talented and creative, has no formal training or qualifications to prove specialization.

…and that’s when I came across HR Block’s Tax Course….

I’ve done my own taxes (and that of a few closest to me) for about 5 years now…I’ve researched business taxes, self employment taxes, and the Affordable Care Act out of either necessity or curiosity…and I’m extremely organized and proficient with computers and forms….so I took a chance and enrolled.

I have done done exceedingly well in the course…better than I had imagined…and I have learned A LOT…but this Tax Course is a beast! On the first day, I received two (very large) books of reading materials, tax tables, exercises, case studies and forms. I have learned, section by section, everything I will need to know to be a GOOD tax professional and I have prepared every kind of tax return covered in the class, by hand and I have come to know each tax form line by line.

I have transformed, from someone who knew a little something about taxes to someone who has an intimate relationship with taxes…but I still have a ways to go. With a little over a month left in the course, there is still a lot to learn. I also have independent research and continuing learning, after the class (once I officially become a HR Block employee).

Probably my favorite thing about doing taxes is that the laws are always changing…this gives me the ability to constantly be in the state I’m most comfortable….the state of learning and growing. HR Block is the perfect company because, out of all the Tax Preparation companies out there, they value continuing education and growth more than any of the other companies out there.

So to sum it up….

I’ve got a lot going on….and Nanowrimo 2014 is smack dab in the middle of it all! So, here’s to moving forward…Here’s to making time….Here’s to writing your heart out!

I look forward to the journey, snares and all, as we battle toward the goal of 50,000 words, together!

I’m Fed up with Bad Customer Service! Here’s What I Plan to Do About It. @ChurchsChicken

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I had some errands to run today. So, I got the kids off to school, made myself pretty and went out into the world (the light stung my eyes a little…you know how it is when you get sucked into a project and forget what daylight looks like). The day started out great…and then I began to experience capitalism at it’s greatest. Allow me, first to chronicle the particular customer service experience I’m talking about and then I’ll explain why this is important (and how it relates to authorship).

I pulled into Church’s Chicken (618 North Alexander Avenue Port Allen, LA 70767) and up to the drive through window. I was greeted with a pleasant greeting: “Hello” and so I replied…”Can I have just a moment to look at the menu, I haven’t been here in a while”. (In fact, it’s been 6 years and the reason I haven’t been to a Chruch’s Chicken in 6 years is [ironically] bad customer service). “Yeah” was the reply I received.

It took me about 45 seconds to narrow my choice between two Sandwiches…the Big Tex and a Chicken Sandwich. I was still a little torn so I spoke into the speaker, again: “Yes, I’m sorry but I can’t quite make up my mind. What comes on the Big Tex Sandwich?” The reply I received was “Hold On!” Okay, it’s only fair, really. I made her wait, how can I be upset, at this point. About a minute later, she came back on the speaker and said, “It has mayonnaise, lettuce and pickles. Do you want it?”

“Maybe, which is better, the BIg Tex or the Chicken Sandwich”

*audible sigh* “Just pull up to the window when you’re ready to order”…and silence…

Now, I’m a little perturbed at the situation but I pull up and wait approximately a minute and a half for the cashier to come up to the window. It’s important to know that at this moment in time, I was the only customer in drive through and there were a total of 4 cars in the entire parking lot…the lobby seemed pretty much empty…

When she opens the window, she doesn’t say anything so I smile at her (to let her know I’m friendly) and I say, “I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be difficult but I haven’t been to Church’s in a very long time. I was just wondering which sandwich is better?” At this point, she’s looking at me like I’m from some foreign land and she doesn’t understand a word I’m saying so I clarify, “Which one would you choose?”

“I don’t eat the food, here. I don’t like chicken. Which one you gonna get?” (Really, you think I want anything from this place if the employees wont even eat this food?)

“Just give me a large Dr. Pepper and a Macaroni and Cheese.”....and she took my money and walked away from the window. That should have been it but I couldn’t let it go. When she opened the window to hand me the Dr. Pepper, she was yelling back to the kitchen about my macaroni and cheese. I asked to speak to a manager.

The manager gave me the same “you’re an alien look” as I began to speak. I said, “You have a real problem with professionalism, here. Your cashier was rude to me and she told me that she doesn’t eat here, when I asked for a recommendation, which I KNOW is a big no-no. I know there are corporate standards in place and they’re obviously not being adhered to. I expect a better experience.”

“Yeah, but she doesn’t like the food…You want her to lie to you? Here’s your macaroni and Cheese.” and so I gave up. I wasn’t surprised that the manager didn’t care about the cashier being rude or see the problem in the way she handled the situation. I won’t ever go back to that location, again, and I likely won’t ever eat Church’s Chicken again.

…but that’s really not enough. Because, as a customer, I am exactly how they see me…just a number. At the end of the night, when they pull the reports from their register, I am just one of x amount of customers and I contributed to an average $ of sales. That number is put into a report and corporate receives it but they wont know anything about me and the experience I had. They have no real idea about how the restaurant is performing in the areas of customer service. Some companies do…(the smart ones, do)…the companies that have online surveys set up As far as I can tell, Church’s Chicken does not. I didn’t receive a receipt so I can’t be exactly sure but the website only has an address and a generic form on the “Contact Us” page…that says, very clearly, that corporate doesn’t really want to hear from customers…it says that they don’t care how their restaurants are performing, outside of the numbers that show up on the reports at the end of the night.

Now, let me digress a bit, so you understand where I’m coming from, with this. I’m not a customer service Nazi (or maybe I am…I don’t know…I do tend to be critical of the customer experience). I have a lot of really good reasons for actually caring about customer service….and I’m not just complaining because I want to be treated like a queen whenever I step into a restaurant or store. In this instant, the cashier did A LOT of things wrong. Mostly, I was aggravated because she made it clear that she was annoyed by the fact that I was asking her questions. The customer service experience is supposed to make the customer feel like they are valued and respected. Obviously, I was a pain in the ass to the cashier…the opposite of being warm and welcoming…and she was obviously above me and couldn’t be bothered to give me a suggestion or even really care about what I was going to eat. All this, really says nothing about the cashier…she’s just a worker, doing her job…but what it says about the restaurant is that it has, obviously, low standards…it was clear by the way the cashier was talking to me…and by the way that the cashier and manager both looked and carried themselves…it was obvious by the fact that the cashier didn’t care enough about the brand to suggest a product…a really strong brand would train a cashier to handle these situations, whether or not they actually eat the food (using metrics and basic product knowledge). She could have said, “Most customers prefer” or “We sell more of….” I was annoyed, not because this was a huge problem, but because it was a simple problem which could have easily been resolved with the slightest knowledge about to handle customers…literally, half an hour of customer service training and a restaurant culture which backs up the importance of providing great service to every culture, is all it takes to turn around even the worst establishments around.

On the most basic level, I care about customer service because I spent the greater part of my late teenage and early adult years working in public service. I have worked in multiple areas of customer service (restaurant, retail, telecommunications, ect.) and I have worked in multiple levels (front of the house, back of the house, management, ect.). I have a great respect for the art of customer service and I know how important it is to the success of any brand. I know that most customers, upon having a bad experience, will never complain and will just give up on a location, or even a brand, without hesitation. There is always another grocery store just a few miles down the street…customers don’t have to put up with bad service and low standards

I think what really bothers me about it is the fact that customer service workers have no pride in what they do. I don’t know any other industry where it is so acceptable to not give a shit about the most basic tasks of your job. I understand that these jobs barely pay the bills and that sucks…but where I come from, you have pride in WHATEVER it is that you do. It doesn’t matter if you dig ditches for a living, you do the best you can at it and you don’t complain about it. That’s how I was raised and so when I got my first job (at a Hardees restaurant), I made up my mind to be the best little drive through cashier on the East Coast….and I was good…I was real good (at the customer service part, at least).

But things are different, here in the south. In my hometown, there were only a handful of restaurants and stores nearby and the workers consisted largely of adults who had families to support. The customer service experience there is so different than it is here and I find myself looking for a higher standard than customer service workers in the south are able to provide. More importantly, I find myself asking why is it this way? Why can’t I just get good customer service. I don’t want things to be perfect…you can mess my food up—I’ll either eat it or have it remade….you can spill my drink on my lap—-I’ll just laugh it off…it all comes down to how the cashier or waitress handles themselves and interacts with the customer.

It can’t be that a large part of the American population simply don’t know how to talk to people….or smile….or have pride in themselves…It can’t be that a certain dollar amount is required for an individual to actually care about their job….It can’t be that customers and cashiers alike, in certain areas, lack the skills necessary to show basic respect and decency….or maybe it does mean, exactly that.

Perhaps that is what bothers me so badly about the whole thing. If a cashier and a customer can’t show the most basic levels of respect for one another, I don’t want to live here anymore. The eroding of customer service in America is indicative of a much larger problem…the eroding of respect, dignity and tolerance in America. Where is the kindness and warmth that I knew as a child? I don’t want to live in in a cold, dark world and I don’t want to raise my kids to live in that world. I want better for this country….We don’t all have to be assholes, you know…It’s not a competition….

But I digress…because I’ve been rambling on about this, in my mind, for months now…and I finally have a solution. I’m going to write a book about it. I think it’s about time that somebody address these issues. I’ve been thinking on a new project to start in November for NANO, anyway, and I think this would be a good fit. It will be my first nonfiction work and it will be the first time that I’ll be using Social Media and Reddit to write a book (actually, it will be the first time I’m using Reddit, period so wish me luck).

I’ve started a subreddit: /r/CustomerSatisfaction and I will be using it (along with Yelp! and Google Reviews and personal experience) to build a profile of the specific complaints and praises that people have about Customer Service. During Nano, I will build the framework for the book…I’ll work on blocking out specifically what I want to cover and write a lot of the framework text. It’s kind of a different way to do Nano but I’m really excited about the project…It will be fun to examine customer service and how it relates to the human condition….at the very least, we have to let corporations know that it is acceptable to us to be treated as just another number…and we have to let customers know that, in order to demand respect, you have to know how to give it. We have to set a new standard for human interaction and, since money talks, there is no better place for the revolution to occur than the customer service industry.

…and even if you don’t want to take part in my project, don’t forget to put your own experiences on blast (good or bad)….because the only way that corporations will change is if they get the point that everything that happens at every location will be reported…use Yelp!, Twitter, Facebook, Google, WordPress, Tumblr, ect. to send the message….Bad service will not be tolerated and good service will be celebrated. Corporations will eventually have to invest in better training or pay their employees more…If enough voices are raised, things will have to change.

#whyistayed and #whyileft…Because 140 characters is not enough…

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I usually don’t write so personally, on this blog and I’m still a little apprehensive about sharing the truth in a public forum…I’m sure a lot of us thought twice before hitting the “Tweet” button. I kept it simple….My post simply read:

It was a hard thing to do…even though it’s such a simple statement….I haven’t really spent a lot of time, talking about my marriage. Not publicly, at least…and I just got to the point where I can admit the truth to myself. I was in an emotionally abusive relationship.

It’s not an easy thing to say it, like that….

….because a lot of people who are close to me never saw it….

And how do I convey the true reasons #WhyIStayed in only 140 Characters?

…because, maybe it WAS my fault (I shouldn’t have pushed his buttons)….

…and maybe I am just to sensitive….

…maybe I should have been stronger…

….or maybe I really am crazy…

….because marriage is supposed to be forever NO MATTER WHAT….

….and because making the kids grow up in a broken home is cruelty….

….because when it was good, it was REAL good…

….because I can change him….

….because I can help him be better…for the kids….

….because he’s just angry, he’ll get over it….

….because emotional abuse isn’t REAL abuse…

…..but mostly, because I didn’t love myself enough to demand better….

#WhyILeft….

….because I was afraid my children would treat me the way he did…

….because I was tired of living in a whole inside myself…

…because I started to get numb to it, and everything else in this world…

….because 3 chances is more than enough….

 

I share this, now, with the purpose of reaching out and touching somebody who might be in my shoes, a year ago. I know how easy it is to convince yourself of the normality of your relationship dynamic….I know how easy it is ignore the signs that are right in front of your face and I know how easy it is minimalize emotional abuse.

I am not in that situation, now, but I do not call myself a survivor. The truth is, I didn’t survive. The woman who walked out of the marriage is a far cry from the woman who walked into it. Part of me, in fact, did not survive. I lost something to the abuse….something valuable…I don’t really know what it is, yet…but I can feel a hollow place inside of me, where that thing used to be….and I don’t know if I’ll ever get it back.

I get so tired of hearing that I’m lucky the abuse wasn’t physical. Of course, it is partially true. Still, I think that statement comes from a real ignorance about emotional and psychological abuse. Physical abuse is, of course, more dangerous but it is also easier to understand.

I, also, have a hard time referring to my children’s father as “an abuser”. I would never have loved him, in the first place, if he wasn’t, in some way, a good person. Part of me hates the side of him that was so quick to anger….so quick to judge…and so quick to cut me to the core but a bigger part, the part that gave birth to his children, recognizes that he never did any of it, with the intention of harming me.

Of course, this can’t be said for all perpetrators of abuse (physical or emotional) but my (ex) husband doesn’t fit into the mold that most men who commit domestic violence fit into. Looking back (and probably the strongest reason #whyistayed), is because I knew that he really doesn’t know any other way. For the usual reasons, he didn’t know how to treat a wife….he never learned how to love….that’s not his fault….and he’s a good man.

I thought about not even including that last bit, because I know how easy it is for that to become a rationalization to stay in a bad relationship…I know it was mine, for a long time. Still, I really can’t speak out against abuse without letting it be known that I’m not speaking out against my abuser, per say. I don’t want the readers out there, who really know me, to characterize my ex based on what I’m saying here. What happened between us doesn’t make him a “monster” and I don’t want any hard feelings toward him.

I’m lucky because he is, in fact, not a monster. Most abusive men are….and even if they’re not, it does not excuse their behavior…or provide a valid reason for staying in an abusive relationship. I hope that this reaches someone who needs it and I urge you to check out the #whyistayed and #whyileft hashtags on Twitter….It’s good to see social media being leveraged to save some lives, tonight.