Thursday, February 21, 2008


So I'm sitting on my couch, watching TV with my daughter when the phone rings. I waited for the second ring so I could check the caller ID, but nothing ever came up. I answered the phone anyway and found myself talking to a woman from San Diego, California. She asked if I was the Jill Boyd that knew her. Strange question. I asked for her name again and she repeated it and added, "we have a daughter named Stephanie." As if that would jog my memory. The weird part is, my daughter is named Stephanie. I said their name didn't sound familiar and then the woman told me she was looking for the Jill Boyd who was the birth mother to their daughter. Okay, chills and a little freaking out sensation. I told her that, while Stephanie was my daughter's name, she was sitting with me at the moment and I thought they had the wrong number. Then the woman went into a long explanation about having lost the birth mother's address and they were unable to send Christmas pictures. So she started looking online, and I was one of three people named Jill Boyd who lived in Florida. Funny, I would have thought there'd be a lot more. I mean, Florida IS a big state, after all. So I said, "I guess you can cross me off your list, then." She laughed and said she would and then she hung up. The whole thing was just weird. And why there was no number on Caller ID I can't figure out. Unless she was trying to trace the birth mother instead of reconnect with her. I have to admit, my writer's mind took off in several different directions.
In the meantime, my teenage (and somewhat dramatic) daughter was kind of freaked out. She even asked me if I had another daughter. She's the only girl with five brothers, so I can understand her grasping at straws. Being the June Cleaver type mother that I am, I sat her down gently and explained that, yes, I had twin girls. I named them both Stephanie and gave one up for adoption. Sarcasm is my gift.
So that's my story for today. Weird phone call. No Caller ID and a whole new plotline. Excuse me, I think I hear a book calling.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Customer is never ... right?

I'm beginning to hate credit card companies. I like credit cards--as long as they're controlled--but I really hate the companies that issue them. Whatever happened to true customer service? How about making the customer happy? How about just a little honesty and fairplay? None of these seem to matter anymore.
I've heard horror stories about credit card companies and how they act toward people, but I guess I thought I was immune. We've been with the same credit card company for almost ten years. I thought they were good to us, but just recently am I discovering the different things they've been pulling through the years. For instance, we paid off a substantial amount with them last month after we sold our house. I went online and got the exact amount we owed so that I knew how much to send. Then they told us there was a finance charge that needed to be included AND a late fee. I paid the bill online, on their website, on the due date. But they said since the due date was a weekend, it wasn't posted until the following Monday and so it was late. And finance charges keep accruing until they receive payment. I raised a stink and they finally waived the late fee and additional finance charges. Then I told them to cancel one of my cards. I had them check first to make sure I had a zero balance. Two weeks later I was battling with them again. Not only had they NOT cancelled the card, but they had also added some finance charges there as well.
This month I was also almost late because they keep changing the due date for payments. Somehow it creeps forward a few days each month. Well, last month they said if I had paid by phone, it would have been recorded immediately. So this month I called and told them I wanted to pay by phone to avoid a late charge. The man said I was already late and a late fee had already been charged to my account. I asked how that could be when I was calling ON the due date. He said the due date was on a weekend and I needed to pay by the previous Friday at 5:00 p.m. or I was late. So now they charging me a late fee for not being two days early. The man on the phone didn't seem real upset about the late charge. He was too busy trying to convince me to take advantage of their zero interest rate on balance transfers. I told him I wasn't interested, and then he pushed, saying they had checked my credit report recently and he could see that I had some balances I could transfer. Wait a minute. You pulled my credit report? Without my knowledge? He assured me they had a legal right to do so.
Now I feel weird. Who are these people I'm borrowing money from? I feel like I made a deal with the mafia. I'm looking around for another credit card company. In the meantime, I'm paying my bills a week early. I wonder if there's an early fee as well.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The greatest Valentine's Day

I like Valentine's Day. I know some people think it's a Hallmark holiday, but I like setting aside a day to show how much you love someone. Most people (re: men) don't think romantically all the time. It's only natural that we set aside a day to prompt them to communicate their feelings for their loved ones.
To me, nothing says love like a big box of candy. I love the Russell Stover candy boxes shaped like hearts. The lace, the flowers, the foil attached to it. It's so romantic! Of course, since I'm a borderline diabetic, it's also a big no-no. Still, I always thought that was a romantic gift.
I also love flowers. Especially ones that are delivered. Why that seems more romantic than the man just bringing them home, I don't know. A friend of mine got flowers delivered to her classroom this week. (She's a teacher.) The smile on her face stretched from ear to ear. It seems her husband IS one of those people that thinks this is a forced holiday. So for him to go to that much trouble really said a lot.
My husband and I usually try to go out for dinner sometime near Valentine's Day. Our schedules are so hectic, we don't always go out on the exact day. That's too crowded usually anyway. But we'll go out and just have some quiet time with just the two of us. With six children, peace and quiet and time alone is a rare gift.
One of our best Valentine's Day gift to each other was fourteen years ago. That was when our third child was born. Our first seven years of marriage had a lot of rough spots as we both needed to grow up a little. But during this third pregnancy, Terry accepted Christ as his Savior, and I rededicated my life to the Lord. As we grew closer to Him, we also grew closer to each other. We just sort of fell in love with each other all over again. When I went into the hospital on Valentine's Day, Terry was with me the whole time. Except for a little while when he slipped away somewhere. I didn't know he went to the hospital gift shop. He brought back a beautiful rose in a glass vase. It was so sweet a gesture, it almost made me forget the pain of the contractions. Almost! The nurse thought it was sweet too. She admired the flower right before she told my husband he needed to get it out of the birthing room. Hospital rules or something. It was still the best Valentine's Day flowers I ever received. After a long and painful labor process, our baby was born by c-section that night around 8:30 p.m. Since that time we spend Valentine's Day celebrating our son's birthday instead of going out for Valentine's Day. It's a nice trade off and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Pinned in a corner

I need a three day weekend. Who doesn't? But my problem is, I need a three-day weekend every week. This year has been a big shock to my system as I rejoined the outside working force for the first time in thirteen years. Of course I was busy during that time with the inside working force: six children, office work for my husband's painting business and trying to develop a career as a writer. But at least my days were flexible. Now I'm teaching 6th through 12th grade English at a Christian school. In theory, (and in my paycheck) I am only part-time. Well, my pay may stop at 12:30, but the work continues on! As most any of you that work outside the home know, Saturdays are for playing catch-up. Run errands, buy groceries, clean house. The list is endless. And mine always seems complicated by outside obligations. Plus, I want to sleep in one day a week. I get up at five in the morning during the week. I consider myself luck if I get to sleep in until eight on Saturdays. That doesn't always happen. I've completely lost the ability to while away a few hours. I can't even remember the last time I sat down to watch an entire movie on TV.
Next weekend is a three-day one thanks to Presidents' Day. Now I have a day to catch up on work and errands, and maybe I'll also have a day to sleep in and then bury myself in a book for a while. So how do you manage all the little things that crowd into your day? There's got to be a better way to get a handle on this!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Worse than the dentist ... part 2

It took me almost three weeks, but I finally went back to the eye doctor. If you wear contacts, then you know that usually they give you a trial pair to wear for a week before giving you your prescription. The doctor/torture specialist gave me a trial pair, but they hurt. I thought maybe my eyes needed to get used to the different kind of lenses, but I never could get comfortable in them. I ended up wearing them for almost three weeks. They were two week contacts.I kept putting off the follow up because I was afraid to go back. (See original blog in January) When I went back in, I had a different eye doctor. He hadn't seen a shampoo bottle in quite a while, but he was sure to be kinder, right? When he walked into the room he was reading my chart. He muttered something under his breath. After a moment he looks up and says, "I need you to answer me." I'm sorry, what was the question? Then he puts the bug mask in front of my face. That's the machine were they keep switching lenses and asking you which is clearer, A or B? I can't see the chart on the wall, but that's only because the bug mask is too high. So I arch my back and sit up straight. About halfway through the check up, he must have realized the unit was too high. Instead of adjusting it, he stomps on the pedal that moves the chair up and down. I rise with a jerk, and then suddenly I can see more easily out of the bug mask.
After that pleasant experience, he pulls out the shelf where you set your chin in the cup and rest your forehead against the bar while they shine a bright light in your eyes. I always wonder how many chins rested in that plastic piece before mine. Ewww! Anyway, this piece of equipment was much too low. So I hunkered down in my chair. (Why don't I just speak up?)
After all that, he pulls two small lenses with little handles out of a drawer and tells me to focus on the chart on the wall. Then he almost strikes a pose as he whips those lenses in front of my eyes to see if they help my vision. By now my eye is so irritated from the contacts I can hardly see anything, and they keep watering as well. Of course, that could be from my struggle to hold back the laughter at this guy's antics. I think he must be a frustrated magician or something. His final conclusion was that they could up the prescription slightly and see if that helped any. But they didn't have the next step up in contacts, of course, so they had to be ordered. I ended up going back two days later to pick up the new contacts. To my relief, these lenses work much better. I can actually see clearly, and they don't hurt at all. I'm so relieved! The ordeal is finally almost over. There's just that one more follow up visit ...

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Two peas in a pod

I miss my friends. We moved to Florida last summer. I love it here, but sometimes I do wish I could have all my friends move with me. I have new friends here, and I love them too. But sometimes friends become family. You know, you have the casual acquaintance kind of person. You see them across the auditorium every Sunday and you occasionally even have a little chat, but they're not close. Then you have the ones that you speak with every Sunday. You might never think of them during the week, but you wouldn't miss your Sunday chat. After that come the friends that hang out in a bunch. They each have their own circle of friends, too, but they just kind of circle and hover with several other couples in this shifting group that goes out to Sunday dinner together or gets together once in awhile for the inevitable Rook tournament. Beyond that are the friends that you always invite to a Rook tournament. If you have a social gathering at your house, there's no question these friends are invited. You chat on the phone occasionally and step in and out of each other's lives. These are the friends that you miss when you move. They keep in touch every so often.
All these friends are great. But then you have the closest ones. The ones that seem like you never moved very far because they're always there for you. The ones that know all about you and your family and love you anyway. The ones that become your children's guardians.
I got a phone call from one of those friends this week. She called at six o'clock in the evening on Wednesday when we were getting ready to leave for prayer meeting. By the time I heard my cell phone ringing, it was already going to voice mail. I looked at the caller ID and felt disappointed that I wouldn't have time to talk to her before church. Just then the doorbell rang. When it rains it pours, right? So I send my daughter down to get the door while I finish getting ready. Stephanie screamed when she opened the door. That was my first clue. Then I heard gentle rushing and shushing coming from the rest of the kids. (I have six.) I got up and hurried down the stairs. Around the corner was--my friend! She was in town for the week on business and had popped in to surprise us! There are certain people who can show up on my doorstep anytime without warning and I will be glad to see them and drop everything to spend time with them. Tammy is one of those people. She went to church with us that night and then we grabbed a bite for supper. We're getting together again tomorrow afternoon when I get off work and her meetings are finished. And I can guarantee you we'll pick up the conversational ball as if we had never been apart from each other the past seven months. Some friends are just like that. Don't you love it?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Alligator Alley

Different regions of the country have different things they're known for. California has earthquakes, North Alabama, where I'm from, has some pretty bad tornados, and Florida has hurricanes. Tornados don't scare me much because usually you have a little bit of warning. Now earthquakes, those would terrify me. We had one in Alabama once. It woke us up out of a sound sleep. My husband dashed downstairs to the kids' rooms to check on them, and then checked the furnace because he thought it might be about to blow. It was a pretty strong earthquake, and it was all over the news the following morning. But the sudden onslaught and no warning really made me scared. By the same token, hurricanes are scary, but you get a lot of warning on those.
In addition to weather situations, different regions have creature situations too. In Alabama we had poisonous snakes and spiders. We found quite a few on our property the last few months before we moved. That was freaky. The bugs in Alabama were bigger than they were in the Midwest, too. But then in Africa, they had HUGE bugs and lizards (inside and outside the house). For snakes they had black and green mombas and cobras. Very deadly--very scary.
You'd think that after that nothing would scare me much, but there's a whole new critter to fear in Florida. I'm talking about alligators. You see a lot of them in lakes and such. Our subdivision is across from a large lake, and the kids always look for gators as we drive by in the mornings. We've also been out on a boat on the lake and seen alligators swimming nearby. Gives new meaning to the command, "Keep your hands and legs inside the boat at all times!"
So they're scary, but they're contained. At least, I thought so at first. I was warned to be careful about letting our children near any retention ponds. About two tenths of a mile inside the entrance to our subdivision is a small pond with a fountain in the middle. Right near it is the kiosk with all the mailboxes. My boys have insisted that they saw an alligator in that pond. I never believed them unti just the other day. I was waiting for my daughter to get the mail, and I noticed something (looked like a tail) rising up out of the pond. It lingered for a while and then slowly lowered again. It did that twice. There is a community bulletin board near the mailboxes, and on it was an article about what to do when living near alligators. It was two pages, but it boiled down to two points: don't feed them and stay away from them. Can I just say, "Duh!"
Anyway, One of my classes recently had to do a summary of a news article for English class. One of the boys brought in an article about a 13 foot alligator that was captured outside of Lake Monroe. That's the lake near where we live. A little further in the article it mentioned that it was caught on 17-92 (the road that goes by our subdivision) near I-4. (Less than a mile from our house.) I mentioned this to my husband and he told me he happened to be driving out of the subdivision when he saw several police cars with lights flashing blocking something in the street. They had trapped this huge alligator on the road just outside our subdivision!
My first instinct is to freak out, barricade myself and my kids in the house and never come out again. Since that's not practical, I've settled for a few cautionary changes. We stay further away from retention ponds, we practice running really fast, and I never check our mail after dark anymore. Welcome to Florida!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Do not add water

My husband and I use the same hair gel. I don't really mind--it's a good brand and we both get the results we want. But we do have one problem. My husband is a diluter.
As you probaby know, hair gel is kind of thick. For the first half of the bottle, you just tip it upside down and squeeze. But once it gets past that halfway mark, you have to give it a little shake before squeezing. A big green blob of gel detaches itself from the rest and sort of plops down to the opening in the bottle. One shake, no big deal. The bottle's clear, too, so you can see just how much you have left.
The thing is, once we get down to the bottom, say one eighth is left, somehow that big shake just doesn't work for my husband. I don't know what the problem is. One big shake still puts enough gel down to work with. But for some reason, once we get down toward the bottom, my husband adds water. He says it's just enough to loosen it up and make it easier to get to. Except that's not the case. I've tried his watered-down product before. Gel is sticky. This stuff is just runny. I can feel a difference in my hair. It doesn't hold as well. You see, he dilutes it. He weakens it. Why would you do something like that? I know all about trying to get that last little bit out and being thrifty and all that. But if you weaken it, then why would you want to use it anyway?
My husband occasionally tries to add just a little bit of water, thinking I won't notice. Why would I not notice? Again, it feels different and it doesn't work as well. Now I think he adds water as his way of telling me it's time to replace the bottle. I noticed last week we were getting a little low. Then, sure enough, Friday we suddenly had about a third of a bottle again. So I tossed it and pulled a new bottle out from under the sink. No weak product for me! Give me full strength every time.

Doing the Snoopy dance

Sometimes joy just wells up and it has to be expressed. When this happens, I always think of this picture of Snoopy dancing. Head thrown back, arms out, completely surrendering to the joy inside. For those of you that have actually seen me, I realize the mental picture might be more than you bargained for. LOL Just focus on the Snoopy.
This is the way I feel today. I have been working on a project for over five years, and it's finally done. Today, I finished my book. The story is written. And rewritten. And edited. And then rewritten. And then professionally edited. And rewritten. Then proofed one more time. And rewritten. And now we're done! I can't believe it. I've loved this story and then been sick of this story and then hated this story and now I love it again!
It's not really done of course. I mean, the book's finished. Now I have to write a cover letter (some say that's more important than the book itself) and send it off to two publishers who are not breathlessly waiting for it. But they have asked to take a look. So I'll send it off with my cover letter, synopsis and bio and then wait. I could be waiting a long time. I may never hear from them. But I think I will.
Eventually, even if (when) I get a contract, there will be more editing to do. Probably three or four more edits if I understand correctly. But someday, someday, my book will be sitting on the shelf of your local Christian bookstore. And now we're back to the Snoopy dance!
Come on, you know you want to. No one's looking. Tip your head back, stretch out your arms and do the Snoopy thing with me. I won't tell!
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