Monday, January 27, 2014

I Don't Know What's Wrong with These Kids!

My sister, who is in her late twenties just had a three day weekend off of work. Now it's not because it's something she planned or she had vacation days, it's not even because she was sick. She just felt like it. She took off Friday, okay, one day is not a big deal. But since her job gives you one paid sick day for every two you take, she decided to make a 'Buy One Get Two Free' thing out of it. The bad thing about it is that she's a member of management and her shift is basically a skeleton crew, so they really depend on her to be there. She hates her job with a passion, but is too lazy to do anything about it, so she just complains. You would think that having your car in the shop with a repair bill of $800 would be incentive to take your butt to work, but it isn't. She just doesn't care.

Heaven forbid the try to reprimand her for taking off three days. How dare they! She'd better get the schedule that she wants otherwise she's calling corporate because they're not treating her fairly. She fails to think about the people who had to scramble and cover for her when she decided to slack off.  It ain't her problem.

On the other hand, whenever I take a day off, I feel guilty, like I've committed a federal offense. Even when I have to take FMLA time for my mother, I feel like I should really be at work. I can't help it, it's just the way I am.

She's not the only in her age group I've noticed with these type of issues. I work with twenty somethings who share the same trifling streak. They take days off  just because the sun is shining or because it's paycheck Friday. When the company finally decides to fire them they're dumbfounded. There's no sense of responsibility  and I don't understand it. They're selfish and overly entitled. 

My job site bought new furniture for our new break room and it's a struggle because they want to lounge, put their dusty feet up and lie across the sofa like they're at home. The break room that our company created for us is slowly becoming a den for nastiness because they're too lazy to clean up after themselves. They don't respect themselves, therefore they don't respect anyone else.

One day I hope my sister comes to her senses and grows up. When you know better, you're supposed to do better. In the meantime I can rub in my mother's face that I'm the oldest, therefore the original, perfect copy. : )

Friday, January 17, 2014

Reel them back In

Von was just minding her own business, going to the break room at our job when she was accosted by one of our readers. She'd just finished reading our third book and demanded to know what would happen next. She begged and begged, promising to buy our next book, she just had to have the answer. Like we always do, Von told her she would have to wait until the next book is out.

We've been bribed, extorted and threatened by readers/coworkers who after reading the ending of one book, wants to know how the cliffhanger is going to be resolved in the next. I think it's one thing as authors we've gotten right. Every one of our books end with bait to get the reader to buy the next one.

If you're an author with one off books with unconnected stories it won't work. But if you're planning a series you may want to give your readers extra incentive to come back. A cliffhanger doesn't have to be the damsel in distress tied to the railroad tracks. It could be as simple as will they or won't they get together, which of the characters is hiding a pregnancy, or what's in the briefcase the villain has been carrying around.

Whatever you decide, don't be shocked if your readers get confrontational and want to know what happens next.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Be Nice!

Von and I have made it no secret that we work in a call center. Only the name and location have been changed to protect the not so innocent. The company we work for also has a call center in the Philippines to handle things such as billing and tech issues. It's not an unusual thing for American companies to outsource some call center operations to other parts of the world.
On several occasions, I've had customers erroneously call me with complaints about the advisors overseas.

'Thank God, I reached someone who speaks English!'

'Where are you located? I'm tired of talking to foreigners!'

'I hung up on the last person because I didn't want to talk to anyone in China.'

'I want you to get somebody from America on the phone!'

Those are just some of the ugly, nasty things I've heard over the years about the call center employees in the Philippines. It's not that they're incompetent or can't do the job, people are offended because they're not American. They use the excuse of a language barrier, when in truth they speak fluent English, some of them with or without an accent.

Sometimes they try to reel me in to their nastiness chuckling at their own derogatory humor, but I purposely let them hang themselves with awkward silence. If you feel this way about someone who's different from you, what would you think about me, a black woman? You're just letting me know what you're all about.

Call center employees take their share of abuse and I'm pretty sure those from foreign call centers get it worse. That just adds to the widespread belief overseas that Americans are selfish, arrogant, and rude. How many of those call center employees go home with horror stories about the intolerant Americans they've talked to all day?

If you're not happy with outsourcing, that's fine, but it's not the call center advisor's fault. They're trying to earn a living just like you. Write to the company you get your services through. If they refuse to change, take your business elsewhere. Just don't make your grievances a personal attack on someone who's just trying to do their job.

Friday, January 10, 2014

I Think I'm Growing Up

I grew up in Detroit, my diet of music a combination of hip hop and R&B. The rise and fall of Tupac and Biggie was the era of music I belonged to.  While the two rappers were great story tellers of their time, like most rappers tend to do, some of their songs took on a negative slant concerning women. Tupac was good at that: uplifting women with one song and degrading us with another. I'd hear the misogynistic lyrics and just give it a pass, using the excuse that I'm not one of the hoochie mamas they're talking about in the songs. I'd focus more on the beat and the music, as opposed to what was being said. For years I listened to rap music, without really listening, until recently. When you know better you do better I guess.

This new rap music doesn't hold the same sway for me. Whether it was that way all along and I just ignored it, I don't know, but some of the new stuff is atrocious. The other night I heard a song with some troll who probably looks like something found on the bottom of my shoe calling a woman ugly. Or the song where a rapper boasts about some woman who doesn't like women "but a stack will make her kiss her". Even Usher went that route with a song about some weak minded woman in the club seeking another woman so the three of them can have 'fun'.  Most of what I hear from rappers is how they plan to use and abuse women for their enjoyment. They think that having money and fame gives them the right to treat women like objects to be discarded the next morning. Even Blurred Lines sounded a bit on the rapey side.

Maybe it's because I know and work with women who are fools for men and get heartbroken and played all the time, but the music isn't working for me. For the past few years, my taste in music has been evolving. If it sounds good, I'm there. Occasionally I've even strayed to the country channel. I absolutely love Billy Currington by the way.  I may not give up rap entirely, I'm not perfect and there are some good artists out there, but I'm more picky about what I actually take in.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


My childhood memories of my mother consist of her constant worrying about whether we're safe, warm, and not hungry. I remember those annoying mitten holders I was forced to wear on the sleeves of my winter coat to make sure I always had my gloves. Or those annoying snow pants I had to fight my way into. When my brother came home from school with his eye practically hanging out the socket from getting beat up by bullies, I remember the way she jumped into her car, tires screeching to confront them. I also remember thinking my mother was going to prison, but it worked out fine. ; ) She put her own health on the line, working constructions jobs to keep food on the table. All these things she did for us. She's the type of mother I want to be one day.

What I don't understand is how someone could just throw their flesh and blood away without a passing glance. For nearly a year, my mother has been raising her niece's, my cousin's baby. The whole saga started last January when she received a call that my cousin was giving birth at the hospital. It came as a surprise to us since we'd just talked to the girl, who's in her early twenties back in October and she hadn't mentioned anything about even being pregnant. Since the girl's mother, my mom's sister had just moved out of state, my mother went to see about her and the baby.
Mom immediately fell in love with the 3 pound preemie and promised to do everything she could for her. Since my cousin was close to getting evicted from her place and the government was in her business because the child was born with drugs in her system, my mother came to the decision to take care of the baby until she could get herself together. I was skeptical at first, fearing that Mom was taking on too much, like she tends to do. With my mother, myself, and my two sisters sharing an apartment, it was a group effort but we all did our part to take care of the baby from the time she left the hospital.

Knowing the mother could barely take care of herself, Mom paid for everything the baby needed out of her pocket, from clothes, to diapers and furniture. Mom provided while all the girl and her family could offer were thank you's. Mom isn't the type to worry about getting paid back for her efforts, she does it because it's the right thing to do and God will see to her having what she needs. The sleepless nights and 3 am feedings belonged to my mother, who's staring down the throat of 60, works 40 hours a week and goes to dialysis 3 times a week.

In the meantime, she coached my cousin on getting support for the baby, including WIC for the formula, and making sure the baby got part of the father's income from the government. My cousin came to get the baby late in the spring and 3 months later we got a call from her saying that she needed us to take the baby again.

The relationship with the baby's father was taking an abusive turn and she was moving out of town to be with my aunt. The baby was returned to us in deplorable conditions. Her eczema was out of control, diaper rash had run rampant, and the clothes my mother sent when she gave her back the first time were filthy with most of them having to be thrown away. Once my mother got her home the poor thing guzzled three bottles of milk until we could go get more formula.  The vouchers for the food and milk that the government gave for free had not been used and the lump sum of money my cousin received for her child, definitely wasn't spent on her.

My cousin left with promises of sending a portion of the baby's money every month for expenses, but that's one promise that hasn't been fulfilled. Since she skipped town we've only seen $100 of the promised money and we haven't heard from her in nearly two months. When she does call it becomes an 'I'm a bad mother' docudrama worthy of Lifetime TV where she wants to rope you into feeling sorry for her. The focus turns to her, not to the baby she left. I see that the longer she's away from her child the more disassociated she becomes, the bond between mother and child broken.

The baby is doing just fine and approaching her first birthday. She's smart, loves to talk, and is happy as she can be. But kids grow up and one day she's going to have questions. How will her mother explain why she abandoned her and took off with the money that was intended for her care? How will she tell her daughter she didn't do all she could to make sure she was taken care of? Isn't that what mothers are supposed to do?