Saturday, February 27, 2010

Gearing up

Photo by Matt Cohen, Henna by Sandhya Patanga...amazing work!

As you can see, Baby #2 is growing well! We are especially happy to have no cause for concern after the crazy events that took place early in this pregnancy, and are now reveling in the normal worries and concerns that go along with preparing for birth! For instance, can I make it through the rest of the winter without buying a new coat? (If things start warming up in march, I think I might!) Can I last without upsizing my bra, again?? (um...not so sure on that one.) Do we go with vitamin K shots or oral drops once Baby gets here? Are we doing a good enough job of preparing Cadence for how much life is going to change in just a few weeks? (Yikes, the weeks are in the single digits now!) and of course, the big one...what are we going to name this kid?

Since we don't - and won't - know the sex of the new baby until he or she arrives, we need to be prepared with multiple names...we're good when it comes to girls' names, but have found choosing boys names to be insurmountably difficult. There seem to be fewer options for boys before you cross into the realm of 'weird' or just insensitive, and of course there are all the usual politics of who already has what name and what each thing means and the connotations of choosing one over the other...all knowing that this is the name your kid is gonna be stuck with for the rest of their life (or at least until they figure out how to get it legally changed...but even then, you can never fully shed it!). We're hoping to keep the name, whatever it may be, to a culture we have some personal connection to, not just blindly yanking a sound we like from a culture we are totally ignorant of...but finding a name that fits that criteria that we both like has proved difficult at best. Throw in that we found one name that we both liked, and Cadence, who's opinion matters despite her tender age, since she's perfectly representative of this kid's future peers, literally laughed at it declaring that it was "a very silly word," well...we're kinda stuck. And we don't seem to be alone, this sounds like a problem of the era, since we've talked to several expectant couples who are encountering the same issue...boys names are hard!!

Anyway, I'm hoping to be able to update a bit more frequently (I know I know, I keep saying that...) now that I've completed my work on The Adjustment Bureau and am down to just two gigs, one of which is more fun than chore since it mostly involves letting Cadence play with a puppy. (Did I mention here already that we have happily resumed our dog-walkin' duties, and have been spending our afternoons with Charlie once more?)

We'll keep you posted as we get ever closer to the arrival of this very busy little kid, and I promise we'll have a name...we are determined!!

Monday, February 22, 2010

The power of Twitter

The most recent tweet in my new twitter account reads like this:

Twitter FTW!! Many Many thanks to Cheryl Patton w/@macysinc for literally making the problem vanish overnight. THAT'S good business!!

I was pleasantly surprised to see a response to my less-than-pleased tweets from earlier in the week when I logged in on thursday...I had hoped it would get someone's attention, but didn't really expect it to. Within two hours of sending them my contact info (in a private message) Ms. Patton called me up, listened to my story and frustrations, took all the information I had to give, gave me a number for a fax that she would personally be able to pick up, and promised to get back to me later that day. Which she did!! She'd walked my proof of payment to the collections department and by the end of the day the late fees had been waived and the collection hounds had been called off so I wouldn't get anymore phone calls. She promised to have a final answer to what happened to my original payment by the next day. Sure enough, she called me again on friday afternoon with the good news: Late fees gone, account brought to current status with a $0 balance, and the dings on the report should disappear as if they never existed within two weeks.

When our friend Ben first brought this 'twitter' thing back from a SXSW "the next big thing on the web" conference a few years back, I thought it was interesting but a bit ridiculous...silly and frivolous at best, though potentially fun. Since then, though, twitter has proven itself much more than just a gimmick. I've heard of it being used in situations ranging from PR announcements to helping to alert friends and family of political arrests, to helping spread information around natural disasters and yes, as a customer service tool...but until now it seemed to me that it was a tool for the popular, the already well connected: As of this incident, I now see twitter as being a powerful tool for everyone, perhaps helping to shape the future of customer service infrastructure generally, changing the dynamic between big agencies and the individuals they rely on.

So many thanks to Cheryl Patton for listening to me, and many thanks to twitter for giving me a voice to be heard with. I'll recommend twitter to anyone now!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Macy's and Chase FAIL

This post is totally about me venting...dirty laundry, enjoy your air!

So, I have a Macy's card, which I've found confusing since the get go; one card gets you both a Macy's Store account, and a Macy's visa, both linked to the same card...basically if you use it at Macy's, you're charging to the store account, if you use it anywhere else, you're charging to the Visa account. Wouldn't be so bad, except that they come with completely separate account numbers and all that...

Anyway, back in November I made a payment of $14.82 to my Macy's store account. Now, the key issue that starts this whole drama is the fact that this is the first payment I have made to this account since we moved back to NYC and opened a new bank account, and so, paying via the online bill pay as I do, I had to set up Macy's as a vendor. The only statement I had didn't list my full account number, instead listing it as a series of Xs, ending with a few numerals. I was skeptical, but it's what I'd been provided, so I entered it in and made the payment. This was on November 18th. The bank, Chase, processed it that day.

Fast forward to early December, when my wallet was stolen. During my conversation with the rep at Macy's to cancel my card, she mentions that they haven't received my payment yet. I double check and the bank says it's been processed, so she tells me not to worry about it unless it hasn't shown up by the time I get my next statement.

Fast forward again to early January, when, while traveling for the holidays I get a call from Macy's saying my account is delinquent and they need me to pay immediately. I explained that I was traveling, as well as being in the middle of a major move, (that's when we moved into our current place) and hadn't yet received my new copy of the card, but I would check with the bank and make sure they had made the payment. Despite explaining numerous times that because of the traveling and the move it would take me at least a week to get to a place where I would have access to my statements and personal records and be able to contact the bank, I got several bill chasing calls within the next few days.

Anyway, when we got home I endeavored to clear up the whole mess, and got the proof of payment chase automatically provides for any payment made via online bill pay, which includes transaction and check numbers, plus all relevant dates. However, I am told by several reps at Macy's that it isn't sufficient...and a rep named Linda tells me flat out that they will not accept it, and in fact the only thing that they will accept is a faxed copy of the check, both front and back, that comes directly from the bank, not me.


Great, ok, fine. At this point I start actually documenting my actions regarding this mess, because I sense that this is not going to be pretty. Keep in mind that each of these conversations, while I try to distill them down to what matters, actually took up several hours of my time, between phone trees and waiting on hold and being transfered and reps insisting that I'm calling for a different reason that I am. Hence the break in days...I am actually supposed to be working, you know, to get money, to pay bills with. Argh.

On January 25th, I called chase and spoke to a banker who assured me that he was sending the check copies that day. He gave me his name (Rafael) and said he'd put his name on the coversheet so I could give Macy's a heads up so they could watch for it. I called Macy's to let them know the fax was coming, and after a ridiculous conversation with a rep who just kept insisting I hadn't paid and didn't seem to get that I was already aware of, and disputing, the charge, I had to pretty much bully her into agreeing to make a note in my account that there should be a faxed copy of the check coming from rafael at chase bank: I even specifically asked her to include the fax number it was being sent TO, which I had been given by macy's.

Five days later, I get another bill chasing call. I asked the rep to look in the account and tell me whether there was a note about the fax from rafael. He says there isn't!! I asked to speak with a supervisor, who gave me his name at the start of the call (I think it was Brad?) but then refused to repeat it when I asked again later in the conversation. He told me that I needed to fax it again, but this time to a different fax number, and to put it to the attention of the corrections and research department. When I expressed my displeasure at having been lied to be the rep who 'took the note,' he brushed me off and told me that my bill was due by the next day.

I paid the 8.27 that I legitimately owed at that point, but not the 60 some odd bucks they claimed I owed in late fees or the initial $14.82 that I had already paid.

On the 6th, I got another bill chasing call from them, this time citing the fact that they'd only received a "partial payment." I explained that those were the current and valid charges, and the rest of the charges were the result of the nov. charge and were in dispute.

On Feb. 8th, I spoke to a banker at chase (francine or christine miller) who assured me Macy's would have the check copy by the end of the day. Then, well, I'll just copy & paste the entry I made in my log later that day:

2/8/10 Francine miller called me back to report that the [second number macy's had provided me with] was coming up as an invalid fax number. I had her retry the [first] number, and that also came up as being invalid. She said she'd keep trying until it went through. called macy's, where rep Mr. johnson gave me the [second number again]. since that was the same #, he tried it himself and said it seemed to be going through, but double checked with his supervisor that that was in fact the correct #, which it was. called chase back, rep mario garcia: transfered to telephone banking, rep Eric gave me crap about not having a tax ID and insisting that I needed to give him my business account number and all associated information like tax id, address, etc, even though it had nothing to do with this transaction (which was from personal checking)...said he didn't know who I would have spoken to before that wouldn't have grilled me for that info, or who would have bothered calling me back to report the invalid number because they submit it for faxing and have nothing to do with it after that so "it all sounds strange to [him]". He ended up 'submitting it for faxing' again and assured me macy's should have it later today.

Ugh. So, now I've had the derned copy faxed three different times to two different numbers, and I want to make sure this is over and done with. The morning of the 11th, I call Macy's to make sure they've received the stupid thing, and have another inane conversation with a rep who (at first claims I have a $0 many of them have when I first call...they see the visa account with no balance, then get confused and ask if I have any other accounts with macy's, or if this is my husband's account...yea, because my husband and I share a name and social security number. ugh. remember that thing about the card being confusing because it was linked to two accounts?? anyway:) just insists that I didn't pay them instead of actually listening to my request. I finally get a supervisor, Andrew Johnston, on the phone. He tells me that it takes 4-5 business days for it to show up in the system if it has been received, so I should call back on monday to verify that they've received it...there is nothing they can do before monday.

Note that: Nothing will be happening with the account until Monday, February 15th. Which is why I chose not to answer the phone when macy's bill chasers called me 8...yes, EIGHT times between saturday the 13th and monday the 15th.

So, on monday morning, when I call them to verify...well, all hell breaks loose. Observe:

2/15/10 macy's rep (name unknown) check has not showed up in the system. Spoke w/supervisor @ macy's: andrew johnston I requested to have a fax # for an individual who would be able to personally accept the fax and credit the account. Andrew said he could give me yet another fax number to try. I found this unacceptable, and asked to speak with HIS supervisor. Was told that he was in india and the indian office has no ability to receive faxes, so even his supervisor would not help. Said the billing dept is the only place that can help. I asked to speak with someone in the billing department, he said he didn't have the capability to transfer to that department. gave me their fax number [which is a THIRD number and a different attention] and a 'callback number' to follow up after sending the fax.
called chase: rep tried to get me to update my statement settings to include check copies before they would fax check. after several failed attempts to locate the nearest branch, which they claimed doesn't exist, I demanded to be connected directly to bill pay. Bill pay rep claims they can't send check copies to third parties at all, asked to speak with suervisor. rep would not connect me but said she spoke w/them and 'would fax it as a courtesy". wouldn't connect me to a supervisor or tell me why this is the first time I've been told they can't fax it to the vendor. said can't guarantee it will go through, can only verify tomorrow evening by calling [different chase number.]

AAAGH!!! So, I ignore a few more bill chasing calls (lost track of how many...4, 5, a million?), because I am working three jobs and being a mom and know that there is nothing I can do until the stupid fax goes through and my psyche can't handle another "you didn't pay" "a fax is coming" argument...

So, this morning (wednesday, february 17th) I call chase to verify that the fax went through and...guess what?? :

2/17/10 called chase. online banking specialist johnna: says they "can't do that". The proof of payment is the only thing they can provide, I can also try sending in my statement that shows the money left my account. It's illegal for macy's not to accept the banks proof of payment, if they continue to refuse it I should stop in a chase branch and ask for assistance from a manager.

OK, that's all well and good...and makes a lot of sense, really...but why the hell is this the first time I'm getting this information (the previous rep just said "no" and then ended up doing it anyway, supposedly) when I've been calling for weeks?? And why did FOUR different chase reps - on separate occasions - assure me that Macy's would be receiving the fax within a day? If they truly "don't do that," then I was lied to. SHADY.

So, turns out I've been giving Macy's a hard time about not figuring out how to take the fax copy, research it, and apply it to my account, when in reality I should have been giving them a hard time about illegally refusing to accept the bank's proof of payment in the first place.

(Oh, and to add insult to injury? Macy's called me again this morning, and then HUNG UP ON ME. Really???)

So now I'm kind of back to square one. Macy's has reported me to TransUnion, and is demanding nearly $100 in late fees, while Chase wasted nearly a month of my time lying to me about what was happening with my account.

I guess the moral of this story is not to play by the rules. I paid on time using the account number as they provided it to me, the money left my checking account but was never posted to my charge account, and following instructions has solved nothing and gotten me deeper into trouble. All this over a less than $15 charge which I paid, on time, months ago!

To that end, I started a twitter account (you can follow me at ) as a way to vent...I've had friends get more help via twitter than by following the rules, so if I can get some attention that way, awesome, and if not, at least I have an outlet to vent my frustration. Hopefully this whole mess will be over with soon...honestly the stress that it has caused is above and beyond what I find reasonable for anyone...especially a customer in good standing with a clean credit history! I don't understand how any of this has been warranted. I'm just ready for it to be done.

If there is any Macy's rep out there that is willing to take the proof of payment and properly credit my account, waive the erroneous late fees and remove the complaint from the credit bureau...please help me. I would be extremely grateful.

A note to Macy's management: Dude, seriously...more communication between employees would do wonders for your ability to assist customers! Even just being able to review notes in an account so you know what's happening before repeating the entire argument from the would save you time, and , I imagine, money. and consistency!! 3 different numbers and attentions for sending a fax? Inability for customer service to transfer to a department that's actually capable of helping? WTF?

And Chase...I don't even know what to say. Thanks for making a yucky situation even worse? Perhaps taking a look at the infrastructure would be useful...either your reps don't know about your policies, or they don't care enough about customer care to bother explaining them and chose instead to 'submit for faxing' knowing it won't go through...aka, lying to the customer. Not Cool.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Super Special Day

Today is a very special day, what with it being valentine's day, the chinese new year, and, perhaps most importantly around here, James's 25th Birthday!

To the latter, I want to publicly send James this brief message, which I've already stuck on his facebook and will gladly put in any public forum I have at my disposal, because he deserves it and I'm proud to call him my husband:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY my love!!! I'm so happy to be here and celebrating with you...I'm so proud of you and all of your growth and accomplishments over the past few years...and I'm so glad that you're the father of my children...Amazing! wonderful! hurrah! HAPPY!!!
I love you so much, and look forward to getting to spend the next 25 years with you, agonizing over raising these little bugs and changing the world. :-)

Happy Valentine's day to you all, xing nian kuai le, and Happy James's birthday to you all! come celebrate with us!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dear Cadence: Month 31

Oh Cadence this month has just gotten away from us!
I can't believe time is going so'll have your little brother or sister before we know it. Luckily, this seems to be ok with you, you actually seem excited, and the idea of having babies has thoroughly engrained itself in your play - often times in surprisingly realistic ways.

Like the game you played the other day where you were the mama and I was the kid, (something you often do these days, these role reversals, and sometimes you'll go so far as to include details: "I'm the mama so my name's Kate and I have green eyes!") and you went to the hospital to have a new baby (the baby came out by hopping, by the way, which totally goes against my point but was really cute), and when the baby arrived you declared: "Now I'll never sleep again!"

Later on in the same game, after you'd brought the baby home and I was now the big sister, you said you were going to go to bed, so I started to go to bed stopped me with a grand "what are you thinking" flair, saying that you were going to bed but I have to stay up to play with the new baby.

Should I take this as you volunteering to watch the new baby while I sleep?? You're so thoughtful!

You are very into everything about the new baby, and we're trying to keep you as involved as possible in the whole process. After all, this is a new addition to our family, not just another kid for Baba and I. You've certainly been a big help as we prepare, and you've even contributed to our discussions of what to name the baby. We have a girl's name that we really like, but we've been struggling a little bit to find a boy's name that we can agree on. Baba and I finally did find one name that we could both get behind, and the other day on our way to work you and I had a very serious conversation about what to name the baby if it is a boy.

Imagine my surprise when I told you the name we were considering...and you burst out laughing, and declared "No, that's a silly word." and told me it was not a good name for the baby. You might be surprised to hear how much that effected my opinion, since you are from the same generation, and represent this kid's peers. You may have just saved your younger brother from a childhood full of being made fun of.

After that we had a very lengthy conversation about boy's names, and you rejected every single name I suggested. I then started suggesting any boy's name I could think of, whether I liked them or not, just trying to get a feel for what you thought, and you summarily rejected each one of those, too. Finally, I suggested that we just name the baby James. That elicited laughter, too. "But that's my Baba's name!" Ok, fine then... "What do you think would be a good name for the baby if it's a boy? "

"Um...Colin. Only Colin."

Colin, of course, is the name of one of your very good friends from Bowling Green...and evidently you've deemed him the only worthy namesake on the planet. You've stuck fast to this choice...only Colin. Every other name out there is either silly, not a good name, or reminds you of someone else...Colin is the only name you are willing to bestow on a possible brother. You even told the photographer I worked with that you thought the baby should be named Colin when you came to pick me fact you've told just about everyone that has asked for your opinion that it "should only be Colin."

Everything lately ends up relating to families and you being increasingly feed, clothe, diaper, play with, protect, and put down for naps and bedtime - even discipline- pretty much all of your toys. Even craft materials are subject to being grouped into family units - for instance, you have a family made up entirely of yellow colored pencils. (The mama and baba are full size, the baby is a half-size.)

You'll sometimes pretend to be the baby, too, which usually involves you crawling into the nearest lap and narrating how you can't talk or walk or do anything for yourself, you'll coo, snuggle, and smile sweetly at us when we talk to you, before you remind us that you can't talk 'cause you're a baby. This, and the game when you become a kitty, results in an awful lot of affection...nudges, hugs, kisses...I certainly can't complain about that, even if you are sometimes a demanding kitty, turning our heads to face you with your paws while meowing loudly. Silly girl!

You also talk about how you can't wait to be a mama yourself. It's quite the motivating factor, really, you'll often mention that you're going to eat or sleep or work hard so that you can grow up to be a mommy before you run off to do whatever it is that needs doing.

You think a lot about growing up these days. When we get dressed in the mornings, you'll often mention that "when I get so big I won't even be able to wear these pants!" And you'll lament not being able to wear your shoes or coat or favorite dress...but you seem excited by the prospect of growing up, nonetheless.

And growing up you are, my lady B, no doubt about that. You've made leaps and bounds recently, which is evidenced by your ability to sit through movies that scare you because you know that the resolution in the end will make it less scary, in your extremely helpful aid in the kitchen while I'm baking (you are SO GOOD at helping me in the kitchen, I can't even tell you! More often than not, it's genuine help, not constructs I make for your amusement.), in how you've adopted my habit of responding to people by saying "huh?" (and then making it your own by repeating it several times without really leaving any room for the other person to respond: "Huh? Hm? huh? huh? what?")...the list goes on.

One big thing that is different about this month is that I have, for the first time since you were born, returned to a desk job. Wonderfully, though, this has actually not meant huge changes for you...really it is an unbelievably ideal's technically full time, but Theresa, my boss, knows my work ethic and is an extremely understanding soul who lets me not only work kinda whatever hours I want to, but also loves having you around and lets me keep you with me in my office all day. You seem to love it, really - we get up in the mornings, eat breakfast, do whatever chores need doing, then head into the office, armed with plenty of toys, my laptop and some movies for you to watch, and we camp out in the office with the door closed so we don't bother anyone else...I do my work, you play, we chat...and when it comes time for nap, you have learned how to go down for a nap on your own, and I couldn't be more proud. Even if you don't want to, you'll climb under my desk into the little bed we've made for you there (stealing cushions from big comfy chairs that are seldom used, and covering them in our sweaters and using your froggy backpack as a pillow & covering you up with the froggy blanket from it) and lay quietly until you fall asleep, sometimes having me just sing to you, sometimes listening to music, sometimes playing quietly until you drift off...but I can continue to work during the whole process, which has been almost unheard of before now.

Another thing that has grown out of our time at work (other than you constantly melting my co-workers brains and impressing everyone with your stellar appetite and culinary adventurousness when you ask to look through the menu book at lunchtime, and your intelligence and understanding overall) is that you've come to understand "quiet sad." We've talked a lot about the fact that it's very special that you get to come with me, and that we have to be very respectful of everyone else in the office, which means no screaming or loud crying. About how it is perfectly ok to feel sad, and its good to let yourself feel sad if you need to, but that sometimes we have to feel sad quietly, without wailing...and both to my surprise and utter lack thereof, you seem to totally get it, and almost always find a way to deal with or express your sadness in ways that do not involve much sound. That is just SO grown up of you, and I almost worry that it's too much...then again, we've been trying to reemphasize that, when we're at home, you are welcome to be as loud as you need to be in your despair, as long as you're being safe and listening, to let it all out...It's so important to experience and release all these feelings, but it's also important to be able to function in I hope that you can take away from all this an understanding of how to behave in public settings without sacrificing yourself, and being true to what you need and how you feel. I guess only time will tell how successful we are.

Though, you have also begun to scheme more seriously and exercise a much more dubious bit of behavior...which I think is an important developmental step, but is also not something I can exactly proclaim extreme pride over. You've started to figure out this whole "lying" thing...lying about needing to use the potty to get out of naptime, saying you did things when you didn' don't do it often and it has not yet involved anything particularly harmful or dangerous, which is good, but it is one sign of you growing up that is bittersweet, and I am probably more aware than I should be that how we deal with this now could end up having a major effect down the road, when it involves much higher stakes. You seem to understand why we get very stern when you do this, and we always talk about it when it happens-why it happened, why it was bad, what else you could have's sometimes exhausting, but I hope that it will pay off in the end.

And really, I'm not desperately worried about it yet...its one small aspect of what you've been exploring this month, and as I said, I think it's actually a very important developmental step. So, while we can't ignore or just let you get away with it every time, I'd rather deal with the incidents as they arise and then move on to focus on the many wonderful things you've picked up. Like the way you've taken to hugging and kissing my big ole baby belly while declaring " I looooooooove you SOOOOOOO much baby!" and "oh, the baby is just so sweet and adorable!"

Or the way that, when Baba bought a stepladder on his way to pick us up from the office, you had him set it up and then take turns climbing up and down, and whenever he was at the top you'd call up to him "Be very careful, Baba! Don't fall down! If you fall down, don't fall down!" And then you'd switch, and you'd instruct him to tell you the same thing.

All in all, it has been a very busy month, and you, as usual, have totally been rolling with the punches, and really, we're having a pretty grand time. I love you Cadence. Thank you for being such a wonderful awesome kid.

Love Always,

Saturday, February 6, 2010

a good day

I have truly been meaning to update more frequently; but its hard to do when you're 28 weeks pregnant and working three jobs while being a full time mom to a rather precocious 2.5 year old and trying to be social with your husband's law community and casting something for a friend...but at the moment I'm sitting on the couch with my wonderful family, watching with amusement as my daughter feasts on a meal of taffey and squab soup...yup, taffey and pigeon soup...and honey puff cereal in soy milk...and really, I just thought I had to share that. Little culinary adventurer, that's my girl!