Friday, September 26, 2008

Look to the Right!

You'll see a widget for a CD called "Throwing Punches in the Dark" by Matthew Perryman Jones. Aside from the fact that it's a wonderful collection of songs by a wonderful artist, Matthew is also my cousin. My Daddy and his Granddaddy were brothers, so I THINK that makes us first cousins once removed. I think.

Anyway, Matthew and his wife, Meghan, and their gorgeous baby daughter Canaan live in Nashville. His music is increasingly being featured on current TV shows, like One Tree Hill and Eli Stone.

Clicking on the widget will let you hear samples of his music, and also take you to a website where you can download the songs directly. Or you can go to iTunes and buy this CD, and also his latest one "Swallow the Sea."


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Encore! Encore!

We ripped out all of our landscaping in the front yard this year, and planted lots of Encore Azaleas. The neat thing about these is that they bloom several times during the year - not just in the spring. They are blooming now, and they are just gorgeous!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Startle Reflex

As Sammie and I were walking this morning, she got all caught up in a scent trail, which led her a good way up into a neighbor's yard. She wasn't paying much attention to where she was going, and she bumped pretty hard into one of the political yard signs that are quite prevalent in the neighborhood now. It startled her, the sign did, and she jumped away and got a little bit bowed up - the hair along the ridge of her spine stands up at varying degrees, based on how startled/scared/angry she is.

I understand how she feels - they ALL scare me, too, these days.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

...and will you also be sending along a key to the building so I can get in and make my own?!?

Okay, I know what I said yesterday, but this was just too good to not pass along.

The response I received from Starbucks Customer Care:

I was very sorry to hear about your recent experience at the Lamar & Loop 286 Starbucks store. I appreciate you taking the time to bring this matter to our attention. I will share your comments with the management team responsible for the store in order to address the issue properly.

In order to invite you back into this store, I have arranged for a couple of beverage coupons to be sent to you. You should receive them soon.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact us at...

Randy and I have learned a large portion of what we know about managing our business by watching other companies mismanage theirs.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Parting Double-Shot

Before I get started with this, I just want to say that I do understand that a Starbucks closing is not the worst thing in the world that can happen. I am not that shallow. There are tragedies large and small taking place all around the world every moment of the day, and billions of people would love to have no bigger problem than a coffee shop closing.

I get that. Truly I do.

And this will be my last post about it.

That being said, I've also come to realize that I can only control what I can control. I can't make everyone in Paris recycle, but I can recycle here at home, then talk to people about what I do, and encourage them to start. I can't feed the world, but I can take a bag of groceries to Christians in Action. I can't stop war, but I can encourage people to vote.

I can't keep Wendy's from being taken over by Arby's, but I can vote my measly 52 shares against the merger. And I can't keep our Starbucks open, but I can make a little bit of noise when I think they treated their employees shabbily on their last day of business. I posted the following as a customer comment on the Starbucks website on Saturday morning:

Yesterday was the final day of business for the Paris, Texas, location. I am most disappointed in the way the closing was handled. Instead of giving Starbucks’ loyal customers and friends one last chance to stop in and receive our normal legendary service in the customary, wonderful environment the Paris store has always provided, some bright light made the decision to send in people from another store to start packing everything up DURING BUSINESS HOURS. You couldn’t have waited until the store had actually closed to do all this? Unbelievable.

What this meant for customers trying to say goodbye, was that our favorite baristas, shifts, and managers had to try their hardest to work around strangers who were running around with power tools, taking fixtures off the walls, removing product from the serving line, and generally making nuisances of themselves. It also meant that we customers had to sidestep piles of boxes and packing materials in the lobby. Rather dangerous and extremely irritating. One of the people who came in was, I believe, the store manager from your Texarkana location. Besides the fact that she had a visible tattoo and a pink stripe in her hair (when did that become acceptable?), she was rather loud and obnoxious as she yelled directions at the people she had brought with her. “Take this! Pack that! Don’t leave that behind – we can use that!” They took so much product off the line, that the last few customers in the store at 5:30, there for the 6:00 close, had to wait while one of the Paris baristas had to go look in one of the Texarkana crew’s truck to get STRAWS for the drinks that were still being sold.

To their credit, and despite all the mayhem, the Paris staff still managed to work with smiles on their faces, putting out terrific products, taking time out for hugs, or pictures, or answering questions about where they’d be working next from their longtime regular customers. They have stayed positive and upbeat, even as they knew that their store would be closing. We customers never heard a single, negative word from them about your ill-considered and idiotic decision to close this store.

Since you're closing 600 of your stores, one would think that you ought to be getting pretty good at it, but it's apparent that you have a long way to go to figure out how to close a store. Quite obviously, The Starbucks Corporation doesn’t give a rat’s ass about your now-former Paris customers, but your partners in this store deserved much, MUCH better from you.

That is all.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Changing Habits

So it seems lately that many of the things that I have come to depend on are changing. This is causing me, a girl who likes her routines, a good bit of consternation.

I've already covered the whole thing with $tarbuck$. Their last day is September 19th. I have a new espresso maker, a source for the correct beans, and Roger has promised me a box of green straws, so I can make do. And while it still won't be the same, it'll be acceptable. Still ticks me off, though.

Now there's also a thing with Ocean Spray. I've been drinking their 100% Pure Natural Unsweetened Cranberry Juice for well over a year now. Twice a day. 3-4 64 oz. bottles a week. I hold it largely responsible for my 100 point DEcrease in cholesterol. Suddenly, I wasn't finding it on the shelves at Wall-E, so I figured they were just out. Days turned into weeks, and I asked, but nobody knew anything. I had Randy looking in Lubbock, and every time we went anywhere, I'd stop at all Wall-E stores we passed, and they were out also. I found a few bottles in Tuscaloosa when we took the kids, but that was the last I could find. Finally, I sent an email to Ocean Spray, and got a nice email back from them saying, in so many words, "so YOU were The One who was buying it!" They're not bottling it any more, because sales were so low. Well, crud. I like the tartness of the unsweetened. The other sixty million kinds of cranberry juice they sell just don't do it for me.

Then, there's this steak marinade that we've been using for EVER. My parents first brought us a bottle way back when we lived in Boone, North Carolina, and we've loved it ever since. Wall-E doesn't carry it anymore, and Kr0ger only has it every once in a while. What the heck?!? We can get it online, or anytime we travel back to Alabama, but STILL.

AND...for a couple of unpleasant weeks, all my local grocery stores were also out of my favorite breakfast cereal. Scary, but it was only temporary. It's back now. Whew!

And not that I'm one of those post-nuclear hoarders or anything, but I've got six boxes in my cabinets, and I'm wondering if that's enough. It's not like they'll go bad or anything. The cereal might get kind of stale...but once you pour milk over it, who'd be able to tell?!?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Nothing New Under the Sun

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
--Ecclesiastes 1:9 (New International Version)

A million years ago (actually? 1971), there was a TV series called Rollin' on the River, hosted by a group called The First Edition. The lead singer was this hippie-lookin' guy named Kenny Rogers. With long brown hair and granny glasses, a gold earring and a full beard, who knew that he'd turn into The Gambler dude with a ska-zillion hit singles and a really botched plastic surgery job?!?

One thing that I saw on that show that has stuck with me for lo, these many, many years came (I believe) on the last show of the series. In 1971 (listen up, youngsters), we were smack in the middle of the muddle that was Vietnam, and it was a tough, tough time in the country. People were horribly, violently, polarized - everyone had an opinion, and most people thought that everyone ELSE was wrong.

Remind you of anything you've seen lately? Nothing new under the sun.

Anyway, Kenny came out at the end of the show - just him, a stool and a spotlight, and he read a poem. The only poem ever written by Mark Twain, it was written in 1904 (during the Philippine-American War), but was not published until well after his death - at his own request, but due to his family's urging, as they felt it might be considered by some to be sacrilegious. "I have told the truth in that..." Twain is reported to have said, "and only dead men can tell the truth in this world. It can be published after I am dead."

I have been reminded of The War Prayer recently, after hearing the quote from one of our national candidates about praying for "our national leaders...sending [U.S. soldiers] out on a task that is from God." At the risk of offending some of my friends, and some of my family, I wonder: is this, really, what we think we are praying for??

The War Prayer
Mark Twain
written in 1904, first published in Harper's Monthly in November, 1916

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener. It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came – next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams – visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation

God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest! Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!

Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory –

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood there waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, "Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside – which the startled minister did – and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

"I come from the Throne – bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import – that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of – except he pause and think.

"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two – one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this – keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

"You have heard your servant's prayer – the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it – that part which the pastor – and also you in your hearts – fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. the whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory – must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle – be Thou near them! With them – in spirit – we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it – for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!"

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.