Friday, September 11, 2009

The Paris News Strikes Again!

Denise and I went to see "Julie and Julia" a week or so ago, and during the part where Julie is setting up her blog for the first time, Denise turned to me and said: "so, are you still blogging?" to which I replied, "not so's you'd notice, huh?!?" Between life - and Facebook - the blogging has gone by the wayside. So, here's proof that I DO still blog. I know I haven't in a long while - its just that we spent a busy, busy summer doing tons of new and different things. Someday, I'll blog about them.

Now - on to The Paris News. Six years ago, after the whole Nazi flag flap (has it really been six years??), I wrote what I still consider to be the finest piece I have ever written about the whole hoo-hah and submitted it to The Paris News for publication. A couple of weeks went by, and the paper printed tons of letters - both from locals and outsiders - and mine never made it to print. One evening, well after the hubbub had died down, I got a call from Philip Hamilton, who was the editor at the time. He apologized profusely, and said that my letter had gotten lost on his desk. "I know it's sort of water under the bridge," he said, "but it's really a good piece, and I'd still like to print it if you want me to." I told him that I thought it was too late, it was the paper's loss, but thanks anyway.

Fast forward to this week: one of the paper's regular guest columnists - one of our home-grown finest - had a column about the flap over the audacity of a sitting president wanting to speak to school children about the importance of education. Here's a direct quote from the guy: "We have far more concerns in the United States for the President to be involved in than the education system." Holy CRAP. If the education of our future leaders isn't the most important thing on the president's agenda, it ought to move right up to the top. TODAY.

So I wrote another letter on Tuesday. I emailed it to the current editor of the newspaper, Mary Madewell. Days went by, and....{insert sounds of crickets chirping here} nothing. Other letters about the issue showed up in the paper, so yesterday, I sent another email asking, in a nice way: what the heck?!? I got an email from Mary this morning saying that apparently, my email got lost in her inbox, and she's so sorry, and she doesn't know how this happened, and could she print it this coming Monday?

I said no. Too late, and besides, if I had anything to say in the newspaper now, it would be about the crass, embarrassing, low-class, school-yard-bully-wannabe behavior of the supposedly esteemed Congressman from South Carolina.

So anyway, I think I'll give up on trying to get anything into The Paris News. Maybe I should have put some typos in it - they seem to like printing typos.

However, not wanting a decent piece of writing to go totally to waste, I am posting here, for all five of my regular readers to see, my response to Charles Melton's column of September 7th:

To the Editor:

Every time you walk through that classroom door, make it your mission to get a good education. Don't do it just because your parents, or even the President, tells you. Do it for yourselves. Do it for your future. And while you're at it, help a little brother or sister to learn, or maybe even Mom or Dad. Let me know how you're doing. Write me a letter -- and I'm serious about this one -- write me a letter about ways you can help us achieve our goals. I think you know the address.”

Words from a president to schoolchildren across America, meant to inspire learning, meant to encourage children to stay in school and complete their education. But if I understood Charles Melton correctly, certainly not words that any president should ever utter at any time.

The interesting thing about the above quote? It is from a speech given on October 1, 1991, by then-president George H.W. Bush to students at Alice Deal Junior High School in the District of Columbia, and broadcast live to schools across the nation by CNN, PBS, and the NBC Radio Network.

Or, what about this? “we're entering one of the most exciting times in history, a time of unlimited possibilities, bounded only by the size of your imagination, the depth of your heart, and the character of your courage. More than two centuries of American history -- the contributions of the millions of people who have come before us have been given to us as our birthright. All we can do to earn what we've received is to dream large dreams, to live lives of kindness, and to keep faith with the unfinished vision of the greatness and wonder of America.

That’s from a speech given by Ronald Reagan on November 14, 1988, to a group of schoolchildren in the White House, also broadcast live to schools across the country on C-SPAN and the Instructional Television Network.

Apparently, as does President Obama, our previous presidents have seen the value in speaking directly to students. After all, what better way to promote the value of education, of patriotism, of setting high expectations for oneself and one’s community, than by speaking directly to the part of our citizenry who will be responsible for our country in years to come? Students who are at risk of dropping out of school, of not taking their education seriously, or simply need some sort of encouragement might well be inspired by the words of a president, whether those words come from Reagan, Bush, or Obama.

Indeed, a terribly sad, defeatist philosophy was expressed by Mr. Melton in his opinion column on Monday: “the children who do not stay in school and earn the free education offered by local districts do so because that is their choice. Most of the drop outs have been raised through the welfare system and feel that the government is going to provide for them anyway, regardless of education.” Wow.

Thankfully, here in Lamar County and across the whole span of our nation, parents, teachers, community leaders – and even the President of the United States – refuse to give in to such a defeatist attitude. Hopeful, caring, committed people believe that ALL children are capable of learning, that ALL children are capable of rising above their circumstances, that ALL children – regardless of their socio-economic status, their race, or their religion – need to be encouraged by adults who have their very best interests at heart.

This isn’t just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.

That’s a quote from Barack Obama’s speech of September 8, 2009. And I think that’s a message that even Fox News ought to be able to get behind.

Frances Reed

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Hybrid Clothes Dryer

My sweet husband indulges me in many ways. One of the things that I most appreciate is that he doesn't make fun of my feeble attempts to green our lifestyle. He puts the crap he skims from the goldfish pond into the compost bin. He puts the newspapers in the recycle basket, and asks about plastic and cardboard before he puts it in the trash.

He hasn't raised an eyebrow about my shower timer. And although I haven't noticed him using it, he does give me props when I use it. Four minutes for a shower.

I gotta be honest. I try, but ding dang, y'all. Four minutes is a SHORT shower. I notice when the timer is empty.

And, for my birthday this year, you know what he did? He installed a hybrid clothes dryer for me!! Yep, a combination solar- and wind-powered clothes dryer that will help us reduce our carbon footprint and eliminate the need for those petroleum-based dryer sheets! He is so sweet to do that for me. Thank you, Sweetheart. It was a VERY happy birthday!

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Days of the Free Lunch

Back in early 1991, when Randy and I were doing everything we knew to do to get our Grandy's to actually become a viable, money-making business, we sent a certificate for a FREE MEAL to every member of the Lamar County Chamber of Commerce.

Every. Single. Member.

A free meal. No other purchase required. Just come in to our restaurant, let us give you your choice of one of four different dinners with a beverage of your choice, and we will so amaze you with the quality of our food, and blow you away with the fabulous-ness of our service, that you will eagerly come back again and again and purchase more of the same.

It worked. Seriously worked. That year, we turned the corner on a business that had been on the verge of closing up and going away, and made it so successful that it led to building new Grandy's and buying others in several other cities around east Texas and Louisiana.

There were a couple of hiccups involved. We actually had one guy just go off on us, because he had his one certificate, brought his wife in to eat lunch, and expected that we would give him not the one, but TWO free meals. Really. I was at the register, I took their orders, he handed me the certificate, which I deducted from the total, then asked him for the...oh, I dunno...five bucks for the second meal and drink, and he said,

"It's supposed to be free."

Yes, sir, I said, I took the price of your higher-priced meal off, and the cost for the second meal and drink is $x.xx. And he said, quite a bit louder this time:


At first, I kinda thought he was just kind of joking with me, but as it became more apparent that he wasn't, I looked to Randy for help.

You know, generally speaking, we've always tried to take the advantage:guest attitude, but this guy was so jerky about not getting enough free food that we dug in our heels and they actually left the restaurant without eating anything. I hope they enjoyed whatever it was they ended up having to eat that day. Bet not, though. Some folks, you can just tell.

But I digress.

The point I'm trying to make here is that we chose to take the BIG chance of giving away food, when we were supposed to be in the business of selling food, in order to try to make a difference farther down the road. And it paid off. A risky move, to be sure, and we sweated over it, let me tell you. But drastic times called for drastic measures.

This past Monday, Quiznos announced a Million Subs Giveaway. All you had to do was to go to the website, register, and you'd get a coupon for a free small sub. Take it to your local Quiznos, and we will so amaze you with the quality of our food, and blow you away with the fabulous-ness of our service, that you will eagerly come back again and again and purchase more of the same. Sound familiar?!?

In Lubbock, it worked like a charm. Certainly being a college town helped - because the college kids put the word out on Facebook and Twitter, by text message and phone call - so that by 5 p.m. on the first day we had taken about 50 of the coupons between the four restaurants. And that total has increased as the week has gone on. Our own kids ate well in Tuscaloosa, and I heard that Rachel enjoyed her sub in San Angelo also ;-). Overall, it's been a great event for us.

Unfortunately, not all of our fellow franchisees embraced the idea. All week long, I've gotten Google Alerts to different blogs and message boards, where people are complaining that they have tried at their local outlets and either been refused altogether, or required to make another purchase in order to receive their "free" sub.

And so now, in many folks' minds, we have ALL been painted with the same broad brush: "Worst...promotion...ever," read one. "Fake, fake, fake," said another. "What a scam," from another. "I will NEVER go to another Quiznos" from still another.

And it goes on and on - given the ease and speed with which unhappy customers can make their voices heard, we ALL now have a stigma attached to us. No matter that, in our stores, we have happily redeemed the coupons and done our best to exceed our guests' some people, all Quiznos everywhere are now suspect.

And, not to sound like a child or anything, but: THAT'S NOT FAIR.

LOOK. I know it's a risk. I know it's hard to imagine that giving away food can be a good thing. But, I'm here to testify that it can be a good thing. And in dire circumstances - like determining whether your business will thrive or fold - a very good thing. In these uncertain, and very frightening economic times, we're all looking for something to count on, something to be sure of.

Here's one thing I'm absolutely sure of: in Lubbock, in Hot Springs, Bossier City, San Angelo, Tuscaloosa, and in hundreds of other communities across the country - most of us franchisees of Quiznos Sub EXPECT to succeed. Not succeeding? Not an option.

And that's the thing that those other franchisees don't get at all. And it's why, long after those other folks have closed or sold or been kicked out of their businesses, we'll still be here...amazing you with our food, and blowing you away with our service.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Kids and Dogs

If you are even a casual reader of this blog, you have surely discerned by now that I'm a sucker for dogs. Mostly my own, but generally anyone else's dogs.

I've never been a huge Tiger Woods fan - not much of a golf fan in the first place, but I always thought Tiger was kind of a...cold person. Then I saw this picture:

I've always felt that you can tell a lot about a man by how he is with his kids and his dogs. So now? Consider me firmly in Tiger's corner.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Trophy Sofa

At the beginning of the living room/dining room remodel, we donated the old "Cinnamon Sofa" to the Salvation Army. We always called it that because that's the sofa that Cinnamon used to sleep on, and as a result nobody ever wanted to sit on it because of all the dog hair. We never spent much time in the living room anyway, so it really didn't matter. As the guys were taking it out to the truck, I had the Shop Vac going and I was still vacuuming dog hair out of the bottom as they moved it. It was awful.

So we needed a sofa to go in the living room now that we've finished the new floor. We were looking for something small, inexpensive and simple. Straight, contemporary lines. Absolutely no poofy arms. We went to every furniture store in Paris (okay, so that's not very many, but still.) and couldn't find one we liked. Well, there was something at Reep's that would have worked, but the days of Walt selling us furniture at his cost are over, now that he's our Financial Advisor and not our furniture store-owner friend.

Every sofa for sale in the city of Paris has poofy arms. And if you're a lover of poofy-armed-sofas (as opposed to a sofa lover with poofy arms), no offense. But that's not what we want.

So we saw a picture in the paper of a sofa at Rooms to Go in Plano that we thought we might like, and I drove down to take a look.

Liked it.

Wanted to buy it.

Trouble ensued.

And...long story short (for a change): after three, 180 mile round trips within a week, a long, unhappy email to Rooms to Go Customer Service, a couple of phone calls between the RTG manager and me, and many, many Facebook profile updates...


I feel kind of silly to go to so much hassle for this one piece of furniture. It's a $400 sofa, for crying out loud, not a vintage Eames chair or anything. But it's ours, and it's coming home to Paris in 10 days. Here's a picture so you can see what all the fuss is about (I plan to lose the pillows):

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Hairy Situation

Sammie sleeps on the bed with us. That's really not something I'm crazy about, but that horse left the barn the first night she spent with us. We've reached most of an understanding about how she needs to behave, and only occasionally do either of us kick her off during the night for poor behavior.

The BIG problem, though, is the hair she leaves behind. Now, we had a Golden Retriever, so I know from shedding dogs. It never occurred to me that a short haired Lab would ever shed so much. BOY was I wrong. So every morning for the last 14 months, I have spent way too much time de-hairing the bed. I have gone through countless lint rollers. I even got a blister on my thumb from using the rollers so much. I've bought every little mitt, "miracle" brush - even a "Pet Hair Removal System," all with varying degrees of success.

And at last: I think I've found The Answer.

The Pledge Fabric Sweeper. This is a nifty little roller/container that works like a charm. It sweeps the hair into a little closed container - no muss, no fuss - and when it's full you toss it and get another one.

Love it, love it, love it! And if Pledge (a part of SC Johnson - A Family Company) were to send me a case, I'd share it with all of my pet-loving friends.

I'm just sayin'.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sammie Down Under

Amid the horror of the Australian wildfires, this has got to be one of the sweetest pictures I have ever seen:

And after they rescued her, they named her...."Sam."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

High Apple-Pie in the Sky Hopes

Four and a half-ish years ago - July 27, 2004 - I made Amanda and James sit down with me to watch television. They're kind of wary when I tell them they're going to do something with me, cause they never know what might be on the horizon. But I told them they were going to watch a political speech, and when it was done, I'd tell them why.

So we listened together to the keynote address of the 2004 Democratic National Convention. The speech came to be known as "The Audacity of Hope." It ended with these words: "Hope -- Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope! In the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation. A belief in things not seen. A belief that there are better days ahead. "

The speaker was a young man who, four months later, would be elected to his first term in the US Senate from Illinois.

His name? You know who it was. It was Barack Obama.

I told the kids when he was finished that I wanted them to watch that speech because I believed that this man, sometime in my lifetime, would be President of the United States. I wanted them to know his name early, so that they could be on the lookout for him in the years to come. Never dreamed that only four years and six months later, they would not only be able to say that the first vote they cast in any election would be for him, but also that they would be able to watch his inauguration as our 44th President. But here we are.

And in his inauguration speech, this is what he said:

"We have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America. For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations."

So now, at this point in our history, what have we learned? That it is no hope.

I choose - we choose - hope over fear.

God bless you and keep you safe, Mr. President. And God bless the United States of America.