Friday, July 29, 2011

A Lesson For Mommy

This entry is difficult for me to write because it emphasizes my own immaturity. Even though it’s a little embarrassing for me to share my shortcomings with everyone, I still feel as though it something worth discussing.

I was at Old Navy shopping today. I was super excited because I had a Groupon for $20 that I was planning on using. The best part of this Groupon is that I didn’t even have to pay for it, I got all $20 for free! This is because I received a $10 credit from Groupon a while back and used it for the Old Navy offer ($10 for $20). Score! I am a huge bargain shopper so deals like this totally make my day. I mean, you can’t beat free!

After dropping off my boys at school I strolled into the store with my daughter in tow. Of course, I made a bee-line straight for the girls clearance section. After carefully perusing the clearance rack, I made my way through the various sales and began meticulously searching for a steal. I then copied my tactics in the boys section and ended up with a nice little pile.

On the walk on to the register I was mentally congratulating myself on being such a savvy shopper, once again making my dollars, my free dollars, stretch. I placed my prizes on the counter and happily handed the Groupon to the cashier. She rang up my items and scanned the Groupon then proceeded to stare at the computer screen for a while. Then she punched some buttons, removed a few items from the bag she had placed them in, deleted them from the purchase and scanned the Groupon once more. She again stared at the computer screen, waiting for the discount to go through. It did not. At this point she got on her nifty walkie-talkie and radioed the manager to request assistance. The two of them, to their credit, made several attempts to get the order to be accepted by the computer system, all the while shaking their heads saying “Well, it looks like this particular item is excluded from the Groupon.” Or, “This must be an ‘every day’ item because those are not included in the Goupon.” This whole time I just stood by patiently with a smile on my face knowing it was just a technical glitch that would soon be remedied. I don’t know why exactly I harbored this belief. Maybe because I had used Groupons before and had never experienced the slightest bit of trouble? Possibly because I never expected there to be any sort of complication? I read the Groupon terms a while back and hadn’t noticed any exclusions, I just figured it was the same as cash, good towards anything.

As it turns out my assumptions were wrong. Of the nice little pile I had accumulated only one girls 3T tank top counted towards the $20 I had. What?! One measly little tank top priced at $1.97? (I know, can you believe that price?!) Nothing else worked? What kind of messed up Groupon was this? I asked if there was anything they could do to override the system. I was met with baffled stares. “I’m sorry ma’am, there’s nothing we can do. These items just won’t work. I’m afraid you’re going to have to find something else.” I asked to see the Groupon so I could read the fine print. And then I saw it: “Some restrictions apply” was written in there plain as day. I had overlooked this small statement earlier, but this did give them the right to exclude basically whatever they wanted without giving specifics. Man, I was stuck!

This is the point in the story where it turns ugly. I didn’t yell and scream and huff and puff and cuss everyone out. A little part of me wanted to, but I have more than enough self control to stop that behavior in its tracks. The manner in which I did respond, however, sure wasn’t very polite. I grabbed the three items from the pile I wanted to keep, Groupon dollars or no, and walked away saying, loud enough for others to hear, “Well now I have to search the entire store again. I already did this once and I know there is nothing else in here I want.”

Ok, so that statement wasn’t even true. I had visited the sale racks of only two sections of the store, and quite honestly, given free reign there were actually quite a few things I would have been glad to take home with me. I responded purely from frustration and disappointment. I was looking forward to sharing about my thriftiness and showing the kids their new clothes. And now it was taken from me, or so I thought. I was angry and felt cheated. You see, I hate being taken advantage. Some may argue that in this case I wasn’t being taken advantage of at all, but at the time this is how I felt. It’s not in my nature to roll over and permit others to walk all over me, so I wanted to let them know how I felt about the matter. I could have made my point by quietly and calmly letting them know I was disappointed by the vagueness of the ad and hoped in the future they might be more clear so as to avoid misunderstandings. Instead I stomped off like a disgruntled teenager.

To make matters worse I immediately whipped out my cell phone and called my husband to inform him how awful this Groupon was. I was looking for some sympathy. Right as the words, “Old Navy sucks” came out of my mouth I turned to see a woman next to me trying to get my attention. As it turns out she was the store manager. I hung up the phone and was greeted with “Are you the customer with the Groupon?” Gee, how’d you guess that one? “Yes, I am.” I replied. “I am so very sorry” she said, “we’ve been having quite a bit of difficulty with the Groupons. A lot of people have been unhappy with them. Here’s a $5 gift card on us towards your next purchase. Again, we’re really sorry. This was our first Groupon and we’ve since realized we’ve hit a few snags. But we’re already working on another one that will be much easier to use and much more clear on restrictions.”

Instantly I was ashamed. What a baby, pouting that I didn’t get my way! Oh my gosh, I am a mother of three, constantly trying to instill values in my children and here I was acting inappropriately in front of complete strangers. I couldn’t apologize fast enough. “No, it’s ok, really. I’m sorry, I just had no idea there were limitations on the Groupon. I’m sure I can find something else.” The manager was very kind and even helped me pick out some jeans I was looking at for the boys. She rung me up at the register when I was ready and apologized again while handing out stickers to my daughter (her arm was plastered in them by the time we left). I assured her it was ok, really, no big deal, don’t even worry about it, trying desperately to save some teeny, tiny ounce of face.

As I was walking towards my car I felt deep regret for my actions. There was no need for me to make a scene, and even though I was embarrassed I also felt that same great feeling I had as I made my way to the register initially, of having been a super-duper-saving-shopper. I ended up getting a tremendous deal and was able to leave with a bag full of clothes I only paid a few dollars for, thanks to my free Groupon. I was reminded yet again that things always turn out ok, even if for moments life appears to be disastrous, or in this case, if the coupon doesn’t work exactly as I thought it would. If we just stop for a moment in the midst of chaos, confusion, hardship or while standing at a crossroads and breathe (remember how we’re always told to count to 10? It’s because it works!), just breathe and relax, we begin to feel a calmness, some clarity, a way that will help our situation. It doesn’t have to be a life changing event, it can be as something as small as trouble at the cash register. If we breathe and seek clarity we will find it.

I would have found this to be true had I taken a few deep, cleansing breaths instead of choosing to stomp off in frustration. Hopefully I’ll remember this lesson and choose differently in the future.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Proud To Be An American

What a great day to be an American! The 4th of July holds a special place in the hearts of patriots and brings forth a sense of community and solidarity in people. Having lived in other countries I can say with sincerity that I truly am glad to be an American. I’m not saying anything against other countries or putting them down, not at all. I lived very formative years overseas and have a great fondness and respect for other peoples and cultures. Every place on earth has much to offer and is unique in its own way. And yet, there us something different about the good ‘ole U.S of A. We are a special nation, we stand out in a variety of ways.

I spent Independence Day up at my parents cabin with family. They own a place in a small community just south of Flagstaff, it’s a marvelous getaway for us all! The town holds a parade on the 4th that anyone can take part in. On Monday my boys rode their decorated bikes in the parade for the second time. It’s a wonderfully festive time, full of fun and laughter, good spirits, camaraderie, and a general sense of well being. After the parade we enjoyed a long-lived American traditional meal, grilled hamburgers with all the trimmings and sides! Yum! My mom, a model hostess, had the table decorated with all sorts of red, white and blue cheer.

When our bellies were full and we sat back to enjoy our mountainous surroundings, my mom asked us to share one reason we were thankful to be an American, something we were proud of our country for. Here are a few of the answers given: “Because even though it’s cliché, we really are the land of opportunity. People still seek our shores to take a shot at their dream.” “Because we are a giving, generous country, eager to help others, whether it be our neighbors or someone in a foreign land.” “Because we are free to express ourselves, we can dare to be different or unique, we can question and seek for further, deeper meanings and answers, we can push the limits and break free from the mold, we can dream.” “Because we are a safe nation of refuge for those persecuted.” “Because our founding fathers made the effort to create an unparalleled constitution which is the basis of our greatness.” “Because we respect and honor every generation and both genders.”

My boys, 7 and 5, even joined in with their thoughts. My oldest said he likes his country because here you can pick as many flavors of ice cream you want and can mix them if you wish. He said he learned in school about a boy in a foreign country that was not allowed to mix his flavors of ice cream, there they were only able to choose one flavor. My other son stated he likes his country because he can swim in the pool. These may be considered small potatoes to some, but when compared to many parts of the world, they are indeed luxuries, and I’m proud of my boys for their gratefulness. I’m also thrilled they live in a land where ice cream and swimming pools are a part of their everyday life, as opposed to pain, suffering, lack or violence.

I know our country is not perfect, I know we have plenty of areas to improve in, I know we make mistakes, but overall we do a good job at providing for our citizens. I am proud to be an American. Are you? Why?