Friday, April 26, 2013

Saving the world $25 at a time (an open letter to Kohl's)

Dear Kohl's,

The sweet people who read my blog know that I am upbeat, and intensely loyal.  My loyalty to you has been no exception.  I am your favorite kind of shopper, the one with the kids who outgrow their clothes and shoes at least once per season.  The one who lives closer to you than to the nearest mall.  The one whose only paycheck is scoring on a good deal, who salivates when she sees 30% hiding under the lottery ticket sticker with Kohl's cash to boot, and who may or may not be giddy enough to post about it on Facebook every so often.  The one who pays her bill in full every. single. month.  I am your bread and butter, Kohl's.

But today?  You have pushed my loyalty to its end.  Today I received my third $25 late fee, and I am on to you.  You kept me quiet for a long, long time by making me feel foolish for neglecting the payment of my bills, but no more.  It has been a trap all along.  Here's how it works:

1.  (And really, the only one that matters.)  You do not have an auto pay setting.  Every other credit card company I deal with has an auto payment setting so that I never miss a payment and never have a late fee.  But not you.  It looks like you are just a little behind the times and haven't quite gotten there yet, but really?  This is NO accident.

2.  Every time you send me an email reminder the subject line says this:

Your Kohl's Charge Statement and Annual Privacy Notice Is Available Online

You would only send that one out once a year, right?  So I already paid that bill.  No worries.

3.  When I go to pay my bill, the default payment is for the minimum.  You've never gotten me on that one.  Pretty normal.

4.  When I pay the bill, I click "submit".  Then there is another screen that comes up that is a confirmation screen--but you have to confirm to actually make your payment.  If I close the window, there is certainly no dialogue box that asks me if I'm sure I want to leave before I actually pay. (No, that would NOT be too annoying!) And even though I am vigilant and catch the email, and make the payment, somehow I manage not to get through this level.  I am not sure how you do it, because I am so wary of you now.  But I promise, it will NOT happen again.

5.  You even have friendly customer service people who (if I will wait my turn in the phone cue) will remove the $25 fee.  But how many people are willing to ask to have a fee waived, when, in truth (or so they think), they did not pay their bill on time?

6.  Because I am the conscientious type, when I see that my bill was NOT actually paid and I now have a service charge to boot, I of course log in immediately and pay my entire bill AND the fee as fast as I can and make SURE I see it through to the end.  So you've got all my money plus $25 more within two days of the due date.  Good deal for you.

I checked with my friends on Facebook to see if I was the only lame person who can't manage to pay her Kohl's bill, and you know what I found out?  Several of my smartest, most organized and money-savvy friends have had EXACTLY the same thing happen.  I know.  You weren't counting on me having the guts to come clean and ask, but we all take our chances from time to time.

All of this could be SOLVED if you would offer an auto bill pay feature.  I'll look forward to shopping with you again when I get the email with that in the subject line.

Now if you'll excuse me, spring has FINALLY come to Minnesota, and my kids need new clothes for the season.  I have to figure out where I'm going to buy them.  Meanwhile, I'll be looking forward to that email with those magic words, AUTO BILL PAY.

Sincerely,
Tracy P.

P.S.  I really hated to take this so public, but since you have neither an email nor a snail mail address on your website, you left me no other alternative.

P.P. S. (to my regular readers)

Winter gave its last blast on Tuesday, which melted in about a day.  Spring really is here friends, so in spite of this not-so-upbeat post, there's a lot of happy dancing going on here.  :-)

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Skin

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Photo 52, Week 17:  Skin

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I invited the other participants to suggest themes
for April's Photo 52 challenges.

One suggested "nude".
Sassy.
I knew where I could go and find plenty of nudity.

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And even a little cleavage I could get away with.
It's farm babies season at the zoo!


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Some of the animals are a little more modest.
Heavy sweaters are always a good idea during a blizzard, after all.

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Had to stop as I was passing the dholes.

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And you know I couldn't resist a visit with the tigers.

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They had plenty of skin in the game!

What would you do for a "skin" theme?


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Melting, macro style

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We emerged from our igloo
when all was clear on the radar
to assess the status of spring.

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I nearly got a crick in my neck, 
gawking down at the sparkling snow piles at the curb
throughout our walk

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marveling at the intricate, delicately frozen lace.

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Time for the macro.

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According to the forecast, it's not quite over yet.
But I plan to keep looking closely for the treasures.
It's supposed to be warm this weekend.  We'll see.

Monday, April 15, 2013

April Showers

Photo 52, Week 16:  April Showers

This week I am playing with layers.  I took a few different photos of rain over the last couple of weeks, and decided to use them as textures over possibly my favorite spring flower photo ever of last year's crocuses.  May flowers are coming, after all, right?  But I'm torn...which one should I use for this week's post?

April showers 1

#1 Drops on window

April showers 2

#2 Drops on puddle

April showers 3

#3 Streaming down window

Which one's your favorite?  Got any other ideas for me?

By the way, this isn't very hard to do at all.  I did it in Photoshop Elements.
All the instruction I had is right here.  For free!  I love generous photographer bloggers!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Staring down the sky (an exercise in contentment)

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Photo 52, Week 15:  Self-Portrait

Me, staring down the sky.
Because I heard they were predicting this.

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So my little intimidation technique didn't work.
Now you know I have no pull with the sky.  Whatsoever.

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(Nor with my son, who started dressing out of his summer drawer when it hit 50ยบ
and isn't about to turn back because of a few measly inches of snow!)

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The cardinal had a few things to say about it.

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But you know what?  I remembered a lesson I learned a long, long time ago.  I was living overseas, after a long series of frustrations including some really depressing weather.  I remember clearly one day making a choice to throw myself a pity party.  I deserved it.  Life was hard.  I was misunderstood and living in some pretty challenging conditions, and well, who could blame me for taking a break from wearing my happy face?  Wouldn't people rather have me be honest?  So I did.  I gave in to discontentment.

1 Timothy 6:6 says, "Godliness with contentment is great gain." In my misery of that little chapter of my life I learned the flip side of that statement:  "An appearance of godliness with discontentment is a great loss."  You know, we all have our moments.  I have no problem being honest about that.  But in that season, I had to carry on.  I kept doing my thing, and I don't wear a grumpy face that well, so I'm not really sure that anyone else even noticed.  But my heart was a little hard, and my attitude stunk, and truly, it was a great loss.  Everything is just that much harder when we make that choice.  

I'll tell you who I didn't invite to my pity party.  God.  Why would he come to my pity party?  Why would I want him at my pity party?  If I faced him, I would have to face the truth of my situation, that my problems were trite, and my expectations unfounded.  The sad thing is that I would have found him compassionate and able to produce beautiful things in the midst of my circumstances if I hadn't crossed my arms and looked away in a huff.

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Good things were born out of that season.  In fact, such good things that I doubt I would go back and reverse that bad choice if I could.  I learned that contentment is the idea that there are many ways to be happy, if I will just open my eyes to God's gifts to me in that moment.  Discontentment is the idea that I can only be happy if _______.  We are bombarded with that message every day in this consumer driven society of ours:  you couldn't possibly be happy without the latest iGadget, etc.  Endless.  A guarantee that if we buy into it, we will never, ever be happy.  When I experienced the great loss of discontentment I learned to recognize the lie--but more importantly, we've been careful to teach our kids the truth. 

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So sky?  I may have shaken my fist at you in contempt,
but I refuse to let you keep me from being content.
I have some cheerful friends to help,
beauty to find if I'll look for it.
Summer is on the way.
There is no guarantee it will be nice.
Still, I am choosing contentment.  I am.



Note:  Interestingly, I have been reading a lot lately, and thinking along the topics of brokenness and depression for a number of reasons.  Talking about choosing contentment is not the same as saying to a broken or depressed person, "Cheer up." That is a different story.  While I am no expert on these topics, I may have to process them here one of these days.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Fool (a little forced perspective fun)

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Photo 52, Week 14:  Fool

You may remember last month, when I had some theme issues with Photo 52.
This month I solicited input from the other participants.  One of the themes was "fool".
Bethany (you know, my camera-allergic 11-year-old)
came up with the idea of forced perspective.
Well, she didn't call it that, but she was willing to crush her brother's head.
Forget actually moving to a place with decent lighting, 
making her brother put his shirt back on,
or anything like that.
She wasn't THAT willing.


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I had to go back in the archives to some other shots we've done over the years.

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This one happened completely by accident.
The only editing was the addition of text.
The coach's wife appreciated it.

Must try more of these this summer when we are out and about!

If you've never tried fooling around with forced perspective, here's a great place to start!

Friday, April 5, 2013

March Photographer's Choice

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Photo 52, Week 13:  Photographer's Choice

You've already seen the tulip macros that I used for Photographer's Choice this month, 
so I thought I would throw in a little recap of spring break and Easter to go with it.

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Ben woke up on Thursday of spring break, asking for lefse.  
Which was very random of him.
I told him I'd make it if he would help me.  
He said he would.  
That was even MORE random.

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And funny, and just a little awkward because Bethany is the lefse maker.

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So of course when she awoke and learned what was going down,
she felt compelled to supervise.
That went over well.

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To be even more random, we did a Facebook experiment.

We invited anyone and everyone to come over for lefse.
Eight people came.  Not bad for last minute on a Thursday.

I didn't take pictures because once the kids had friends arrive, 
I was busy cranking out the fresh lefse.

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And of course there was the egg dying.

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I loved how Bethany had to label the nine colors.
Once you put them in the colored cups,
it can be confusing, after all.

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Lee took over the camera for a little while so I could do my thing.
He was a little miffed when I photo bombed this one of Bethany and her egg.
I would do it again.

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We went out for Easter brunch this year.  
We go back and forth between eating out and eating in.
Since we didn't do the cooking
we had the time and energy to do a little dessert decorating 
at my sister's afterwards.

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From now on I vote for brunch out every year.