Saturday, November 27, 2010

Happy-ish Holidays

Now that I'm older, the holidays just aren't what they used to be. Namely, there is a lot more disappointment all around, a lot less family, and a lot of driving. Growing up, it was easy. I didn't have to think. Get woken up Thanksgiving morning, get dressed while watching the parade. Get in the back of my parent's car, heading to Coventry to see my dad's parents. Stop there, where the parade was also on, say Happy Thanksgiving, watch a bit of the parade, get back in the car. Continue south to South County, to my mom's parents house near the beach. Watch the end of the parade, wait for everyone else to show up. My mom's sister and her husband, my mom's uncle and his wife, his daughter and her boyfriend, my mom's good friend and her husband. By this time, the parade was over and the game was on in the background. My grandpa would start to carve the turkey with the electric knife from the 80's that was so loud you couldn't continue your conversation until he was done. We'd eat dinner crowded around the tiny table then go for a walk to the beach to 'digest.' Once we'd digested, we came back and ate some more.

Christmas was also routine. Mom would cook and wrap last-minute presents all day Christmas eve until it was time to get ready for church. We'd be greeted at the five o'clock mass outside St. Paul by Father Charland. The choir of kids would serenade us with Christmas carols until it was time for mass and at the appropriate times throughout the mass. I loved it, but I started getting antsy around time for communion. This was because I knew that when everyone started moving towards the front of the church to receive their bread and wine, it was time to make our break. We always went to church, but we always has somewhere else to be. I remember leaving church each year at this same time, watching the patrons through the tiny slitted windows parade to the front and listening to the last carol I could hear. We made our way to the car and to Coventry to spend Christmas Eve with at my dad's parents with his side of the family.

Christmas Day was always at my house, so I could wake up in the morning and play with my toys all day long. My whole family would come over and Iw as the star of the show- the only child at that point.

These were the good old days- the carefree holidays. There were traditions in place that hardly ever changed. But now it's apparently time for new traditions, and I'm not sure if I'm ready for that.

Now, it's much more complicated. Not even counting all the family issues that happen on my side, it's more complicated because I now have two families. My boyfriend and I have lived together for three years now. This means that both of us have two families and both families want us all to themselves on holidays. It's hard enough to divide our time, but no matter how we do it someone always feels like the other is getting more of us. The last two years haven't been as bad as this one though. We ended up having separate Thanksgivings. And both families demanded to know why the other one of us wasn't there. Was it them? Was it the food? Was it the other family? Why weren't the two of us together today? Were we fighting? And what about Christmas?

Oh boy, what about Christmas. This is the first year that I have really felt the sting of the holidays. Family matters are out of control. How do we figure out who's going where and when? My money situation is awful. I am actually thinking about spending Christmas money I've already received to buy other people's Christmas presents. Mornings at work are terrible because of the cranky shoppers. Driving is a nightmare. Why can't people be happy during the holidays?

Good thing I'm not the only one thinking about these things. Next year, maybe I'll try following along with the holiday challenge to keep things in order. Too bad that doesn't help with the decision making about where, when, and with whom I'm doing all the holiday things !

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Building 19 Reopens

This past Saturday at 9am, Building 19 in Warwick reopened. You might be wondering why this is culturally significant. Well, the empty and abandoned looking store was one of last remaining reminders of last year's devastating flooding. Since I pass by this giant reminder every day on my way to work, its reopening seemed to signify the end of the aftermath of this natural disaster. Warwick Mall is up and running again, Unos had reopened, Bed Bath and Beyond moved down the road and reopened months ago. Building 19 was the last, as far as I know, to recover.
But was it really the last to recover? What about the people whose homes were destroyed, the people who were displaced for months. Even if their houses are back to normal, they couldn't be. I know that I suffered less than many others out there in regards to the flood. I was living in a basement room of a rented house that was flooded with about a foot of water.
I know that I will never forget getting into bed that night, listening to the pounding rain. And I will never forget how my boyfriend got up out of bed not five minutes later, put his foot on the ground, and began to swear. In the five minutes that passed between me getting into bed and him getting out to go to the bathroom, there was an inch of water on our floor.
Instantly, we went into panic mode. We grabbed our computers, our pets, and anything electrical off the ground. We began running things upstairs and dumping everything into the living room.
When we thought we had gotten everything important off the ground, he started to turn off breakers for the basement and tried to figure out how to stop the relentless water.
But we didn't realize until the next morning what we had forgotten about. What about the thousand dollar DSLR and SLR cameras in their $100 bag that I had carelessly thrown on the floor of my closet the day before, rather than on their usual shelf? What about the memory card inside that contained thousands of moments I had captured? And even the twenty or so pairs of shoes, including the new $100 boots I had gotten for my birthday, only a month before. And the carpet I'd had on the floor since the first time I'd moved away from home.
These are the things we didn't think about, didn't consider important. These are the things that couldn't be fixed along with the basement walls and floors.
This is why I was so glad to hear on Wednesday, four days after I thought everyone had forgotten for good the disaster that is still so fresh in my mind, an advertisement from a Massachusetts agency promoting counseling for flood victims. "Because not everything can be fixed with a fresh coat of paint" they said.
I am extremely glad that this opportunity is still being offered. I know that it took me a while to recover from the shock and trauma of having my home flooded, and mine was only a rented home. My boyfriend and I were able to move back with my parents after the flood and leave the cleanup to our not-so-nice homeowner. Because, we found out afterward, he had let the house flood to get insurance money. There was a drain in our backyard that, had we been told about it, we could have opened to prevent the flooding.
According to the Taunton Daily Gazette's article explaining about the counseling Massachusetts offers,15 to 20 percent of those affected by a disaster typically suffer "some emotional instability and experience it as a disruptive, traumatic event." I am glad that the state is recognizing the ongoing need for this counseling. I vividly remember sitting in my writing 201 class the Monday after the flood happened, listening to my classmates joke and laugh about all the partying they were able to do during the days of cancelled classes. While they were partying, I was dealing with my home owner, real estate agent, Serve-Pro, hot water company, insurance agency, and FEMA. Some people experienced the flooding as awed onlookers, others like myself have been able to move on, but I am sure that there are still some out there who absolutely need the empathy and reassurance that this counseling opportunity offers. And they need our support as well.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Social Media and the Workplace

Yesterday, when I got to work at PetCo, I was told that I had to "read this and sign it." What was it? PetCo's new Social Media Policy. Six pages of do's and don'ts regarding social media and PetCo. As part of that new policy, I am required to disclose "I am a PetCo associate. The views in this blog reflect my own opinions and not PetCo's" or something to that effect. I am also not allowed to create a FaceBook page for my store, post pictures of my store events or other associates, and am allowed to hang out with coworkers but not in uniform and god forbid I post a picture of us after work in our uniforms. So, I guess since I live 45 minutes away from work and frequently hang out with coworkers, I am SOL when it comes to being in pictures. Who decides this? Petco's social media team, of course. Jeeze, can I have that job? Spending the day on Facebook, Twitter, and Blogging about pets. Sounds good to me! Social media expert opportunities in the corporate world are quickly becoming the new dream job. Just don't ask your employer to tell you exactly what it is that you will have to do. The lines are not clearly drawn yet.

Despite my negative reaction to my workplace becoming more involved in my "private" online life, I have to admit that PetCo is on the forefront of using social media to build their customer base.

Why does PetCo participate in Social Media? "To provide a lighthearted but educational avenue for rejoicing in the human animal bond together; to offer a forum so that we can listen to what you have to say; to spotlight issues of interest to animal welfare supporters."

On PetCo's FaceBook page, "the community of more than 3,000 fans can post pictures of their pets, swap tips or ask questions. Some contributors even post content as if written by their pets." PetCo also uses their page to respond to customer complaints.

PetCo also has their own blog, the Petco scoop. The blog contains a lot of informational articles as well as my favorite, the pics of the week.

PetCo is one of many retailers nationwide using Social Media. These companies are not using social media to gain sales, but rather trust. They are building relationships with their customers.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Major Rager at URI

The whole state is buzzing about "The Major Rager" that is scheduled to be happening in Narragansett.

But is senior Chris Allen in for more than he bargained for? With 2,354 attending guests, 258 maybes, 3,524 awaiting reply, and Turn to 10 News on his back, I'd say so.

Originally, the plan was for Allen and a "few buddies" to throw something together for URI students, that something being a party of epic proportions. He described it as "something kind of like an underground rave, but much more awesome." Last night, I took that to mean less scary, more organized, and more safe. Allen's idea seemed to be to prove that URI was still the number one party school, despite being dropped off the "official" Playboy list (reportedly because they no longer rank professionals among amateurs). I have to admit, I saw that two of my friends were attending this event, read the description, and immediately wanted in. Not that I actually planned on going, but I wanted to know when it was going to be. Part of Allen's plan was to keep the date and location secret until the night of. If I wasn't working, then I probably would have checked it out. I did see that ten minutes prior someone posted that it had been mentioned on channel 10 news. But without thinking twice, I RSVP'd as attending and went to bed.

Ten minutes later, I jumped up. What was I thinking? I didn't want to be a part of this, not if the news was getting involved. Chris Allen was probably going to get expelled. The people on the list would probably get warned or suspended, or at least put on some sort of watch list. I wasn't going to be involved in this. I turned my laptop back on and logged on to Facebook. Stupid, stupid, stupid I thought. I couldn't get my name off the event completely, but changed my RSVP to not attenting.

But where did all this paranoia come from? Why was I scared to RSVP to a party on Facebook? Because of all the horror stories that I've heard about high school students being suspended for pictures on Facebook. And the stories about students being suspended for what that they said, off school property, online, from their own computers, to a rival school. And the event, much like the Major Rager, that invited 60 students to bully another student, for which 12 were suspended.

Clearly, the walls of the school are no longer the boundaries within which students can be punished. Because of this, I didn't feel safe to RSVP to a party. That feeling of not knowing what my own rights were, what I could be punished or held accountable for, really upset me. Where are these boundaries? When will they be drawn? Will it take an event like the Major Rager to become the next supreme court case that does down in the history books, deciding the course of action in cases like this for the next century?

For now, Chris Allen has decided to 'legitimize' the Major Rager. He is in the course of finding sponsors for the party and a paid venue. But really, this defeats the original purpose and takes away from the event and its participants. I for one won't be attending "Major Rager" night at Bon Vue. It also avoids confronting the burning questions that we need to answer as a culture regarding boundaries between schools and their students online life.