10 Things I Love About Target

If you’re living in Vermont then you likely heard the BIG news today – no, it’s not about Ben and Jerry’s, or pot, or skiing. Are you ready…TARGET IS COMING TO VT! YAAAAAAAAAY!

That’s right, the only state in the country without a Target store is finalllly getting one. It’s been, oh I don’t know, 500 years since we’ve been asking?  Target will be going in at the University Mall sometime in 2018. It’s not going to be a large Target – I guess they are trying a new smaller model for more rural communities like ours – but hey, a Target is a Target, right? No more having to take the expensive ferry to Plattsburgh, NY to shop in one, or drive all the way to New Hampshire. Now you can take that gas and ferry money AND BUY MORE THINGS AT TARGET!

So in honor of this exciting news, here are 10 things that I love about Target.

1. Those big, red concrete balls out front. I don’t know why, but as soon as we park, I start RUNNING to those balls like I’m metal to a magnet. Weeeeee!

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2. There is almost always a Starbucks inside. Why, yes, I would love to pump myself full of caffeine to become even more excited about this shopping experience.

3. Their Carts. I’m normally a person who HATES pushing a cart. I always end up with that one that has a wonky wheel, or makes a super embarrassing high pitched squeal.  But the carts at Target…oh MAN. They are next level. They literally glide. It’s MAGIC.

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4. The store is clean, bright and well organized. Yesss to not having to shop in a complete dump just because you’re getting good deals. Wally World, I’m looking at you.

5. They have super cute home décor stuff. Unexpected, right? I’ve purchased everything from candles, to shower curtains, to an outdoor couch from Target. And none of it looked like it came from a department store.

6. It allows me to be efficient. I can pick up a new bra, cat food, stationery and a car battery, all in one swoop! Without Target, I’d have to go to four different stores to get all of those items.

7. Their cartwheel rewards program is baller good and saves you lots of money. I follow a couple couponing sites and they are always sharing the amazing deals you can get at Target. I can’t wait to sign up for Cartwheel and try myself!

8. That bargin section at the beginning of the store with seasonal items you didn’t even know you needed. The joy a $1 pack of pencils brings to my life cannot be understated. This section starts your shopping experience off right!
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9. Their employees are so friendly and helpful. Wow, people who don’t look like they want to kill themselves AND actually know where things are in the store? Unheard of.

10. Their branding. That cute dog Spot, the iconic bullseye (so simple, yet so effective) and their entertaining commercials make me want to go to Target always.

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That Time I Danced with Morris Day and The Time AND COMPLETELY EMBARRASSED MYSELF

“Do you wanna go up stage and dance?” Dan asked me.

“YEAHHHHHH!,” I shouted back instantly over the loud music, not thinking for a second what that actually meant.

“OK, wait here,” the large, muscular security guard said to me, as he corralled me towards the others.

It was a beautiful Friday night at the Waterfront and let’s just say your girl had been taking advantage of the open bar. Taking advantage of all the offerings, really. Dan’s company parties are known for being epic and include a concert with bands you’re shocked are in tiny Vermont. Coming from the non-profit world where we can’t even afford an extra roll of toilet paper, it’s part shocking, part exhilarating to see how the other half lives.

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We spent the first part of the party mingling, rocking our “flashback” outfits, and seeing what other crazy things people had on. My favorite was this dude who was just straight up dressed like The Ultimate Warrior for no reason other than it’s the Ultimate Warrior and you don’t need a reason. We saw a woman dressed as Riff Raff, complete with braids and a tin foil mouth grill. We saw people wearing afro wigs and sequins. We saw men in mesh shirts, and some men with no shirts at all.  We saw women in rainbow tutus and ponytails on the sides of their heads. These people took their parties seriously and for the first time in my costume career I almost felt under-dressed.IMG_7681

In retrospect, maybe I shouldn’t have started the night off with a Heady Topper, an 8%, 16 ounce beer known to knock lightweights like me on my ass. But what the hell. It was Friday night. I probably had 1/4 of a can left when I hopped in line to get one last free beer before open bar closed.

“Are you out of Heady Topper?” I asked the bartender.

“Yeah, sorry,”he replied.

“That’s OK. I’ll take a Corona, please.”

He looked at me like I had two heads.

“Do you want ONE…or do you want TWO?” he asked.

Unsure if this was a trick question or not, I hesitantly replied, “Two?”

“Smart girl,” he said as he handed over my two Coronas.

And then I was the girl at the party with three beers.

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Morris Day and The Time (MDATT) were about to get started, so I took my three beers and what was left of my dignity, and followed Dan up to stage right. For those of you unfamiliar with MDATT, he was Prince’s band competition in the movie Purple Rain…and for those of you unfamiliar with Purple Rain, just turn on VH1 because they’ve played it about 1674 times since Prince died in April. MDATT are a really fun funk/soul band, who are full of attitude, style and extremely talented musicians. They keep it old school in all the best ways with synchronized dance moves and attire.IMG_7697

Morris himself was rocking a diamond rhinestone mauve suit, a gigantic diamond ring, and at least 3 million carat diamond watches ON BOTH WRISTS. He was everything my 3rd grade, bedazzle enthusiast’s heart could ever hope for and I couldn’t look away. I also couldn’t really feel my face.

So anyway, there we were–Dan with his N/A beer, me with my collection of empty cans and my buzz, and Morris with his diamonds–when Dan asked if I wanted to go up on stage and dance. And I stupidly agreed.

As I was being ushered by the security guard to the other dancers, I saw Dan stay behind.

“Wait, wait,” I said shouting to Dan over the loud music. “Aren’t YOU coming, too?”

He also looked at me like I had two heads.

“Haha, no way, babe,” Dan laughed and smiled. “Just you ladies.”

What the hell had just happened?! It was as if Dan and the security guard had made some sort secret agreement when I was being blinded by Morris’ bling. I instantly regretted my decision and considered bolting.

“Hiii! Are you Dan’s girlfriend?” some of the other girls asked me. “It’s so nice to meet you!!” They shook my hand and introduced themselves as they danced in place.

Fuck. They’re all so nice. I can’t leave now,  I thought to myself.

“So anyone know what we’re doing?”I asked the rainbow tutus girls, trying all at once to both play it cool and desperately obtain information.

“I’m not really sure!” one of them smiled back at me, no fear whatsoever in her voice.

There’s still time to run, my brain said.

“I think they just want us to dance!” one of the other girls cheerfully replied.

She was trying to make me feel better, and I really appreciated that, but instead she inadvertently set off a chain of questions I knew I couldn’t ask aloud: How will I know when to go on stage? Is there a certain dance I’m supposed to do? Is there a certain move I should absolutely NOT do? Where am I supposed to stand? Will we all be spread out or assigned a spot? Are we dancing for just one song? Are we dancing for SEVERAL songs? Oh my god, what if we’re dancing up there for the rest of the night?! WHY aren’t the other girls nervous? WHY DID I AGREE TO DO THIS?

“Ok, ladies, follow me,” the guard said as he began to lead us backstage.

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FUCCCCCCK.

Just as I was about to have a panic attack, I instead starting feeling all of the positive effects my friend Alcohol is known for. You know, Alcohol, right? He’s the one who tells you that dancing on stage in front of 2,000 of your boyfriend’s coworkers is a GREAT idea. He tells you that you are A FABULOUS DANCER.  He points out that YOU LOVE TO DANCE.  And he reminds you that YOU TOOK ZUMBA CLASSES FOR 3 YEARS so OBVIOUSLY you are MORE THAN PREPARED FOR THIS MOMENT, and quite possibly, YOU SHOULD HAVE AUDITIONED FOR AMERICA’S GOT TALENT BY NOW.

Well shucks, Alcohol. I don’t know about that last one. But you’re right! I’m going to relax and have fun with this.

So that’s the mindset I had as I drunkenly went on stage with a dozen other girls to be MDATT’s back up dancers.

A band member I will refer to as Jamie Foxx casually ushered us to our various places on stage, as he danced and spun around. And before you say I’m just a white girl being racist, let me assure you, this guy is so much the splitting image of Jamie Foxx that I almost asked him if he was going to sit at the piano and cover a few tunes from Ray. But there wasn’t any time for questions because I was there to dance and act like I knew what I was doing.

Everything was going great (read: completely mediocre) and I was actually enjoying myself. I waved to Dan, I smiled for the cameras, and I shook, shook,  shookmy salt shaker (whatever the hell that means).


Just when I thought the song was over and I was congratulating myself for not completely embarrassing myself, I COMPLETELY EMBARRASSED MYSELF BY HUGGING MORRIS FUCKING DAY. 

You know how certain songs sound like they are about to end…? The last note of whatever instrument is dragging on…and people in the audience have started to clap…and the singer has his hands in the air like he’s waiting for that one final note to indicate, this song is over…yeah, all that was happening.

Morris had turned around to face the band and was standing directly in front of me. And like a cast member at the finale of a Saturday Night Live episode, I was overcome with emotion and the weight of our performance. See also: drunk. So I stretched my arms out to him, cocked my head to the side and conveyed through gestures, Heeyyy, did we all just kill it up here or WHAT?!

The look on his face can only be described as absolute terror.

Turns out the song wasn’t over! It was just one of those songs with a weird dip like November Rain. I had completely screwed up his routine.

Immediately Jamie Foxx came over to pull me off Morris and put me in my rightful place, with a look on his face that said Nobody touches Morris Day and all of his diamonds. I was mortified.

But that wasn’t even the worst part! Because the song wasn’t over, I HAD TO KEEP DANCING and act like nothing had happened. So I stayed up there, fake smiling, my face beet red, doing the 4 Zumba moves I could remember over and over again, acting as if hugging Morris had all been part of the plan.

**Hugs**

8 Year Old Amy and the Case of the Cursive P

The most stressed out period of my life was the year I spent in Mrs. Lemieux’s third grade class. Yeah, you read that correctly, third grade. Like clockwork, I came home every day after school and cried. The crying caused full blown migraines, and I’d have no other choice but to lay down in a dark room with a wash cloth draped across my forehead so that I didn’t barf all over the place. My parents couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. My mom spent hours talking to my teacher and sent me a greeting card in the mail that promised, Everything is going to get better. Thinking the migraines were because I couldn’t see the chalkboard, they even took me to an optometrist to have my eyes checked out. The conclusion was, “There is nothing wrong with your daughter’s eyes. We think the headaches are stress related.”  Duh.

I had been duped! Second grade was a walk in the park! We studied dinosaurs, we watercolored, we learned the Star Spangled Banner and we played outside. The end.  I excelled at second grade. I was awesome at second grade. I even remember thinking second grade wasn’t challenging enough. I approached my teacher Ms. Saunders one day and demanded to know, “When are we going to learn cursive!?” Ms. Saunders was caught off guard, and probably wondered to herself, How can learning about the Palaeosaurus not be enough for you?  But instead sweetly laughed and said, “That happens in the third grade.”

“Excelllllent,” I evilly replied and rubbed my two hands together like Mr. Burns on the Simpsons. (Ok, that didn’t actually happen because I never saw the Simpsons until middle school, but for our purposes we are going to pretend I was a badass).

I was very excited between the summer of second and third grade. I had gelled bangs, I could sing our national anthem, and dammit, I was going to learn cursive. Nothing could stop me! photo

On a scale of one to ten, I’d say third grade was about two million times harder than I had expected. There was so much homework! There was so much reading! There was so much less recess time! I had it good the year before and didn’t even know it.

My desire to learn cursive turned out to be the biggest challenge of them all—a classic case of be careful what you wish for. It started off easy enough. Mrs. Lemieux would draw a letter on the board and in our little notebooks with predetermined dotted lines, we would do our best to copy it. “A” was a synch for me because, duh, my name started with that letter and I was obsessed with finding out how to write my name in cursive. “B” also didn’t give me much trouble because it meant I could learn how to write my brother’s name in cursive, too, and of course hold that over his head when necessary. But by the time we got to the middle of the alphabet, I was struggling.

There were so many letters that made no sense to my little brain. Why would anyone give a lowercase “m” three humps when it only has two in print?! And couldn’t giving “n” two humps be confused for “m,” especially for us people who barely can read our own handwriting?! And who the hell came up with the cursive “z”? That is some sort of hieroglyphic shenanigans right there.

The letter I had the hardest time with, hands down, was the lowercase “p.” I always seemed to screw it up! I would tilt it too much, or forget to close the loopdy-doop thing below the line, or forget the squiggly piece that started it. I’d bring my booklet up to Mrs. Lemieux for approval and each time she would say, “You still don’t quite have the ‘p’ correct. Go back and try it again.”

What was this hellish prison I was stuck in?! Take me back to second graaaade! [cue headache].

My classmates at our four-corner desk quad would see me in tears, with my hands on my head, starring at my practice sheet and that goddamn “p.” A few of the girls were really nice and would show me how they drew it, hoping I would catch on. But I honestly don’t remember any eureka moment where I got it right and jumped for joy. I have to assume I did because I moved on to 4th grade – but it’s very possible that I should not have and that you are reading the work of a cursive criminal.

 

I do have to say there were a few redeeming qualities to third grade:

  1. We watched Voyage of the Mimi…a lot. Starring none other than Mr. Ben Afflick himself, VOTM “was a thirteen-episode American educational television program depicting the crew of the Mimi exploring the ocean and taking a census of humpback whales.” We learned everything from navigation, to drinkable water, to sea animals. VOTM even taught us that when someone gets hypothermia, you both need to get naked and get into a sleeping bag together. How our third grade jaws dropped during that one.
    (Note: I did NOT enjoy the Second Voyage of Mimi, because during Episode 1 they revealed one of the characters was an amputee and showed her putting on her fake leg. Terrifying.)
  2. We had pet crawfish. While other kids in neighboring classrooms got to snuggle up to fuzzy, adorable, baby ducks, my classmates and I were given crustaceans with pinching claws. Looking back, it does seem kind of weird that kids in land-locked VT had pet crawfish…but in 1993 at Flynn Elementary School, it was just another day in paradise.

    I picked out a female and gave her the most appropriate name I could think of: Francesca. Francesca only pinched me a couple of times, which was actually something to brag about considering how often the boys in my class had crawfish dangling from their hands as they screamed for help. I remember two things about Francesca: 1-she smelled really bad and 2-you could tell she was a female by flipping her over and studying her legs. 1694549_orig 

    I don’t know what happened to the crawfish in the end. I think we let them go down by the river, or maybe they were shipped to Louisiana where they belonged. I do remember that when our unit on VOTM and crawfish came to an end, Mrs. Lemieux threw us a big party and brought in cooked lobsters for us to try. It was the first time any of us had ever had something so expensive and delicious. She let us each take a piece of the lobster shell home as souvenirs. (Again, why she thought giving 8 year olds smelly fish parts in June was a good idea was beyond me…) I wrapped a lobster abdomen up in a paper towel, showed it to my mom, and begged her to let me keep it. I think it lasted a few hours before the smell of rot was enough to make me chuck it myself.

  3. I fell in love with writing. When we weren’t getting attacked by crawfish or cringing each time our teacher drew another new cursive letter on the blackboard, we wrote stories. We would work on our stories for what seemed like weeks and then we would hold “An Author’s Tea” and invite all of our family members to hear us read them. The majority of my stories were centered around my cat Midnight who had an affinity for chasing and eating bumblebees, and sleeping on my head and drooling into my ear. I also wrote about time travel and secret passages–an obsession I had that last well beyond third grade (thanks Babysitter Club books).

    But third grade was also my first and last bout with plagiarism! I guess the creative juices just weren’t flowing one day when I decided to copy Danielle Bombardier’s story about The Boy Who Didn’t Like Cake. The plot was simple: there was a boy, and he would eat almost anything, except he didn’t like cake, and how could anyone in the entire universe not like cake? Yeah, how could someone not like cake, I thought to myself. What would be even crazier is if he didn’t like ice cream! And so my story entitled The Girl (see what I did there) Who Didn’t like Ice Cream was born.

    When Danielle found out I was essentially stealing her story and changing a few parts, I remember her squeaky little voice protesting in anger and saying, “Heeey! That’s my story. You just changed a few parts.” And I pulled a Vanilla Ice and was like, “No, no. It’s different. See YOUR story is about a BOY who doesn’t like CAKE. MY story is about a GIRL who doesn’t like ICE CREAM. Completely different.” Maybe Mrs. Lemieux, thinking that I couldn’t handle another cursive “p” incident, took pity on me because she let me write my story anyway.

 
Though it was challenging, I think third grade taught me some valuable lessons: 1). Crustaceans make better meals than pets; 2). If at first (or second, or forty-third) you don’t succeed, try, try again; and 3). Cursive is some straight up useless bullshit and you will only use it in third grade.

Back-Trackin’ Ain’t Easy

He may or may not have been from the Jersey Shore

Today, while attempting to find a backing track to our new radio commercial…

DJ: So, what kind of music are you looking for?

ME: I’m thinking something happy and upbeat…something poppy…

DJ: Ok, what about this? (plays tribal, African drum loop).

ME: Um, (smiles politely), nope, I don’t think that’s quite it.

DJ: Ok, how ‘bout this? (plays some reggae, Bob Marley rip off)

ME: Very relaxing, but no… I think we need something more POP.

DJ: (plays intergalactic, dubstep medley)

ME: (laughs uncomfortably)…I think we need simpler than that. Have you ever listened to Spotify? They have really great music for their commercials.

DJ: Oh ok. Let’s see here… (Googles “Spotify commercial.” Finds it. Plays it.)

ME: Yeah! See, isn’t that great? I think that’s what we need.

DJ: Yeah, definitely. So it seems like there’s some guitar strumming in there and it’s really simple. I think I got it…

DJ: (plays theme-song to “Deliverance.”)

ME: Uhhhh…Maybe it would be helpful for me to tell you a little more about who we are and what we do…(cause you clearly didn’t listen to the ad you just recorded)…Our target audience is women between the ages of 18 and 24…

DJ: MMM, hmm. Right. How about…

DJ: (plays Enya)

ME: Yeah…again… we serve YOUNG WOMEN and I don’t think that’s really gonna speak to them. Can you sort these by mood?

DJ: HAHAHA, no! Wouldn’t that be great?

ME: It certainly would be.

ME: Feist! That’s the kind of music I want. As if Feist were our backing track.

DJ: Ohhhh, ok!

DJ: (plays sultry, SloJam. Clearly has never heard of Feist)

ME: BAAHAHA! Bow-chica-bow-bow! That would be great if we were a strip club. But that’s not gonna work either.

DJ: Are you sure?

ME: Yeah, I’m positive.

***

2 hours later…(ok, fine, it was only 20 minutes)

We landed on something. What it was, I really can’t remember now. But if you end up hearing it on the radio in the next week or two, please know I tried my best.   

Some Favorite Memories of Uncle Tony

Yesterday we lost a man who meant so much to so many people. A man who was well known throughout his community and adored by his family. He was a father, a husband, a brother, an uncle, a coach, a friend, an optimist, and he was my Godfather.

Uncle Tony touched so many lives in his 61 years on this Earth. So many that people from all walks of life have been reaching out to our family to give their condolences. People like my Facebook friend Matt, who said, “I didn’t realize Tony was your uncle. He and my parents are good friends and he was always so kind to me.” Or my friend Chuck, who shared some memories of Uncle Tony coaching him and the Pirates in little league. Or my friend Rhonda, who said Uncle Tony was her biggest cheerleader growing up and he will always have a special place in her heart. It seems that almost everyone in the Burlington area knew Uncle Tony and had a special bond with him. I of course feel the same way.

Uncle Tony was my 7th and 8th grade CYO basketball coach. Along with my cousin Jenna (Tony’s daughter), he taught a group of 10 teenage girls the in’s and out’s of basketball on the St. Mark’s team. I’m not sure if many of you remember what it’s like being 13 and 14 years old—or better yet—what it takes to coach teenage girls, but somehow Uncle Tony did it. He was patient, encouraging, and he never gave up on us. He put up with dramatic stories of middle-school break-ups (“I can’t run laps today, I’m too depressed…”), and­ excuses only young girls would have (“I can’t make practice today because I’d rather go to the mall.”) Uncle Tony gave up every single Saturday to coach our practices and every single Sunday to coach our games.

One of my favorite memories of Uncle Tony and the St. Marks team was while we were practicing one Saturday morning. Uncle Tony never went too hard on us, so after going over a few plays, and running a few laps, practice was winding down. But before it ended, he had his regular proposition for us: “Ok, girls. If any of you make this half-court shot, I’ll buy you all pizza next practice.” WOW, we all thought. Pizza?! Besides going to the movies with a cute boy, free pizza was about the best thing you could offer a teenage girl.

Each week we tried in vain to make that half-court shot, launching rubber balls as far as we could. And most of the time they just bounced off the backboard and went up into the 2nd floor auditorium above. We’d have to stop practice, hoist a girl up on Uncle Tony’s shoulders, and go searching for the ball.

So as usual on this Saturday, we lined up at half court, one by one, to take our shot. Uncle Tony sat on the sideline with a grin on his face, knowing that none of us had a chance in hell of ever sinking this shot. I threw the ball as far as I could—and missed. Jenna launched one, and missed. Liz went, and missed. And it went on like this until we got to Rhonda (the same girl I mentioned earlier). Rhonda, the girl with an infectious laugh who was constantly smiling and joking on our team, chucked the ball as hard as she could. And to everyone’s amazement, it actually went in.

Uncle Tony was absolutely dumb-founded. As we all jumped up and down, cheering and celebrating, he sat in shock. If you know the Lafayette’s at all, you know that we’re cheap frugal people. The thought of him having to buy pizzas for 10 girls nearly put him over the edge. But being the amazing man he was, he congratulated Rhonda and came to the next practice with pizza for all of us.

1998: Uncle Tony took  my CYO baskeball teammates to visit me at the Statehouse during the time I was a Legislative Page

1998: Uncle Tony took my CYO baskeball teammates to visit me at the Statehouse during the time I was a Legislative Page

Besides spending the weekends with Uncle Tony, I also once shadowed him for a middle school project. At the time I thought it would be really cool to be a real estate agent—and because I was too lazy to contact a person I wasn’t related to—I followed Uncle Tony around for the day.

I thought it would be a cushy shadowing experience: sit in an office for a bit, make a few phone calls, sip on some coffee, show someone a house or two, and then call it quits around 2pm. But oh no. Uncle Tony had other things in store for me.

Our first stop was to an apartment he owned in the Old North End. The renters had moved out and he was having trouble filling the place. We walked in through the front porch and I was immediately greeted by a weird smell.

“Careful, Aim,” Uncle Tony said as we made our way through the crowded porch. “Watch your step,” he said.

And then I realized why. In front of us were at least three dead squirrels, all curled up and frozen, looking stiff and terrifying.  They had somehow made their way into the house, but then couldn’t get out. It wasn’t exactly what I had anticipated seeing that early in the morning, and being a teenage girl, I freaked out a little.

“I’m going to wait in the car,” I told him.

Lunchtime wasn’t really any better. We went back to his house to eat. Hmm, not exactly what I had in mind, but ok.  I grabbed a kitchen stool and sat at the counter.

“Got your sneakers with you, Aim?” he asked me.

“My sneakers? No, why? I thought we were having lunch?”

“Well we are. But first we are going for a jog. That’s what I like to do on my lunch break.”

You’ve gotta be kidding me I thought.  “Oh well, guess I can’t go since I don’t have the right shoes.”

Then Aunt Melissa chimed in. “What size shoes do you wear, Amy? You can just borrow a pair of mine.” Great. There was really no way I was getting out of this one.

I reluctantly put on the sneakers, telling Uncle Tony how much I hated running, and we set off.   We jogged for probably only 20 minutes, but it felt like 2 hours to me, and I spent the entire time wondering why someone would do this at lunch and being jealous of my classmates who were probably eating at some fancy restaurant.  When the jog ended, we went back to his house for hotdogs and chips.

By the end of the shadow day, I was not only exhausted, but I also had such a greater appreciation for the life my uncle led.

After middle school, although he no longer coached me, Uncle Tony was still an important part of my life. He always asked how I was doing in school, what sports I was playing, and asked about my friends.

Uncle Tony even helped Liam and I buy our first home. Although he was battling cancer, he was so proud that we were about to buy our first place and he wanted to be involved. He visited the house during the Open House, met with the owners, inspected the basement for leaks, and asked all the right questions. He told us the house was sound and would be a great first home for us. Then he helped us draft the contract and seal the deal.

Uncle Tony will be remembered as a man with a huge heart who loved his family more than anything else in life. He was giving, selfless, and he was always upbeat.  It’s hard to imagine what our family, and our community, is going to be like without him. But I know we will all be better off if we try to live each day the way he had: with patience, generosity, courage, and with a smile.

Rest in peace, Uncle Tony. We love you.

I encourage any of you to leave your favorite memories of him below.

The Ones Who Got It Right: Businesses With Great Customer Service

They say when a customer has a bad experience, they’re likely to tell as many as sixteen people about it. But if that same customer has a good experience, they may only tell half of their friends. Why does this happen? I think in part because people like to bitch, myself included. Ranting to your friends is a whole lot healthier than trying to physically harm the business or person involved, even though that’s usually what most people fantasize about.  People also want to make sure their friends don’t experience the same shitty service, and sharing it is one way to protect them.

Since I recently wrote a pretty scathing post about two businesses WHO SUCK AT CUSTOMER SERVICE, I feel I have a due diligence to tell you about two companies that are actually KICKING ASS. ( I’d also love to hear who you’ve had good experiences with, so leave a comment below.)

First up—my new best friends, Maplehurst Florist. Beaten and broken down after weeks of floral shenanigans, I was pretty certain I was never going to find a florist for our wedding (or at least find one that got the wedding date and my name correct).  Out running errands, my mom and I came across a business card for Maplehurst. We realized we were standing around the corner from there shop, so on a whim, we decided to stop in.

I wasn’t expecting much, given my past experiences and the fact that we didn’t have an appointment. But right from the beginning, they were wonderful. We spoke with a man who informed us Wendy, the woman who does wedding arrangements, was on vacation. “Oh, ok,” I said disappointed. I think he must have seen the hopelessness in my eyes because to my surprise he gave us a quick little rundown of their work, their prices, and even showed some arrangements for an upcoming wedding. I took Wendy’s info and left.

A week later, I booked an appointment. Remember how I told you the chick from Price Chopper took down so much useless information about the wedding during our consultation? Well, Wendy asked me about five questions over the phone prior to the appointment. She also was able to fit me in the next day. I was already impressed.

Mom, Liz, and I arrived to the appointment, and introduced ourselves to Wendy (now known as the nicest woman in the world). And whatta know? Maplehurst actually had books FULL of floral arrangements, as well as photo albums of their wedding work.

Once I gave her an idea of the type of flowers I liked, she started pulling out some real flowers and arranging them to give me a sense of what my bouquet would look like. What a concept! Again, I gushed that this was extremely helpful.

But I guess what I was most blown away with was that she was able to give us an estimate for everything in just a few minutes.

“You mean I don’t have to wait a month for this to come in the mail?” I asked, half joking, half confused.

“A month? Oh no! Sometimes we aren’t able to give the estimate that day, but the most we’ve ever made people wait was a few days. Where exactly did you go before us?” I proceeded to tell her the abridged version of my previous post.

So yeah. Needless to say, I practically hugged her at the end of the appointment, thanked her up and down, and put down my deposit. And did I mention that Maplehurst also has an ice cream window? That’s how I knew this was meant to be. Florist…check!

The other business I was pleasantly surprised by lately was Gadue’s Dry Cleaning. I don’t know about you all, but I am in my late twenties and I had never used a dry cleaning service before. I usually avoid “dry clean only” like the plague because to me it equals dollar signs. But I needed my bridesmaid dress from DIZ’s wedding spot-cleaned since someone had spilled (several) beers on me and the dress was now growing some sort of mutant mold. Yeah, probably shouldn’t have waited 9 months to get that taken care of.

Gadue’s did a great job of cleaning it up and taking out all of the spots in a very reasonable amount of time. It was also pretty affordable.

But what impressed me most with these guys was what I received in the mail a week later: A hand-written card, thanking me for being a new customer.

Talk about excellence customer service. I guarantee the next time I need something dry cleaned I will go to them. All because they made me feel valued, they thanked me, and oh yeah, they got my name right.

What businesses do you think do a great job with customer service? Leave a comment below and let’s give these guys some love.

Dream Wedding

I keep having nightmares about the big day.

Last night’s was especially stressful. While Liam lay next to me, blissfully dreaming about video games and Oasis, I experienced this:

“Hey, Amy. Are you all ready for tomorrow?” says our Shelburne Museum contact, Bruce.

“What? Tomorrow?”

“Yeah, your wedding is tomorrow!”

“But it’s only April. I thought I still had months to plan!”

“It’s not April. It’s August 3rd.”

“This can’t be happening!!!!”

And then I proceeded to lose my shit.

“I haven’t sent out formal invitations! HOW are people going to know about the wedding and get here by tomorrow!?”

Then my lovely Mom appears.  “Don’t worry, honey. Your true friends and family will be there.” (Which is funny, cause my mom would probably say something nice and encouraging like this during a crisis.)

“But the girls don’t have bridesmaid dresses yet! They’re still on order!”

“I’m sure they all have a dress they could wear. It’s no big deal.”

“WHAAAAT?? How can you think it’s no big deal?”

We get in the car and drive to the venue to go over “last minute details.” Shelburne Museum had turned into a ski resort and it’s snowing (in August).

We meet with Bruce. “So, this is where the ceremony will be,” he says, pointing to a ski lodge with blizzard-like conditions.

I again protested and assured him I would never choose to get married in front of a ski lodge.

“Sorry,” he says. “It’s the only area available tomorrow. And that’s the area you specified in your paper work.”

More tears.

I did have a dress. For some ungodly reason, the gown was the only detail I had remembered to take care of. And I’m pretty sure it was the Bjork Swan dress.

Everything else was wrong. We had no flowers, no music, no photographer. It was the worst, most unorganized fiasco of all time.

Luckily, I woke up before the ceremony began.

Shitty Customer Service and Other Wedding Nightmares

I’d like to take a moment to discuss customer service, or more specifically, the LACK of it.

Here’s the bottom line: People don’t give a shit anymore. Any maybe they never did before, but at least they were good at faking it.

Horrendous customer service can be found in every facet of our society.  From shitty waiters at restaurants who sigh and groan when you ask for clean silver-wear, to the clerks at convenient and grocery stores who can’t even be bothered to utter to the words “thank you” when your transaction is complete. Fuck, I’m even blown away now when someone tells me to “have a nice day.”

Where I’ve seen the worst customer service has been in wedding planning. For some strange reason, florists have become my arch enemies and my new goal in life is to find one that doesn’t suck.

My friends Dan and Liz used Price Chopper for their wedding flowers. I know what you’re thinking, Price Chopper? Yeah, I’ll admit, I was hesitant, too. But after seeing their gorgeous bouquets, corsages, and boutineers, I was impressed and said I’d give them a shot. I booked an appointment to go over some flower ideas.

On January 20th, Liz, my mom, and I went to Price Chopper for the consultation. They sat us at this awkward square card table in the middle of the floral department. Ingrid, our consultant, was an absolute airhead who talked in a high-pitched voice and was definitely on some meds, or should be. She spent the majority of our hour asking us question after question about the wedding. At first the questions were pertinent like Where is the wedding? How many bridesmaids do you have? How many groomsmen? Etc, etc. But then she wanted details that really didn’t seem floral related at all, like What type of material will the girls be wearing? How long are the dresses? Where did they get their dresses from? What about mom? What about Dad? Do you have a flower girl? And what is her name? Ingrid frantically took notes and occasionally muttered “Mmm hmm” or “lovely.” Although I found it strange, I thought it was a good sign and meant she was paying attention.

Then we finally got down to the task at hand – FLOWERS.

Call me crazy, but you would think a florist who specializes in all types of flowers and arrangements might have a book or some photos of their work. NOPE! Ingrid had nothing of the sort. Thankfully I had ripped out some photos from magazines. I told her what I wanted, in the colors I wanted, and she told me she was going to check with her buyer on my request, type up an estimate and get back to me soon.

A month goes by and I hear nothing from Ingy.

I decide to call her up, my patience thinning, and time also running out. I ask for the floral manager. Here’s how the conversation goes:

“Hellloooooo, this is Ingrid,” unmistakable, ditzy voice.

“Hi, Ingrid, this is Amy. I came in over a month ago for a wedding consult and still haven’t gotten an estimate from you.”

Flustered she says, “Oh, well, oh I am terribly sorry. I just—I  don’t—My apologies. We have just been so busy with Valentine’s Day and all and I… What did you say your last name was?”

“Lafayette.”

“Oh, huh. I don’t remember you. Are you sure you met with me?”

“Yes, I met with you. It was me, my mom, my friend Liz who also had her flowers done by you last summer…?”

“Nothing is ringing a bell. Are you sure you didn’t work with Christina?”

“YEAH, I’m sure,” I say, super bitchy. “Can you look me up in your system or something?”

“Yes, one moment…OH, Amy, yes, here you are. Looks like your wedding is in April, correct?”

Jesus Christ! You took down every goddamn detail down to the type of underwear I’ll be wearing but you get the date—the most important detail –wrong?

“No, that’s not correct,” I say. “Our wedding is in August.”

“Oh, well you still have plenty of time then! Like I said, we have just been soooo busy with Valentine’s Day and all, but now that’s behind us, we can move forward.”

“I understand that Valentine’s Day is a busy holiday, but I guess I didn’t anticipate having to wait a month for an estimate. Is it ready?”

“No, I’m afraid it’s not. Again, I am terrrribly sorry. I will get it out to you as soon as possible.”

Which apparently means two and half weeks later.

I finally get the estimate in the mail, and what is the first thing I notice? She’s written a note on the top of it that says, Dear Tracy, sorry this took so long. Here is your estimate. We look forward to hearing from you soon.  Dear Tracy? Lady, are you out of your fucking mind? Sure enough, the enclosed estimate has my address block with my correct name and address, and then again says Dear Tracy. Attention to detail is not her strong suit. Don’t even get me started on the fact that the entire thing was written in PAPYRUS.

So YEAH. After that awful experience I decide I need a new florist. My friend Matthew tells me he knows a great person at Shaw’s. Cool! He puts me in touch with her and we start texting about ideas.

Which brings us to today.

Last week, feeling stressed about wedding planning, I decided to take today off to tackle wedding stuff. First up, an appointment at Shaw’s to get those pesky flowers figured out! Jenny, Matthew’s friend, tells me any time after 1pm is good for her. Great!

My mom and I go out to lunch and then head over to Shaw’s around 1:15pm. The floral department looks like a tornado struck, with cardboard boxes and flowers all over the place. There’s no one there and there’s a sign that says “For floral needs, please ask a Produce Employee.” I find someone and ask if Jenny is around. He says he’ll send her right over.

Jenny walks over and I introduce myself, eager to get started.

“Oh,” she says, with a bad look on her face. “I guess you didn’t get my text?”

Text? What text? I look at my phone and the last one I have from her is one confirming today’s appointment.

“No…,” I say, not understanding.

“Well, things are just really busy here today because of Easter, and I’m the only person in Produce right now, and I just can’t meet with you today. I’m sorry.”

“Oh,” I say, letting the information sink in. “Jenny, I took today off from work specifically to meet with you and get some of this stuff figured out.”

“I’m sorry,” she says again. “I really wanted to meet with you.” That’s nice.

“Well, what if we came back later on. Do you think it would be less busy then?” I say, trying.

“Um…I don’t know…I don’t think so. Today is just not a good day.”

“OK, what about the weekend?”

“Well, normally I am around on the weekends but this weekend is my birthday, so…” Oh, of course. Your birthday. Wouldn’t want to make you work during that time.

“All right.”

“Besides, I haven’t even heard back from the buyer yet about your flowers. He told me we can get peonies no problem for your shower in June, but probably not for your wedding, and that’s all I’ve heard.” Sweet, so not only are you blowing me off, you’ve now just revealed the month of the shower.

“Well…” I say, not really sure what to do. I turn to my mom and say “Let’s get going.”

Pretty sure this was hanging behind Jenny

A couple things about the whole conversation: Number 1 – if you have to cancel an appointment like that, at least have the goddamn decency to do so over the phone! I am not convinced she even really sent me a text message. Number 2 – If someone makes an appointment & takes the DAY OFF FROM WORK, make it work. Find someone in another department to cover for you, for even 15 minutes.

You know what it all comes down to? My point earlier – people just don’t give a shit anymore. It didn’t matter that I took today off from work, or that we had a scheduled appointment, or any of it. Ingrid and Jenny have no vested interest in my wedding or me. They are just cogs in the retail machine. They work their 30-40 hours a week, do their job OK enough to not get fired, and receive their slightly more than minimum wage salary. And who can expect them to do anything more?

Well, actually I can and here’s why. I worked in customer service for years — as a sales associate, a cashier, and a waitress –and always, always  did my best to help. I can’t tell you how many times I dug through cartons of CDs in our backroom, searching for the final copy of whatever hit album a mom wanted to buy her teen at Christmas when our computer indicated we had “1” in stock. Or how many times at the restaurant I searched frantically for birthday candles to add to a slice of cake, even though I had a room full of other customers to tend to, just so I could make someone’s night.

The thing is, I’m not asking Ingrid or Jenny, or anyone for matter to find a CD in a haystack, or sing me Happy Birthday. I just want some goddamn flowers for my goddamn wedding. And I don’t think it should be this much trouble.

Float Fanatics: The Magic Hat Mardi Gras Parade

The Magic Hat Mardi Gras Parade is to me what Christmas is to a small child:

  • Exciting
  • Highly anticipated
  • And when it’s over, depression sets in

[I could also add a bullet or two here about drunk people, shouting, and the police—but hey, that’s just my family.]

For the past several years, my organization has had a float in the Mardi Gras Parade here in Burlington, Vermont. Being in the parade is the most fun I’ve ever had. Nothing compares with the thrill of cruising down the main street of your hometown in a ridiculous, tricked-out-trailer, while wearing even more ridiculous, over-the-top costumes, with 25,000 people cheering you on.  I love to watch the crowd smile as they discover each approaching float and I’m always blown away by the sheer amount of joy a fifty cent strand of beads can bring to people’s faces. The invisible (but giant) middle finger we’re all giving Old Man Winter also makes Mardi Gras pretty special.

Amber LeMay sharing her beads at The 15th annual Mardi Gras Parade! A wild day downtown, presented by Magic Hat. Church St., Burlington. Saturday, February 27, 2010. (BEN SARLE/Free Press)

Like all good things, this epic parade time is short-lived. Each float may get about 20-30 seconds in front of each person for a total of 20-30 minutes in the parade. So when you’ve passed the last parade goer, and thrown your last moonpie, it’s common to look at your fellow float riders and say, “Is that it?!”

Erika and I in the Magic Hat Mardi Gras Parade last year

But building…ah, that’s a different story, my friends. It literally takes weeks to plan and execute a Mardi Gras float. The ratio of work time to parade time is so disproportionate that most people would call us “crazy” if they ever found out we gave up all Saturdays in the month of February for the 30 minutes of parade glory.  I like to use the word “dedicated.” There’s a huge sense of pride associated with each float because we give it our all, including our blood, sweat, and tears. Emphasis on the word blood.

Our first float build day this year started off with a phone call informing me, “Rob chopped off his thumb and we’re at the ER!”

We hadn’t even pulled out the power tools yet, and people were already losing limbs. In this case, poor Rob had gotten into a fight with a propane heater, and I’m sad to report the fan blade won. But like the trooper he is, I heard him scream in the background “I didn’t chop it off…I just lost some of it. Hang tight and I’ll be back in an hour.”

True to form, he was back in an hour. He looked slightly pale from all the blood loss and had a perpetual thumbs-up from the bandage, but he was ready! The Mardi Gras Parade is a big deal with my crew and nothing was going to stop him from getting our float ready – not even half of his opposable thumb.

Good to go!

We’re just about ready for the big day. The soundtrack is being finalized, the costumes are picked out, and we’re adding some final touches to the float. Basically, we’re ready to rock this city (pssst…that’s a giant hint of our float theme)!

I hope you’ll come out and support the local businesses who are participating, especially HopeWorks, who benefits from the event. And this year, cheer a little louder for every one. You never know what people sacrificed to bring YOU the greatest floats of all time. Cheers!