Friday, October 28, 2011

Amazon Vine™- What's it All About?

The Amazon Vine™ program is an exclusive club of influential Amazon voices.

You must be invited to join the program, as I was via e-mail several months ago.
When I received my e-mail invite, I was very happy to accept. After all, I do love to give my opinion on everything to anyone who will listen (and even some who will not).

When I read it was invite-only, I felt like I was being invited to join an exclusive club. I mean, me? Asked to join a group of elite reviewers for Amazon? How flattering!

Basically here is the jist of it:

Amazon Vine™ invites people they feel are the most trusted reviewers (again, I'm flattered) to post their opinions about new and upcoming items to help customers make better decisions on their purchases.

Amazon invites go out to people based on their "reviewer rank".
"Reviewer Rankings" are how your Amazon reviews are judged by other customers. So when you see the "was this review helpful?" question and you check "yes" or "no", this really means something to Amazon.

Amazon provides Vine members with free products that have been submitted to the program by participating vendors. The products are supplied by publishers, labels, studios, manufacturers or any vendor participating in the program and are 100% free to Vine Voices.

Amazon Vine™ reviews are the opinions of the "Vine Voices" (what members are called). You have no contact with the vendor and Amazon cannot edit your Vine reviews, as long as they comply with posting guidelines.

Amazon Vine™ reviews are always identified with the green stripe that says "Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program", so everyone can tell the review came from a Vine Voice.

You are expected to give your honest opinion on the products you review, even if there are things you dislike. You should treat it as any other review. We don't always like everything we try, but I do try to find as many positive attributes as I can to include.

So how does it work?

The initial Amazon Vine newsletter comes out the third Thursday of every month. Products are limited in this edition and on a first come, first serve basis. You are allowed to pick two items of your choice from this list.

The second newsletter comes out the forth Thursday of the month and features all available inventory from the past two newsletters.

You can pick 2 more products that interest you from this list, but you don't have to> I have at times not picked anything just because I didn't see anything I liked. i don't take things just because they are free (even though it IS tempting).

There is no deadline for reviews, but you are required to write a review for 75% of the items in your account before you can request any other products. I feel it's always good to post your reviews as soon as possible, so when the next newsletter comes around, you know you can pick another two items.

So far I have reviewed everything from Post-It notes, to books, to cookies, to a Sonicare toothbrush! I always seem to miss out on the high-end items, like the treadmill and the refrigerator (I kid you not-it was in this week's newsletter, but was already gone)

I really do enjoy this little "exclusive club" and I wish I had a way of inviting others to join me.
If They every decide to open the program up, I will be sure to let everyone know.

I hope you enjoyed this "tutorial" and be on the lookout for my Amazon Vine reviews, as I do often post them here, as well as on Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

E Van Lowe Has Another Challenge for YOU

I am hear to tell you two things.
First, it's Tuesday (well you probably already know THAT) but Tuesday means another Tuesday Trivia challenge over at E Van Lowe's Blog,
which you will find here:
It's Halloween related, and I found it very easy. See if you do as well.

The prize this week is a bit different. Instead of an amazon gift card, E is giving away a copy of his book, Never Slow Dance With A Zombie. Oh yeah, and it's AUTOGRAPHED. Cool, huh? I haven't read it yet, but I want to. I loved Boyfriend From Hell. (another of his books that you need to check out.
The second thing I want to tell you is that E's writing alter ego, Sal Conte (author of the Horror novel, Child's Play) has his latest book out for Kindle or Nook. It's called The Toothache Man, and I just bought it for 99 cents! Yes, 99 cents. So check it out. Here is the link for amazon kindle.

Now head to the blog, so you can play in the trivia challenge and maybe win an autographed book. (if I don't first!)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

30 Years of PMS : or as I like to call it "ENOUGH ALREADY!"

If you don't want to read about female reproduction issues, menstrual cycles, PMS, or sex, then I suggest you stop right here.

OK, So I guess the topic doesn't disgust you. Or you are staying for the sex part. Well, we'll get to that later.

I remember getting my very first period as if it happened yesterday. Very vividly. I had been well informed on what to expect. I had my mom to give me information, be it not much, but still it was given. I attended the mandatory school "girls only" meeting with our mothers and the school nurse (personally, I thought it was cool we got to hang out and eat popcorn while we watched a very outdated movie about "becoming a woman"), and most importantly, I had already read Judy Blume's book,  ARE YOU THERE, GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET. More than once.
But even with all the preparation, when the day came (actually, it was more of an early evening after dinner), I wasn't even sure it WAS my period. I was 11 years old and sitting on the toilet. I saw some brownish stuff on my panties. I sadly admit, I really thought I didn't up sufficiently after my last bathroom visit. Oh, come on! You KNOW what I am taking about - don't make me spell it out. So I didn't really give it much thought. In fact, after several hours of continuing to check every time I peed that night and wiping my ass till it was probably raw, I finally called my mother over to the bathroom for advice. Now we had a decent, but small home  (what they call a Cape Cod style) with one bathroom, centrally located in the middle of the house, bedrooms to the right, kitchen to the left, so not exactly very private. The bathroom, itself was so small, there was no room to really accommodate a other person, and I  could open the door from the toilet and yell out for my mom. At that time, her hearing was much better and she was also much more concerned when one of her 3 children called out for anything. These days, if I was on fire and called, if I was lucky enough for her to hear me, I would probably be met with a heavily sighed "what ?? But I move on.
My mother came over to the bathroom door and I quietly whispered : I have this brown stuff on my underwear. I keep wiping and wiping, but it doesn't go away" . I proceeded to show her my soiled panties, to which  her response was something to the effect of " oh, that's not poop! You probably are getting your PERIOD! I'll get you a pad". Now back then the maxi pads they sold were aptly named. They were HUGE! There was no thin pads, no wings. Just really thick pads that made you feel like you were wearing a mini mattress between your legs.Of course, there were tampons, but those were not for "beginners" and since my mother didn't use them herself, we didn't have any on hand anyway.
Now I have hear stories about girls getting their first period. Some families celebrate it. I have even heard of some mother's smacking their daughters.( I know-way to scar your kid for life!) In my house? There was a call to my grandmother who lived behind us. My mother made me get on the phone and tell her. Then she told my dad. That was it. No celebration, no smack (thank GOD). Just showing me where she kept the pads and life went on as normal. For everyone else, that is.
 At that time, none of my close friends had their period yet, at least to my knowledge)so I had nobody to talk to. Nobody in my school wanted to admit to being the first to get their period. I have no idea why, but that was the way it was.
After a few months it began. The dreaded cramps.It was pure agony. The only was I can describe it (and I still do to this day) is to say it must be what Lance Hendrickson's character felt right before that alien came bursting out of his stomach in Alien.
Of course, I explained my plight to my mother, who had no sympathy for me. She thought I was exaggerating. She thought I was a hypochondriac who just wanted an excuse to skip school.
Finally, at one point we made an appointment for the doctor. He said that yes, some young girls can experience severe cramps and he would prescribe something for the pain.
When my mom got the prescription filled, the pharmacist said. "Oh, how old is the person taking these?" My mother replied "they are for my 11 year old daughter. She has very bad menstrual cramps". The pharmacist said "these are a strong muscle relaxant". He warned I should be careful because these pills really were heavy duty stuff. They gave them to football players for sports injuries. I should only take one as directed, and only if I really needed it. Now I thought I was getting some really heavy duty drugs. I couldn't wait to try them out to see if they would help (and possibly give me a small high of some sort). I took these "strong muscle relaxants" for several years, even telling my friends (after we all had our periods and it was OK to discuss it now) what I was taking.  What were these miraculous pills that I am countless NFL pros took for our crippling pain? Get ready....ANAPROX (Naproxen Sodium). Now sold OTC as ALEVE. Yup, I was taking an NSAID pain reliever. I thought I was taking the equivalent of morphine. Ha. the joke was on me. The funny part is , they didn't really do anything for my cramps.In fact, they still don't.  I just kept getting them refilled because I thought it was cool that I was taking heavy drugs and my parents allowed it. The cramps went on. I missed a lot of school because of them. It went on all through high school. My mother confided that as a girl she too, had very bad cramps and it must be hereditary. (yeah, NOW she cared) She did tell me that after having children, her cramps were not as bad. Gee, something to look forward to.
As  got older, I was able to talk to other women I encountered who had similar problems. When I was 19, I was working at as store in the mall. One of my assistant managers who was in her early 20's said  to me one day as I complained about my agony ( Why don't you just go on the pill?" Well, nobody had ever offered up that idea before. I told her I didn't know it would help. She said she did and her cramps got so much better. So I decided that was what I would do. I actually didn't have a gynecologist yet. my parents were living in Florida, so I couldn't go to my mom's. I ended up calling Planned Parenthood because everyone said they were inexpensive and went by your income.I got my prescription and started my 22 year relationship with oral contraceptives. Now if nothing else, they did regulate my periods and make them lighter, but they only slightly decreased my cramping, to say nothing about the PMS I experienced. No pill was going to cure me of the bitchiness that came 1-2 week prior to my period each month. Not to forget the craving for large amounts of food. There was no satisfying my hunger. I would eat and hours later feel like I had fasted for days. Till this day, I still need my monthly Hershey bar with almonds one week a month. Or I might commit murder.
The years went by and the cramps kept on coming. There were no pregnancies, so I didn't get that "relief" my mother promised after having kids. I even was told by my gynecologist that my "body would change"as I got older and the cramps would subside. My twenties ended and I thought that maybe in my thirties, my body would change.I even decided to try going off the pill for a while. Just to see. No change.I ended up going back on them anyway because now they weren't just to stop cramps. I was single and didn't want to get pregnant by some guy I ended up sleeping with and  have a baby on my own. (see, I told you there would be mention of sex, I just didn't say how much).

So now we move forward to present day. I am 43 years old now. I have been dealing with this for over 30 years. I still have the cramps. I still feel every month like the alien is going to burst from my uterus and run across the room. The difference is this time, I take something stronger.
But really,what IS the deal with these cramps. I have realized that at this point in my life, I will probably not be giving birth to any children anytime soon,if at all.  So why do I have to suffer month after month. Cramps, food cravings, backaches, moodiness. I get it all. Am I am sick of it. Now don't get me wrong-I am not in an hurry for menopause and a whole new set of feminine problems, but really, don't you think it's about time the PMS ended? Shouldn't the suffering be saved for those woman who actually USE their reproductive organs? Sure my periods aren't very long, and the actual "period" itself doesn't last more than 3 or for days, but the PMS is unbearable still. I feel like I just get over it and it starts again.And now its worse because I SHOW signs of it. Dark circles under my eyes, bloating that makes my skin feel to tight., crankiness that makes me want to choke the nearest person.  It feels like it will never end.
Now excuse me, while I go find a Hershey's bar.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Third Time IS the Charm

Today was quite a hectic day. Although it was a day I did not have to actually go to the office and work, I did have to work from home. Phone calls needed to be made and patient charts needed to be organized and ready for tomorrow. Aside from that, I also had laundry to do and e-mails to catch up with. I have spent most of today sitting at my desk, getting up just to use the bathroom, check my laundry or prepare dinner.

So, considering I was a bit tied up, when the UPS man arrived at my door, I took a few minutes to thank him and see what "present" I had received. I opened up the mailer to find a book. Not a book I had ordered, but a book written by an author I did recognize. My first thoughts were "I won a contest-yay!". Then I flipped through the book for any clue as to what contest this was and what blog or website I won it from.

 Upon further inspection, there was no note from a publisher or author congratulating me on this "win". No personalized inscription: "To Lisa, Thanks for reading! (author's signature)".
At this point I decided to look at the return address to see just where or who this book was sent from. The return address was also one I recognized. It was a New Hampshire address for a fulfillment center used by for their trade-in program.

 Now for those who don't know,  Amazon has a great program where you can take your gently used books, DVDs, or certain electronic devices and "trade" them in for amazon gift cards. Amazon pays the postage, you print a mailing label from your computer and either drop it at the post office or UPS center.If the item does not meet the criteria for trade-in, if you wish, Amazon will gladly return your item to you at no cost.  It's a great program and I have earned a fair amount of gift cards myself, that I have in turn used to buy more books, DVDs and electronic devices.

Now even though I did recognize the author of this particular book, I did know I did not submit it for trade-in. I again flipped through the book and found a trade-in slip that was sent with the book.
The trade-in slip did not have my name on it, but the name and address of another woman, who happens to live in Illinois. Not quite around the corner from me.
So at this point, I realized what had happened. This woman submitted her book, it did not meet the trade-in criteria (although I have to say I don't know why because I thought it was a brand new book) and Amazon was simply fulfilling her request to have the book returned. Only problem was they didn't return it to her, but somehow to ME. But I had her name, address and the transaction ID # right in my hand, so it was obvious what needed to be done. I had to call Amazon customer service and explain the situation, have them send me a prepaid label to attach to the book and send it off to the proper recipient, right? Right? Riiiiight.

Well, in theory, it all seemed easy. I have called Amazon customer service before, and have always had a pleasant experience. I mean, you enter your phone number and THEY call YOU. Right away. I have NEVER had such easy customer service experiences with anyone else in my lifetime.

So I logged into Amazon, pulled up customer service, enter my phone number and waited for my call. In less than a minute, my phone rang and yes, it was an Amazon customer service representative, who was more than happy to help me. Or so I thought.

I explained to the rep my situation and he asked to put me on hold. Of course I would wait. No problem! And then he came back and asked me what my account number was. I explained he would not find any reference for this transaction in my account because it was not MY transaction (and I actually did check myself before calling just to see if there was any sign of an obvious error). I told him I would be happy to give him the transaction number and even the name of the other customer. He said that would be fine. After I gave gave him the number, he then politely asked me to give him the transaction number. Um, I just did. "OK, do you want it again?" I asked. "yes", he replied. I repeated it for him. He asked to put me on hold (again) and I said "sure" (again).
After remaining on hold slightly longer than the first time, I looked at the clock and realized this quite gesture of courtesy I was making was looking like it was not going to be as easy as I thought.
Now I know most people probably would have thought to themselves. "Hey, it's not my problem. Why bother, and also FREE BOOK". I however, put myself in the place of that nice (I assumed)woman in Illinois, who will get an e-mail explaining how her book did not meet their criteria and it would be returned to her. Then she would wait. And wait. and wait. Until finally calling customer service herself, asking where her book is. So, I thought a few more minutes wouldn't hurt me. Plus I could order that Mocha Loca Lactic Acid peel I love from Sircuit Skinceuticals while I was on hold. (but that's a whole separate blog post in  itself).
So after a few more minutes, my friend the rep, returned to inform me there was no information on that transaction. Oh, that's odd. But I do have the UPS tracking number while I didn't know if it would help, it certainly could not hurt, right? Right? Riiiiight.
I began reading it off to him and was disconnected. Yay.
OK, so, now most people would probably say it really wasn't worth the trouble to bother with it anymore and hey, why not just keep the book and get back to what I was doing? Oh, but not Lisa. No, I had to go and still be thinking of that lovely (I assumed)woman in Illinois.So I resubmitted my phone number and waited-ring-wow, that was fast!
The next amazon customer service rep I was greeted with was a nice girl who ,of course, asked for my name and how should could help me today. I repeated all my info, this time, explaining that the first rep couldn't find any info on the transaction but I was about to give him the UPS tracking number when we got cut off. She asked me for the transaction number again. I obliged and she put me on hold. When she returned, she informed me that (guess what?) yup-she couldn't find any info on that transaction number. SURPRISE!
Then she asked me for the woman in Illinois' e-mail address. I (politely, I SWEAR) explained that I did not know this woman and certainly did not have her e-mail address. I did, however, have her name and address and would be happy to give THAT info to her. She then asked me if I could be put on hold. I said "sure". AGAIN. This time, holding took even longer than the first time and I began to browse the book, itself. The book turns out is a little erotic novel that by page three had me thinking I really may want to keep the book (at least until I could finish it).
When the rep came back on the line, she told me she had good news! (yay) I could mail back the book and they would be happy to credit the woman for the book. (good for her). "OK, I said.Can you send me a postage label for it?" After a brief moment of silence she said "No. Because this was a trade-in item" .      Um, yeah. I said ( Politely, I SWEAR) "well, that is how the trade-in program works. Amazon covers the postage. This woman didn't pay postage to submit her book, she didn't pay to have it returned and surely you don't expect ME to pay to ship it back, do you? Especially considering it has absolutely NOTHING to do with me and I could have just kept the book and kept my mouth shut- huh, DO YOU??". (yeah, this is where the politeness started to wear off). I was met with what I only imagined was a girl with a dropped jaw on the other end of the line and dead silence. After a few seconds,I said "you know what? I think I will just keep the book. This is not even my problem and I have better things to do than waste my time when I am getting absolutely no where, thank you." and I hung up.

Now, even more frustrated than I was before and having lost all sense of politeness, I decide to try one more time. (Yes, I must have also lost my mind). I again entered my phone number and-ring- picked up the phone. When the nice (I assumed) man on the other end asked for my name,I not only gave it to him, but I explained that this was my third (and final) attempt to resolve a conflict that was not even my conflict to begin with. I explained (once again back to politeness, I SWEAR) what had happened. I explained how neither of the earlier bozos  reps was able to find any information about this transaction from the number or name of the other  victim  customer. I told him how I know most people would not even bother to go through the effort to call once, let alone three times about this. I told him I was a bit (OK, very) frustrated and could he PLEASE just tell me what I should do with the book? He actually did turn out to be very understanding and explained that he was going to do his best to see what we could do. He told me he would possibly have to place me on hold at some point and was I OK with that? I said yes, and I again gave him all the information I possibly could about the sweet ( I assumed) woman in Illinois. He then said he was not going to bother checking the transaction number if the 2 other bozos  reps didn't have any success with it. After a few moments, he did have to put me on hold, for a while. He came back at one point to ask if I was "still with him" and apologize for the delay.
I then decided now that I spent money on that Lactic Acid Peel, I deserved it and should not feel guilty about spending the money. I also decided it was time to start preparing dinner. What can I say? I'm a great multitasker.
My new friend did come back and this time he DID have good news. He again apologized to me for all the trouble I had to endure and even for a problem that didn't really have anything to do with me. He said people like me are rare and hard to come by (I SWEAR HE SAID THAT). He said that I would be happy to know that they were able to locate the information on the other victim  customer and that because the value of the trade-in wasn't actually worth bothering with more postage, they were going to go ahead and just give the other customer the Gift Card after all and I could just donate or throw away (or keep) the book.
I said how nice that was of them to credit the beautiful (I assumed) woman in Illinois and I was glad a solution was reached. He also told me because of my trouble kind gesture he was going to give me a promotional credit of $10.00 to my amazon account. I thanked him and really started to feel bad about all the mean things I was thinking about the 2 previous bozos reps I had dealt with. I also felt really glad I had gone to all the trouble effort to do this because not only was I being rewarded, but the gifted (I assumed) woman in Illinois was now going to get the gift card instead of having her book returned. I not only benefited myself, but I helped a person out. If it were not for me, she wouldn't be getting that gift card. I am a hero! I felt the whole entire thing was worth it after all because it ended in a win-win situation (even for rep # 3 because I gave him a glowing report of my experience of him handling the situation in the survey I took after).
So my lesson for the day is: when you think that something is not worth your time and trouble  effort because it doesn't directly affect you, stop and take a moment to ask yourself-will it REALLY be that much trouble? Will it REALLY put me out that much? Because it just may not and you just may feel good about it all afterwards.
Happy Reading!