Monday, March 6, 2017

Momentum

Small minded people from their small, small towns
Are led like lost sheep, mouths closed, heads down.
The stories they are told are tried and true,
Used to control and spin the truth.
From generation to generation, tales passed on
Don’t ask and don’t tell, the ultimate con.
In secret they wonder what they would find on their own
Yet, they are always redirected and led back home.
There’s only one way out when you live in a bubble
It might cause controversy and trouble, trouble, trouble.
When you question the machine and powers that be,
You risk shaking leaves off the family tree.
It is easier to stay with what you know,
Than to go on your own and buck status quo.
There is much to be seen beyond, should you choose
But only if you are prepared to have and to lose.
The world is a-changing, never to stop
For the Earth is like a giant spinning top.
Progress is good, for the soul, for the mind
Let life in, don’t get left behind.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

How I Got Southwest Airlines To Pay For Luggage Damage

On a recent trip to New Orleans, Southwest Airlines (SWA) destroyed my luggage. Prior to that, SWA has a great track record with me and my traveling companions. (Side note: their priority boarding is totally worth the extra $$.)

On this particular trip, I discovered a HUGE crack down nearly the entire length of my hardside suitcase. I did a quick search on the SWA website from my phone to find out their policy for reporting damage. What I found was you have 4 hours to report the damage in person at the baggage claim office. I did just that. The “service” from the baggage claim office was anything but that.


The first rep told me they couldn’t help me because they no longer pay for damage to your luggage. I asked for a supervisor (a second opinion of sorts) just to see if I could get a different answer and have another set of eyes look at my broken valise. She essentially confirmed that they were not going to help me and told me “it was going to break anyway, it was just  a matter of when.”

Despite my urging them to put something – anything – into their system as proof of me following their policy, they wouldn’t and ushered me out the door. Thanks for flying Southwest, eh? Hmm….so I decided to get on Twitter.  I posted pics and further provided time-stamped proof of my visit and my complaint.

It’s broken bad, almost like it got pinched or nearly bent in half making its way to my destination. I literally thought that my underwear was going to come flying out of the bag any moment. So, after holding up my party for nearly 30 minutes, we Ubered to the hotel and got settled in. Being proactive for the trip home, I walked all over NOLA trying to find something to hold my suitcase together on the plane. It was too big for me to carry-on, so once again, I would be at the mercy of SWA baggage handlers.

I finally found some duct tape and put Humpty Dumpty back together again.


When I got back home, I downloaded their claim form, filled it out complete with pics and receipts and sent it off to them hoping that someone would see this was clearly their fault and offer to replace it.

That’s not what happened.

I promptly got a denial letter back stating that since I didn’t report the damage within 4 hours to the baggage claim office that they “cannot accept liability for property that has been out of our care and custody for 11 days prior to reporting damage.” Well, that made my head hot! So, I decided to dig a little deeper into my research. I hit up GOOGLE and tried to find blog posts or message boards with stories of anyone who’d had success getting reimbursed for property damage. I found nothing but stories of the horrors of dealing with uncaring airline personnel – until I found this.

There was a notice sent out to the airlines from the US Department of Transportation (Office of the Secretary) around December 2015. The actual document can be found here: https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/notice-baggage-guidance-112415
The notice, in so many words, is a warning to airlines to revise their policies regarding damage to consumers checked baggage. It states that in many instances “carriers often post signs indicating they categorically refuse to compensate passengers” for damage and “also discouraged or refused to accept reports of such damage.” Finally, I found something that I could use to my advantage. And I did.

I printed out the notice and attached it with my rebuttal to my denial letter. I also decided to locate the organizational chart for SWA and CC some of the powers-that-be on my rebuttal just to make sure my voice was heard. For your entertainment, I’ve copied/pasted the letter below.  

This letter is in response to your reply regarding my recent luggage damage claim.

To your point of denying my claim based on the fact that you say I didn’t report it within the specified timeline:

I did, in fact, go to the Southwest baggage claim office at MSY airport immediately after getting my luggage from the carousel and seeing the damage. After a quick Google search, I read that the policy was to report that damage within four hours of the flight and I did just that. Unfortunately, the two claims employees there would not produce any sort of paperwork or input anything on my behalf into the computer system to log my visit, despite my urging. They said there was “nothing they could do for me” and to “have a good day” as they ushered me out of the office leaving me bewildered and disappointed. In my attempt to file my claim, I held up my travel party for more than 30 minutes. So, I also have a handful of other people willing to support my statements. Also, I encourage you to look at the video footage to verify my visit there. You’ve already got the flight info and times, as I listed that on my claim. If you need a photo of me for comparison, please do not hesitate to ask.

I have attached, for your reference, the NOTICE REGARDING DAMAGE TO CHECKED BAGGAGE issued by the United States of America Department of Transportation from the Office of the Secretary, Washington DC and highlighted the responsibilities laid forth by the Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings regarding damage to luggage and the fact that Carriers and their agents’ refusals to accept damage reports by passengers. It also says that carriers should be prepared to reimburse the passenger appropriately. I know my rights and will pursue those rights to the fullest.

FYI - I had just purchased that suitcase only months before, and was traveling with it for the first time. On its maiden voyage, your airlines destroyed it – on my outgoing trip. I not only had to suffer the loss of my new luggage, I also had to run all over New Orleans trying to find something to just might hold it together long enough to get back home. The suitcase can never travel again, as it is literally split in two on one side – jeopardizing the safe transport of all things enclosed.

I have used Southwest Airlines as my carrier of choice for over 20 years now and have been happy with the airline and level of service. This was the annual “girl’s trip” to New Orleans that we’ve done now for 15 years. My entire group of friends has used Southwest for years and collectively, we have spent thousands of dollars traveling with your company.

You see, Southwest Airlines is supposed to be different from those other guys. You even have a heart as part of your logo, indicative of the love and care you have for your passengers. I have entrusted you with not only my life and the lives of my family, but also with all of our belongings. But now, you have lost my trust. You have said to me that you will take no responsibility for damaging my property. In the real world, if you break it, you buy it. So if you don’t mind, I’d like to mail you my broken suitcase so it can be a constant reminder of your failure as an airline, and your failure to do right by your travel guests. 

As an alternate choice, I know from the news that Southwest just had a record year and awarded its employees handsomely ($586 million dollars in profit sharing!), someone could pay replace my luggage with part of their bonus. Just a thought. I guess that might be how the airline is so profitable – by not paying for claims related to their negligence.

I have a choice when it comes to who I use for air transportation. And, if this request goes south and doesn’t provide the outcome that is right and just, I will have no choice but to give my hard earned money to another airline. It is not okay for you to destroy something and then take absolutely no responsibility for it.

As you read this, please know that I’ve CC’d some key players in your organization as well as provided them with your information. I apologize in advance if you are contacted regarding this issue, but it feels like the right course of action. I hope your decision will be adjusted and you will do the right thing as a company.

So, long story even longer, I finally got a call from a lady at SWA who apologized profusely for the way I’d been treated and the way my claim was handled. She offered to reimburse me for the luggage and I accepted.  I told her that all I ever wanted was to be heard and to be valued as a passenger.

Don’t let up on an airline if you truly feel that they should be liable for the damage. I’ll admit, my suitcase didn’t cost a great deal of money. It wasn’t really about the money. It was principle. I was denied twice, but I persevered. Make sure you follow their posted procedures, take photos and get on social media and timestamp your complaint. If you can record your interaction with any representatives, that would support your claim.

I know this was an especially long post by me, but I hope this helps anyone who may have to deal with a property damage claim due to mishandling or equipment. You have rights, believe it or not, and it’s about time we call out the airlines for it!

Peace out and travel on!


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

It's Time To Wake Up!

We shouldn’t be mad at our government. The voters put Trump in office, the voters put Republicans in charge of all three branches of government. Your brothers, sisters, parents, uncles, cousins, neighbors, friends, etc – they put Trump in office. So, now what? If we all keep saying the same things over and over and over, rest assured, we will get nowhere. We are going to have to change the narrative and learn to communicate with some common sense (which is clearly not all that common) and objectivity.

The majority of Americans are not pleased with the way things are going. The majority of Americans didn’t vote for Trump, despite his ridiculously unfounded claims of voter fraud. Let’s stop for a moment and think about this: he’s claiming 3-5 million people voted fraudulently. AT&T Stadium (where the Dallas Cowboys play) has a capacity of 100,000 people. You’ve seen it on TV. It’s MASSIVE! So, basically what Trump believes is that enough people to fill 30-50 AT&T Stadiums (to capacity) committed voter fraud. I don’t buy it. There’s no proof. When Jill Stein wanted to fund the recounts in certain states to look for voter irregularities, Republicans were ready for legal war, alleging that Stein was in bed with Clinton and there was nothing necessary to recount. According to them, it was a huge waste of money and time.

But now? Why is it important?  I’ll tell you why – because Trump cannot stand to lose – ANYTHING! He would rather spend taxpayer’s money investigating his ridiculous claim than focus on doing what’s best for our country – which is BRINGING US TOGETHER – as he promised, not furthering the divide. But if Trump is going to ban media because he doesn’t like what they say, enforce gag orders, etc., then we have much bigger problems to worry about. Where is the accountability? The only medium we’ve had in the White House all these years between the government and the people is the press.

All of these trivial things are likely a distraction from what’s really going on. Trump knows how people work. He knows how they think, he knows how to anger them, he knows how to lie again and again and get away with it. Keep your eyes open and quit arguing about the same things – those things are stealing your focus.

I believe that even the staunchest Trump supporter has their doubts about him right now. They’ll never admit it, but they are on edge. A whole set of working class people bought in and hoped for real change. Trump’s promises to bring back jobs and get rid of “business-as-usual” government offered hope. But now, we’re all left with this mess of a man who changes his opinions on the daily, who is stacking his cabinet with billionaires who will NEVER KNOW what it’s like to be us. Most have come from privilege and have never had to really get their hands dirty. And yet, ya’ll are okay with this? Nothing has changed, other than we have a wanna-be tyrant in office. His way or the highway. He gets satisfaction from being right. He needs the applause and fanfare to feel important. He chastises anyone who dare criticize him and throws around his legal money like candy. He threatens. He bullies. He lies. He’s a textbook narcissist. These are not opinions, these are facts. You can agree or not. I don’t care. I know what is real and what is cinema.

The real question is where do we go from here? Can we ever bring ourselves to have the hard conversations with those aforementioned people who voted for him? Can we find even the thinnest line of common ground? Like it or not, we NEED to find that common ground or we are screwed! All of this in-fighting and controversy will not bring us together. We cannot fight for this country if we are not one nation. Imagine that our deployed military troops wandered off and decided they didn’t want to fight anymore – they’d just sit around and watch everyone else fight and hope for the best. Isn’t that what we are doing as citizens essentially? The people in power count on those who couch sit and never get involved in government. They count on those people because those are the easily swayed, the easiest to control.

The government would get pretty worried if we all banded together and stood as one. But we all know that isn’t going to happen. We are a “let’s not get involved” society. The neighbor getting abused by her husband  - not our problem. The kids going hungry down the street - not our problem. Yet, all of those things should be our problem. We should be holding each other up and protecting our brothers and sisters. We should stand up for those who can’t stand on their own. We should be raising our voices to those who don’t have a voice. And our excitement and passion can shine through – not hatred, not negativity. Just love. Sincerity. Genuine care for humankind.

We can’t stand idly by and watch our country go down in flames. We can’t stand in silence while the rights of our friends and family get taken away. We can't just watch as millions of people lose healthcare or protections of coverage because they are fighting a disease or chronic illness. Well, maybe some can. But, I can’t. It’s not in my makeup to watch as others suffer or struggle. It’s not okay with me to see a man, backed by other powerful men, take advantage of the American people's trust. They’ll do the most damage when we are not looking; when we grow complacent. That is why we can’t get sidetracked by these trivial things that are dominating our social media circles. There’s a much more important story being told for our future. We must pay attention and search our souls. Then we must take action and do what’s right. Standing up for truth and justice is not an inconvenience for me. Is it for you? Will you care enough to bridge the divide and try to understand that we’re really not mad that Hillary lost? Would you try to understand that we just want someone in office who truly cares about us – all of us, equally? We want someone who can stand the rain, who can weather the storm. We need someone who is tough, but not critical or mean spirited; someone who is sincere and gives decisions that affects millions of people a great deal of thought. Not someone who just says, “Yeah, let’s do that” at another’s urging because they have no plan of their own. We need someone who cares about this planet who believes that every move we make now will undoubtedly affect our future generations. We need someone who really does want to bring us all together – people of all colors, all walks of life, each and every one.


We don’t currently have this person in office. And I don’t believe you can argue otherwise. It’s time to wake up. It’s time to see the truth. It’s time to come together. If we don’t try, soon it will be too late. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Cheerleader for Humanity

I'm trying really hard to write something every day. Actually, I write a lot more than I post here on my blog. I have so much I want to say about a number of things. Most of it's not that important, just things that are meant to be positive or inspiring in some way. 

I used to be in an all-girl band back in Texas. We had a great following! I was such a cheerleader that the girls once got me a t-shirt that said, "I'm just one big f@#!ing ray of sunshine!" I resembled that remark. I was never a cheerleader in school, but I suppose I am a cheerleader for humanity. 

I grew up in one of the most amazing places in the world. Some of you may disagree, but I value my upbringing in Eastern Kentucky. I was an only child. I had to be creative and I had to be strong. I didn't have siblings to fight with, bond with, share clothes with or to stick up for me if someone gave me a hard time at school. I was on my own. I invented games and acted out plays in my backyard. I sang for the mountains and wrote a new Grammy acceptance speech as often as I would remember someone else to thank.

Growing up in a place where family is everything and helping people is just a way of life helped shape the woman I am today. Most folks were hard-working, God-fearing, genuine people who just wanted to make a good life for their kids and their community. Out here in this big, crazy world in real-time, I don’t see very much of that anymore. I know it occurs in pockets, but as a whole I see a very self-absorbed and selfish society that can’t put down their phones long enough to have a face-to-face conversation. I’m guilty of that myself some days, but I’m trying to be more conscious of what I’m doing. I want to draw others in rather than push them away by being too wrapped up in whatever electronic device I’m holding at the time.

As an artist, I take on a lot of the world’s pain. I suppose it’s because I create music (which is what feelings sound like) and write about what I observe. I write what I feel and not to feel what’s going on in the world is to not be aware. Extreme consciousness.

I think if we all got on the cheerleader bandwagon and headed on down to Positivityville, we could really make a difference. Am I alone in this thinking? Have we gotten so cynical that we don’t think it’s worth the effort? We’re not too far gone, are we?

I really hope for our future that people we circle back to days gone by and instead of trying to automate life in the name of progress and trends, they stop and take notice that there is no substitute for human interaction. There is no substitute for that conversation you could be having with a 95 year old who has seen everything from the first television to automobile autopilot technology. We have so much to learn from the past. History books have changed. Important information about our history is not being taught. Education has become more focused on test scores and funding and less about creativity and individuality. One size no longer fits all with education in today’s world, so why do schools continue to cookie cut the curriculum? I know people right now who cannot boil water but can write a sophisticated computer program. We explain life skills with CliffsNotes and then act surprised when people get in a pickle by not having the basic information to be successful as a human being.

How can we use shortcuts and expect our future generations to take care of our land, our country and our future? Will they respect elders like we were taught to growing up? Or will they continue to diminish their importance in society with continued reductions in healthcare and housing options for fixed-income seniors? Will they choose to protect our land or sell it off in the name of progress and greed, regardless of the long-term effects on the environment? Will we see more pollution in our oceans? More dumping of chemicals? More oil spills?

I really haven’t become a tree-hugging hippie, but I do know the value of our parks and our planet. And I honestly believe that most kids today do not know that the health of the ocean is essential to human survival. How can we change? What are our takeaways from the things we’ve learned thus far about the new generations?

I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I know I can do my part by being a friend, neighbor and a good citizen. If I see my neighbor’s kids doing something dangerous, I’m not going to just stand there and watch them break their heads open. I’m going to step in and help. If I see a horrific incident, I’m not going to be filming it with my iPhone. I’m going to stop and help. If I see someone in need, I’m going to offer a hand. It’s not that hard to get back to doing human things. It’s not that hard to open up your heart and care about something besides yourself.

Be a good human. Be a cheerleader. Be whatever it takes to make our world a little brighter, a little better. We won’t be here forever but we can change the course of our future by taking action now.


Be good to each other. We’re all we’ve got. 

Mid-Life Crisis? Who, me?

It’s funny how you go along in life, time passes by so quickly and then you suddenly realize….YOU are middle-aged.

 I used to think that middle-aged meant someone well into their 50s - mostly because I never really did the literal math of a middle-aged person. But if you consider that the average life span for a woman these days is around 81 years, then I most certainly am middle-aged.

I have these moments when I wonder if I’m having a mid-life crisis. I think we all know how that stereotype plays out in men – buys sports car, divorces wife for younger woman, blah blah blah. But for a woman, what does a mid-life crisis look like?

Clearly, not everyone runs off with a youngster, buys a Ferrari or tries to create an alternate reality (where others still see you as a 25 year old) if they’re content in their lives. For me, I think crisis plays out in self-reflection, self-realization and facing the inevitable that each day is a little closer to death. That might sound a bit dark on the surface, but if you are as happy-go-lucky as I am, it morphs into something beautiful and ultimately fulfilling.

At this stage in my life, I just want to be happy and healthy. I want to travel and see incredible things with my eyes that my mouth cannot explain. I am incredibly fortunate to have found someone to love who loves me back, unconditionally. We have little fur babies who are such a joy (our “kids”) and who also love unconditionally. We have a loving and supportive family and a small circle of people we can actually call friends.  We have all of our basic needs met – food on the table, roof over our heads, etc.

I don’t need millions of dollars in the bank to make me happy. Money cannot buy my happiness. Some people think differently. I say to those people: you might get everything you want, but is it what you need? For your soul?

Too often, I see people chasing dollar signs – mostly because they have to stay fashioned in their luxury cars, and be able to afford those McMansions and the trendiest clothes. But if all those things burst into flames right now, what would they have left? Sure, money makes things a little easier, but it’s not everything. Now, I’m not saying that you can’t have it all. I’m just saying that one day all those material possessions won’t matter.

At the end of your days, if you can look back and say, “I was loved,” then you’ve lived a great life! And that can mean love from anyone – your partner, friends, family, pets – whoever you have in your life that brings you joy! Love comes in all shapes, colors, sizes and sources. If you have it, consider yourself blessed! And if you give it, then you have brought it all full circle.

Love goes on long after we do.


Now, that’s a nice legacy! And if realizing what’s most important is my mid-life crisis? I’ll take it.