divahh.com
Mar 30 2012

Kids Have to Sleep in Airport Alone – Travel Hell

Ok, that was a lie to get you to read the article. The kids didn’t actually have to sleep in the airport alone but they did sleep in the airport. Wait, I’m getting quite a bit ahead of the story here.

What follows is an account of the worst trip I have ever taken and how 2 amazing kids kept everything in check throughout the many, MANY ordeals that occurred in a short, 5 day jaunt to Los Angeles.

Everyone has a “travel hell” story. I even have a couple. Take coming from (to Vancouver, BC) from Fort Lauderdale when the kids were 5 and 8. Our connection from Dallas to Seattle was CANCELLED meaning we couldn’t fly out of Ft. L and had to wait, in the airport for 12 hours for the next flight to LA then a connection to Seattle. It got better when they actually frisked my 5 year old at security in LA! She was 5! What could she possibly be hiding in her 2′ frame?

That was a bad one. But it doesn’t even touch what happened this past weekend.

My girls are cheerleaders, and they’re really good. So good, in fact, that the eldest got to go to LA to compete this year with her team. We were excited. It’s the first time we’ve had to fly to a competition and we’d been planning since November.

As the 21st of March approached I made the necessary arrangements for our additional day in LA. We thought it would be fun to arrive a day early and see Santa Monica and Venice Beach. I booked a hotel and reserved a car. Everything was sorted and ready.

Things went well through the border line up at Peace Arch. We flew out of Bellingham airport with little difficulty and landed in Seattle on time. Since the travel agent booked us a flight that had a 4 hour stop over (ugh) in Seattle we went to grab some food and hang out. While eating we made the plan that we would wait out our 4 hour layover at the proper gate for our next flight. We hopped on the wee train and headed to the main terminal.

Once there, we scoped out a good, comfy spot, took off our shoes and loaded up Netflix. Within 3 minutes my 13 year old said “they just called our names over the PA system!”

The Alaska Airline lady called us “final boarding call”.

WTF?

We bolted 2 gates over to learn that our flight had been bumped up 2 hours and they closed the doors behind us! That was a close call. I didn’t receive an itinerary change from the travel agent. Weird.

Upon arriving in LA we caught the Hertz shuttle, stood in line for our rental for 45 minutes only to find out that, in America, you have to leave a $200 credit card deposit to rent a car. No mention of that was made when I booked through the Hertz customer service 1-800 line the day before.

The Hertz guy suggested I have someone use their card to make the deposit for me. I said I could have my parents do it. I’d have to call them. He mentioned they’d have to be there in person. Huh? If I’d done it all over the internet or phone they credit card deposit would not have been “in person”.

Now we’re stranded at LAX at 11pm. Awesome.

Thankfully a friend in LA saved us the next day and, for that, we will be eternally grateful. Needless to say Santa Monica etc was out for the Friday. No car, no beach.

Our friend gave us a lift to our downtown hotel, the Marriott which, by the way, does not have free WIFI. For $160/night you have to pay an additional $9.95 for WIFI. Super.

She then dropped us in Hollywood where we got to do some super fun sight-seeing and we learned about the LA public transit system which we began using to get around.

Saturday and Sunday went relatively smoothly since we were at the competition the entire time. The people we were with were great so they made things a lot of fun.

Monday was Disneyland. What can I say? It was awesome!

We got home from DL at about midnight and I packed everything for an early start. Though our plane didn’t leave til 4:20 we decided to get to the airport early then head out to Santa Monica. By this point the girls were pretty skeptical that we’d make it to the beach at all but I was determined!

The plan was to store our bags at the airport then jump on the #3 bus to SM, shop, beach etc then get back to the airport. Well, I guess since 911 airports in the States no longer store bags. Super!

The Alaska Airlines woman had the suggestion that we go to the LAX Marriott and have them store the bags instead. Free shuttle to the Marriott, bus to Santa Monica and we were finally at the beach!

I’d looked up the Pier and read:

There is no admission to enter the Santa Monica Pier. If you are interested in the amusement park, Pacific Park does not charge upon entry.
Thinking that meant that there was no charge, I was surprised to find out that it was $5/ride. Not exorbitant but still…
We had a lot of fun at the Pier though and on the beach. We took a ton of photos and were able to get my youngest her Tom’s shoes. Her only purchase goal on the entire trip.
Heading back, we had lots of time to grab our bags and get to the airport. Here’s where it gets really great!
Upon check in we were told that flight time had been changed to 3:10pm from 4:20pm and that the doors had just closed. (no itinerary change was sent for this either :(
We missed it. Not only that, the next flight was full and the 7pm had only 3 seats. Though we managed to get those 3 seats we were told that the flight from Seattle to Bellingham at 11pm was also booked and that we would have to spend the night in SeaTac if they couldn’t get us on standby.
I’m sure you can connect the dots and work out how karma was killing us on this trip. Of course, we didn’t make the standby.  2 people didn’t show up and we needed 3 seats. We had to bunk down in the airport to wait for our 8am flight out.
Sleeping in the airport when you’re 20 and backpacking is no big deal. Sleeping in the airport with a 10 year old and a 13 year old is a BIG, BIG deal. We were freezing, hungry, exhausted.
The silver lining is this though; my girls were amazing! They didn’t complain. There were a few tears but no tantrums or overly dramatic behaviour. Just an acceptance that, as long as we’re together, we’re ok. I’m so proud of them.
That’s the story. I don’t want to tell it again. I don’t love LA and it’s going to be a while before I board another plane. I just want to stay home for a while now.
Do you have a dreadful travel story? Add it in the comments! Misery loves company ;)

Mar 21 2011

Can Social Media Buy Me, Us, You a House? Part 3

So a few things have happened since my last post about Social Media having the power to buy one a house (one being any”one” not just me)

The first thing that happened is I put an ad on Craigslist. I said that I am the mom of 2 cool kids and that I want to move to the area. I didn’t really expect anyone to come back with an offer to buy me a house but I did hope that someone who was looking to rent their place would find my ad and ring me up.

A really cool thing happened! A woman, in the right part of town, answered my ad! Now, her home is big, really big and it’s beautiful, really beautiful and, well, it’s just too expensive. That said, we had a great chat and found out we have similar business interests. Who knows, it might end up that we become great friends and business associates.

So while the CL ad did not find me a house…yet, it may very well have found my a great new business contact and friend.

WIN!

The thing about the house offer got me thinking though. At the moment I pay about $1300/month in rent. I expect that, in the new part of town which is more expensive, I’ll have to pay somewhere in the area of $2,000/month for something a wee bit nicer than where we’re at.

My business is going very well and I don’t expect that the added expense will be a lot to contend with. What burns me up though is that I would be more than happy to up that if it meant some sort of equity share.

There must be people out there who are in a situation where they cannot sell their home for what they want or who are downsizing and want to enable someone else to own their own home. I am pretty confident that these people exist, we just have to find them.

This week is going to be about networking. I’m going to a major networking conference in Vancouver on Thursday called Twestival and am hoping to make the kind of contacts that will propel my business to the next level.

I’ll add them to the myriad of very cool people I know already and I will work all of them for a solution to solve my housing expectations.

I can do this because I am always, without fail, ready to help anyone who asks. To me that’s what social networking is all about. Provide value, provide value, provide value….and don’t expect anything in return.

If you show people that you want to help them just for the sake of helping you’ll get it back in droves in ways you never considered. That’s what I love about what I do. I see random acts of kindness every day and it empowers me to pay it forward.


Feb 27 2011

Can Social Media Buy Me a House? Part 1

As a Social Media Strategist I am fascinated by the power of this medium to bring about all sorts of new, unexpected results.

Take the BP oil spill for example. In the past a company like BP completely screws up, screws the environment then white-washes the entire affair through expensive ad campaigns and propaganda. Not so this time. Enter a twitter page that tells us the truth and BAMB! BP is kicked to the curb, made to own up to their mistakes and, essentially (and rightly so) vilified in pretty much every sort of media.

BP is a great example of how the internet and the lightening-fast dissemination of information is changing the way that business is done. In my ever-optimistic brain, I hope that one day the use of social media will hold all companies to a higher standard where “what’s in it for us” becomes “what’s in it for everyone”. But I’m a dreamer :)

I decided that I would offer up my own social media experiment. While I spend most of my time providing value to others and preaching that providing value to the public is the corner-stone to a well-run social media campaign, I will admit that there this experiment was born from a more selfish motive. i.e. to, once again, own my own home.

That said, I think that by setting this up as an authentic, transparent experiment I can provide a great deal of value to others who want to use social media to grow their business or help out their non-profit. The successes and mistakes made over the next few months will be well-documented and should serve as a guide of either what to do or what not to do to gain exposure. (I hope it’s the ‘what to do’ :)

Let’s begin.

Here’s the background story: When I had my 2 daughters, 9 and 12 years ago, I was a stay-at-home mom. I had a small photography business but, for all intents and purposes, I didn’t really work. When my marriage ended 3 years ago I had just lucked in to a great job as a Recruiter for a video game company. Unfortunately the Korean company that owned us shut us down and I was left with, essentially nothing, in the worst economic crisis in my adult life.

We had to sell our house in June of 2009. 6 months before, or after, would have garnered about $50,000 more but we had to sell then and so we took a massive hit. My equity share, after any debts were paid, was $19,000. I bought an $11,000 Volvo and used the rest to pay first and last and a pet deposit on a rented home for my kids and myself.

This story is not unique. Far from it. In the recent economy both in the US and Canada there are hundreds of thousands of people with exactly the same story. I don’t even think it’s a sad story, it’s simply the way things are for many of us and there are many worse stories out there.

In addition to the circumstances that bring most of us to this point (not a bad point, just a point) is the fact that it is very difficult to get back into the housing market on your own, especially with a couple of kids.

The choices about spending become a major focus. Do you put your life on hold, no vacations, no movies, no skiing etc in order to save for a downpayment on a home that costs over 3/4 million dollars? That seems a bit crazy. And it’s not fair to the kids.

Most families, at least in Vancouver, have so many financial obligations it would make your head spin and if having a home is a priority it means that you’ll have to sacrifice those things that make the day-to-day fun like sports teams and summer road trips.

So what’s the answer? Is it time for the upper 10% to start finding ways to support society’s lower 90%? I don’t really know.

So I’m conducting this experiment to find out if there is a way to relieve some of the pressure from this middle class who want to give their kids a head start but don’t want to completely, financially devastate their own future in the process.

I’ll be collecting and publishing ideas that people come up with. One idea I had was an investors group that works with the “client” (that would be someone like me) who chooses a house then they work out a lease-to-own arrangement. That way, rather than paying just rent, the client has that satisfaction of working toward their own goals.

What’s your idea?


Jun 3 2010

Non Controversial Venting

Ok, so after a day to think about things I want to post something positive.
I’m all about the positive. I have made a good portion of my day, my week, my year, my life about not only being positive but inspiring others to do so.
Everyday I wake up and think about what I can do today to make things better in the lives of the people around me. Whether that means something as simple as waking my children up with a kiss or sending a note of encouragement to a friend, the act matters less than the thought of the act.
In the last year I have helped people find jobs, I have helped strengthen, mould and mentor kids and teens in both cheer and track training.
I have made posters for Haiti and volunteered in the classroom.
I’ve participated in the school fair, helped friends move, organized surprise parties and saved a cat.
I work very hard at staying positive in the life that I lead. It’s important not just so I can sleep at night but also so that my kids realize that just because our situation may look bleak on paper sometimes (living in a cabin sans water for 4 months) that our attitudes do not need to match that.
I’m working toward taking my show on the road to inspire kids and adults in the secret to leading a productive, happy life. To setting and achieving goals and to get in the face of barriers to those goals and say “piss off”.
Whatever the outcome of the negative events of the day, I am happy knowing that I am authentic. Whether that means venting about something that upsets me or inspiring someone to something great, I am true to me.
So here’s the point; being true to yourself is not always the popular action.
Others may misinterpret your meaning but that’s really on them, isn’t it?
Even though intent doesn’t mitigate impact you should never be afraid to be authentic.
One caveat to this is if, in your honesty, you hurt others it may require a re-think.
Just sayin’.
Tomorrow is a brand new, fantastic day and I, for one, cannot wait to see where it takes me.
The journey has been bumpy but bloody exciting as hell. Let’s get on with it!