Monday, December 10, 2012

The Gift Card Exchange is Now Over


As of last night, the gift card exchange project is closed. If you emailed us requesting help before Thursday (12/6) night, we will match you. After that, we will try very hard but we make no promises. You will not be getting an email confirmation from us. If you read on, you'll see why.

If you emailed us asking to help a family, we will do our best to match you. We got more helpers than askers this year. We will be sending out matching emails through Tuesday. Not everyone who generously offered to help will receive a match. We are so sorry.


This is our third email project. You should know that when we're in the middle of this, our real lives are on hold. Everything else takes a back seat. Our families, our jobs, the holidays - it's all on the back burner until we've matched the last email. Then we emerge, exhausted, to find Mommyland slightly brighter and our real lives in shambles. But we do it anyway  - and be "we", we mean our whole families are on board (kids, husbands, dogs) - because we can. And if we can help and we don't... What does that say about us? What does that teach our kids?

WE CAN DO HARD THINGS. We can all do hard things.

We try and learn from past mistakes and plan as carefully as we can how to anticipate and avoid problems. But we did not anticipate these problems. We've never had an issue using a YahooMail account (in fact, it's always worked best). This time, it caused an epic failure. Here is the core of the problem, in the words of Guru Louse:

the high volume of email + technical difficulties = insurmountable clusterf*ck.

If you want details, you can read them below. The bottom line is that the account locked us out on Tuesday and we've been unable to send emails since then. Almost every metric they had told their robots we were spammers and despite the best efforts of two very kind and hard working people on their Customer Service team (who were checking in with us even on Sunday), we essentially have been unable to send more than a 50 emails per day from the account since Tuesday afternoon.

In order to match the folks that we have, we are cutting and pasting into alternate accounts. Imagine how much time it will take us to return 2,000 emails that way. The answer is that we can't. So we will do the best we can and then we will have to stop. And ugly cry. Because we're sorry we couldn't do more. But sometimes you have to give it up, Mommyland. And that's where we are right now.

We're three moms exactly like you. We took this on knowing we couldn't help everyone but willing to try. So pretty, pretty please show us some grace. We know some of you will be disappointed and we are so, so sorry.

If you asked to help and haven't heard from us by Tuesday night, you won't be getting a match. If you're waiting for a match from us - PLEASE, pretty please check your SPAM and junk folders for anything from Guru Louise or Give It Up Mommyland. 

And please don't forgo helping someone because this project ended early. Look around. People are struggling everywhere. You know someone who needs your help. Maybe you only kind of know them. You could ask the guidance counselor at your kid's school if they know of a family who needs something, and you could slip them a gift card. Or you could call a local domestic violence shelter and ask if there's a mom there who needs help for her kids this Christmas. 

If this project has taught us anything, it's that good people everywhere need help sometimes. And we if we can help, we should at least try.

xoxo, Lydia, Kate & Guru Louise
UPDATE 12/12/12
As of this auspicious date, everyone who emailed us received a match. Thanks to Yahoo's amazing service team working over-time to help us and Kate's ninja-like cute and paste skills - everyone was paired up. That being said  - there are no guarantees that you will receive anything. And mommies, if you wrote to us asking for a little help, we are just not able to email you back with a confirmation. But just because you haven't heard from us doesn't mean some love & holiday cheer isn't headed your way.

By the way - Kate worked like a beast to get everyone matched. ALL DAY FOR DAYS. Even on her birthday. Guru Louise and I are in awe of what she managed to do.


Here are the Details:
With each project that we do, we find it's best to open an email account - just for that project  - and then shut it down at the end of the project. We have always used YahooMail. It's what we know best, we like their folder system, and it's what has worked best for us before.

Why not just use a spreadsheet or a google doc and everyone enters their data into it, you might say? A VERY GOOD QUESTION. Because most of the people who contact us for help hate that they have to ask anyone. They only ask because it's us. And they know we get it and don't judge them. They also know we will do what we can to protect their privacy.

We've also had lots of people offer to help us match emails. First, THANK YOU. Thank you thank you. But we can't do that. The information people send us is often very private. We are grateful for that trust and we honor it by never, ever sharing people's emails or letting anyone outside our very tiny circle of trust see them. Also, due to the whole cut & paste nightmare, the possibility of making whopping mistakes is pretty big. And we need to be responsible and accountable for those mistakes, so they need to be our own.

Here's how the week broke down: The project started Monday. We got 1,000 emails the first day. We read and sorted them and hoped we would be able to meet people's needs.

Sometime on Tuesday, after matching about 100 people, our email account suddenly locked us out. We could no longer send any email at all. Apparently we'd triggered every SPAM filter they had. (Sending and receiving tons of emails? Brand new account? Embedding links? Using a template or signature? All the emails have the same subject lines? Oh, we did it all.)

So Tuesday night was spent freaking out and trying to reach Yahoo for help. At that point, we had about 1,600 emails that we could read but not respond to. And they kept on coming.

Wednesday morning, it all seemed magically fixed! Then we got locked out again. (Editor's note: This was the morning my kids learned some really colorful expletives! -Guru) The rest of Wednesday was spent trying to contact every person we know that has any connection to Yahoo at all. And the emails kept coming.

Thursday morning, we hit paydirt. We were put in contact with some amazing customer service reps who told us they would do whatever they could to help us. We started to panic. We had lost 2 days. We were now looking at over 2,000 emails that we could do nothing with. Could we forward them? No. Our only option was to cut and paste each one. The body of the email in one cut/paste, the person needing help in another, and email address in another. The wonderful people at Yahoo assured us they would do what they could.

But then on Thursday night, two things happened. We hit a message board and got 60 asks for help in less than one hour from folks who had no idea what Rants from Mommyland was. And the email account locked us out again. We decided we had no choice but to set the auto-reply saying we could no longer accept requests for help.

By Friday it was clear that Yahoo couldn't fix the issue. But they were polite and professional and responsive. They were trying and they cared about what we were doing. However, the one filter they couldn't change was when we opened the account. And that was the one that killed us.

So since Friday, we've spent about 12-14 hours a day cutting and pasting emails in order to match people. And we'll keep doing it until the last person who asked us for help on Thursday is matched.

Sigh...

xoxo, Lydia, Kate & Guru Louise
 **********************************
The awesome people at Sweet Relish are working with us to help moms in need this holiday season. They will donate $1 in gift cards for every person who joins their site and follows me (up to $5,000!!). If you're too busy or too broke to help to a family in need this year, here is one really quick and easy way to help.  It only takes a minute and is really useful and fun.

To join Sweet Relish and follow me, click here.

If you're already on Sweet Relish and you want to find me, click here.

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2012

42 comments:

  1. Honestly, just reading this made me cry buckets. Because, y'all are amazing. Lesser women would have thrown up their hands and quit. You pressed on. You did it because you can, but also because you know you are needed. Honored to be participating in this effort as a giver, because I can. Hugs friends. :)

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  2. No good deed goes unpunished...you ladies are saints, and deserve huge hugs -- and fabulous new shoes -- for doing what you did. We're all grateful out here in cyberspace, and now it's up to the rest of us to take up the challenge and do some local good.

    Now go take a nap...

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    Replies
    1. "You could ask the guidance counselor at your kid's school if they know of a family who needs something, and you could slip them a gift card. Or you could call a local domestic violence shelter and ask if there's a mom there who needs help for her kids this Christmas.

      If this project has taught us anything, it's that good people everywhere need help sometimes. And we if we can help, we should at least try"

      This is the important bit out of everything else; yes we all want to be a part of the awesomeness that is mommyland but helping is helping and EVERY community has people who need help!

      Now for a weird coincidence: I am in Canada and got a Canadian match. I Live thousands of miles from where I was raised but Mommyland matched me with a mom not too far from my hometown! How cool is that!

      Delete
  3. I would like to help you match next year, if you decide to do this again. I can never get my budget even $20 ahead to help someone who needs it but I can give you time. Let me know. I have gmail, yahoo and hotmail accounts and I ain't afraid to use them Hooker!

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  4. You are amazing! Thanks for all of your hard work! Wish I could send you a box of wine :)

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  5. You all are amazeballs and truely are the spirit of the season! Blessed be and rock on!

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  6. Don't feel badly, you did your best. You all are so sweet to do this.

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  7. You did your best. Please pour yourself a box of wine.

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  8. You guys are awesome. Keep on keepin' on, sisters.

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  9. Please please please stop the ugly crying. You magical ladies have done so much to help so many people who would not have had any help if it weren't for you. And you gave something so precious to those of us who wanted to help, too. Do what you gotta do and move on to enjoying your own families again :)

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  10. you can only do what you can do and you ladies are awesome for even trying!!! lovers you guys!!!

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  11. We love you all! Remember that as you ugly cry because we all asked you to stop crying!

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  12. Thank you so much for all of your work on this. I was lucky enough to get an email back from you and sent my gift card out on Friday. I am so happy I got to help a mom this year, because last year I was a mom getting help. You guys rock!!!

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  13. You guys are the greatest! There's no need to apologize when you've done so much good. Sometimes life just throws you a curveball and we all know how that goes. Even if someone that wanted to help didn't get a match, there are so many opportunities around us all to serve and love others. (It's amazing, by the way, that there are so many more that want to help...makes my heart so happy!) Thanks for all your hard work! Now go enjoy your families! :)

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  14. you've worked so hard, you don't owe us an explanation - you're trying your darndest and I think every reader totally gets that. thank you!

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  15. You are still doing an amazing thing... Truly inspiring. So much so that despite the fact that your matching system went kerplunk, I am reaching out to local families and doing what I can to help, here in my community, a million miles from you. You did that. So, thank you! :)

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  16. Oh my goodness! What a nightmare. I would have curled up in ball on the floor. You are doing great things! xoxo

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  17. You poor things, please don't take it to heart ya'll are doing amazing, wonderful things and you have already made SUCH a difference in so many women's lives, try to not let this all get you ladies down.

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  18. Another great place to offer gift card help? Your local pediatric oncology unit.

    As the mom of a cancer warrior I can tell you first hand it sucks and makes life SO hard. But having your kid fighting cancer when you can't make ends meet is just too much. We started a foundation to help our local families in our unit. We just finished fulfilling wishlists this weekend. The wishes of so many of them are food, heat, clothes, and suitcases. They have so little to eat and wear and nothing to put their belongings in while they live at the hospital for years. The average pediatric cancer family spends $40,000 a yr out of pocket on top of insurance premiums to pay for meds, copays, travel, and therapies. Gift cards can be given to any social worker, counselor, or child life worker in the unit for distribution. Every single day 36 more families join the pediatric cancer world, even Christmas. Just an idea....

    Merry Christmas!!! May God bless you all and use you in mighty ways for His kingdom :)

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  19. Thank you for doing this! I am so glad to be a part of this. Unfortunately, I was matched with 2 different mom's and I can only help one. It hurts to admit it but I want every mom in need to get much needed help. i sent an email to let you know as well. Just not sure how else to let you know.

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  20. I sent you an email about this, but it sounds like it might not have gotten through, so I'm just going to re-post it here & if I don't hear from you I'll try to email you guys again come new years. Basically, you guys should NOT be having to do this by hand!! This is why we made computers!!

    My husband is a programmer & I was talking to him the other night about what you guys are doing & how there has to be a way at to at least somewhat automate the matchup process so that you guys aren't doing it all by hand. I figure this year is out because things are already in full swing, but once the craziness dies down please get in touch & we can work out requirements & all that good stuff. I think this is something that we could set easily using google docs ect... So it won't be tech heavy or anything Ike that. edit - (Or, given all the issues that you've had with Yahoo this year we might need to put out like $20 & set you guys up with a domain server that could send emails directly & wouldn't be effected by spam rules.) Anyways, we got almost year to work it out right?

    Thanks again for setting this all up! You guys are awesome, take a well deserved break out there! Big hugs & happy holidays!!

    alisonSanders at gmail.com

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    Replies
    1. Kate, Guru and Lydia...

      This is totally what you should do for next year! It would still maintain everyones confidentiality (I was one of the, SEND ME EMAILS, I'll match for you! people.) But if you could get a domain set up and automatic matching then wowsers... you could litterally match in your sleep... think of all the super sexy mommas out there that you could help.. no more mere mortal limitations, you would be like demi-goddesses... and you're already like saints so yea... that'd be cool, okay bees are buzzing. gots to run!

      Delete
  21. Just wondering if I can get some of your wonderful people to help me . I am a mommy of 4 kids 8 and under, we are just getting by and got hit with a tax bill we where not expecting from a trailer house we sold last year. I have entered a photo contest in hopes of winning the gift card to get my kids something for Christmas. if you could help me out that would be wonderful.Just vote for this picture. Thank you so very very much. you can vote once a day. http://isj.upickem.net/engine/Details.aspx?p=V&c=74290&s=28338213&i=1&sort=SORTORDER#SD

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  22. Thank you for sending me a mom to help. I've asked my son to chip in and will be asking people at work and family to also help. We'll be talking to my 2 youngest and letting them know that Santa is going to bring them a few less presents this year and taking those presents to a family that needs them more. This is an awesome lesson for them!

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  23. You guys are awesome and you know it.

    I had looked all over for this year, and thought maybe last year was too much and you weren't doing it (I have been in stress central here with a family member's death and finals in classes). I became a hooker locally and I want to encourage those that didn't get matched to think of "hookin' local" :-) It has been so much fun.

    While we can't do much hopefully we can do a little bit to make a family smile.

    So Cheers to the fellow hookers out there.

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  24. Thanks for trying & to Yahoo for trying. The one who get matched will have a fabulous Christmas thanks to all the cut & paste- YOU ROCK!

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  25. Thanks for the hook up and for the reminder to check spam filters. I was wondering if I had somehow missed out on it but checked my spam filter today and found my email! I have hooked up my moms!

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  26. You are amazing. I hadn't gotten an email and was sad, expecting that you'd had too many people offer and I wasn't going to be helping...but then I got my email today and decided to wander over here to see what was going on. Wow. That is dedication. I would've lost my mind. Thank you for everything you do!

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  27. Helping hookers, you have done it again :) M. Haas in Pittsburgh, God bless you. I just got home after a crappy day to be pleasantly STUNNED by the extreme kindness and generosity I found in my mailbox. I will be able to get both of my kids the gifts they have requested. Aaargh! A pirate ship for the boy, and a couple cd's and makeup for the girl. Jammies for both. :)You have no idea how grateful I am, not only for being able to get my kids what they asked for, but also for the added sweetness of a Starbucks treat for myself. I was already crying when I opened the card. By the time I finished reading it, well, let's just say ugly crying would have been a compliment by that point. Thank you, thank you, and thank you again. Merry Christmas!

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  28. . I was one of those who requested help this year.. Yes, I hoped to receive some little help but unfortunately I received no reply. Yes, i was a bit bummed.. These are the times I most wish to receive some help since I am not working. But it's ok, all the effort and time you ladies have put into this matter is more than enough and no one can be upset with that. All those mommies out there who did receive help are very lucky. Anyway, thank you once again for your dedicatiom to help others out. It's truly something to cherish. Happy Holidays :)

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    Replies
    1. If you emailed us for help, you were matched. But honey we couldn't send emails. If we sent every person a confirmation email we would be here until Valentine's Day cutting and pasting. Please be patient.

      Delete
    2. . Hello there, yes i totally understand that.. it's such a HUGE task with which you are taking on. Thank you as I will be patient.

      Delete
  29. I have posted a few times on the Facebook page and sent out some messages, but haven't gotten a single reply. If anyone is still looking to help someone in need, there's a little girl in my daughter's class who has Down's Syndrome and has been in foster care since birth. She is in desperate need of new shoes and a new coat. If anyone can help her out, please, please email me!! foreveraudreesmama@gmail.com

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  30. From the Editors of the Handbook of Prosocial Education (this is for real), our hats are off to the Mommyland team! We all need models, adult no less than kids, and you gals show what heart's all about.

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  31. Yesterday my smartphone practically exploded with the news of the horror at Sandy Hook Elementary. Although I'm on the other side of the nation I raced to pick up my 5 year old daughter from her elementary school. I could hardly contain my tears until I had her safe in the car. I can't imagine that God could allow such evil to touch such innocence. I was mad. I was bitter. Then I checked the mail and found a thick, festively colored envelope bearing gifts from the other side of the nation. A kind hearted woman sent giftcards to help my family have an extra special Christmas. I was instantly reminded that despite great evil in this world there is also great kindness. That's my rant for the morning. Thank you for reading.

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  32. ** Recipient Thank-You ** Just a little note to convey a world of thanks to the RFML team and my mystery angel / donor "A." who sent us a generous gift card to Target. You're kindness will help make my son's Christmas lovely despite us being displaced due to Hurricane Sandy. With much appreciation, Lisa D. with the Island Heights NJ P.O. Box.

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  33. You ladies are amazing what you are giving to total strangers - HOPE. Hope that there are good people in the world, people that care and would give of themselves, sometimes to a crazy degree, which this definitely qualifies, to give to others. Thank you for your generosity of time and for all the frustration this has created this year. Nothing worse than technical problems to make you crazy!! Good job mommies. Love your blog!!\

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  34. I just checked in to see if there had been any update. I had received my email and sent out my gift card. I had no idea you all had so much trouble. I think you guys are simply beautiful, caring, wonderful people. I had never heard of this project until a friend of mine posted it on Facebook, and I love it. Thank you so much for facilitating this great exchange, and for putting your sanity in the hands of Yahoo. :) I work online, and know that technical issues can be the biggest pain ever.

    Thank you again for what you do.

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  35. Will you be doing this again this year?

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    Replies
    1. Just not sure. Given the amount of emails and requests for help I've already received this year - I'm just not sure. I'm thinking no.

      Delete

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