August 20, 2013

Home is where the heart is

This is the last night in the only house I’ve ever owned.

As I sit here in the familiar silence of the evening, amongst boxes stacked high to the ceiling, I try to push the conflicting emotions from my mind as I wait for the aching in my muscles to give way to the fatigue that will bring sleep.

I try not to think of all the memories that this house holds. My mind wanders to the exciting times as we watched the house being built, still early in my marriage and my life still open to possibility and success. I remember laying the floor in the kitchen with my own hands. I remember planting the bougainvillea that now flash bright reds and pinks along the fence line outside. I remember bringing home two little ones for the first time and countless memories of first steps, first bites and first days of school. I remember little smiling faces rushing to the sliding glass door as my car pulled into the driveway each night and I remember kisses goodnight in cribs and then big boy/big girl beds.

I remember holding hands while watching tv, snuggles under the covers with temporary window coverings that eventually became permanent. I remember bike rides and morning runs, afternoon runs and evening runs.

I remember learning we were having a third child and excited to bring this wonderful new little one into our family. I remember first steps and first bites all over again. I remember laughter and tears and yes, shouting and frustration. I remember times that were so bad that I couldn’t breathe. But then, I could because this was our home.

This was our home while we lived a life. It was a home that Swee’Pea and TheMonk will remember fondly but GirlyGirl probably won’t remember much beyond what she sees in the countless photographs. It was a home we made friends in a community we loved. And while it’s easy to sit here and feel anger about the reasons why I’m leaving this home, the truth is, we needed a fresh start. A new chapter that includes a healthy bank account and credit cards with zero balances. And it will be an opportunity to mend fences and strengthen relationships.

And it will be a time to write a new chapter in our lives. And now that I’m a little older and, I think, a little wiser, I won’t take this new life for granted. I’ll be thankful for what I have and look back at the past with nothing but love and respect for the past is what made me who I am today.

And as I close the door one last time on this house and open the door for the first time in my new house, I will try and remember that houses are not what makes a home.

Home is where the heart is.

January 24, 2008

Look at what’s happened to me

*Update on my Customer Service Rant*

I received a third email from the Internet Representatives at Home Decorators, and they will be making a “one time” exception and sending me replacement hinges for my piece.

I’m not sure what made them change their minds but I have to think that those of you who took the time to email them might have nudged them in that direction.

And as I think back on this experience I do feel bad for the customer service people who I had to deal with. They were handed a policy and told to follow it. It’s not really their fault that they were given a roadblock to good customer service but the company needs to understand that when someone decides on a policy, that it affects those that work for them. This creates opportunities for bad customer service that frustrates the customer service representative because they feel their hands are tied because of “policy.”

But what if you gave your employees free reign to make a customer’s day? Starbucks calls this “Surprise and Delight” and it is a hallmark of their customer service philosophy. If a customer is not satisfied, they will often go the extra mile to make things right because they know that customers are forgiving if a business admits a mistake and makes things better.

So, kudos to Home Decorators for making a “one-time” exception. Let’s hope that someday, going the extra mile is the norm rather than the exception.

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The title of this post was from an 80′s song. Can you guess the song?

January 22, 2008

Now here’s a little story I’ve got to tell

As many of you know, I work for the Y. This is an organization that people pay to be a part of. They take their hard-earned money and purchase a membership. And when they do, it is extremely important that we take care of them. If they have a problem, we fix it. We go to great lengths – even going against policy at times – to make sure our members feel they are being taken care of.

Because I go to such great lengths to make sure our members are satisfied, I am always taken aback when I get really bad customer service. And this week, I received bad customer service. In fact, it was so bad, that I have this incredible urge to tell you about it.

First, this summer, the wife and I decided that we needed to purchase some adult-like furniture for our “play room” – which is actually our formal living room. You can tell because it has a fireplace. For some crazy reason we actually thought that if we bought storage that looked less red and blue molded plastic and more wood and metal, that the room could serve a dual purpose of entertaining kids and adults alike.

But where to buy this furniture? We then decided to turn to one of the thousands of catalogs that find their way to our mailbox each and every day. We settled on Home Decorators. Right off the bat, things went bad. We had to wait over two months for one of the pieces to arrive as it was on “back order” – which is code for “We don’t know what we’re doing and did not anticipate anyone actually wanting to purchase that item.”

But that’s not what upset me the most. You see, we have two toddlers running around. Toddlers do wild things. Toddlers decide that a door should open one way when it was really meant to open the other way. Before you know it, a door to your credenza thingy has become separated in a way that was not meant to be separated. In short, TheMonk ripped the door off the hinge.

To further complicate matters, these “hinges” are specifically made for this piece. They are plastic, springy things that hold the door in place from the top and bottom of the door. These were probably made by some third-world child making 10 cents an hour and looked like you could purchase a couple of these thing straight from the little toy dispensers at the front of the grocery store.

After inspecting the damage, I decided to see if I could get replacement parts via the Home Decorators website. After poking around, I found that if you were missing parts you could email them and they would send you replacement parts. The problem is, I wasn’t missing parts. Mine were broken. And it was way past that little 90-day warranty thing. But that didn’t stop me from emailing them to see if I could get replacement parts. I fully expected them to send me an email saying something like, “Sure! We can send you the parts. We’ll just need $X for shipping and handling.” Which I would have gladly paid.

Instead I got an email from a woman named Shayla saying that while she was sorry I needed parts, it was their policy not to give them to me. As she put it, “Please note, we do not sell parts.”

So, I fired off an email back telling her how surprised I was that she was offering such crappy customer service and that I would happily shop elsewhere in the future. Oh, and I won’t mind telling all my friends not to shop there too – including the hundreds of people who read my blog on a daily basis.

Well, this not-so-veiled threat was apparently passed along because I got another email from someone named Eileen today apologizing at least twice for causing me inconvenience while reiterating their customer killing policy of me being out of luck once we’re beyond that 90 days. She finished her “you’re outta luck and we really don’t care” email with a “We appreciate your business.” It’s at that time that the water I was drinking while reading my email shot out of my nose.

Uh, no. If you really appreciated my business, Eileen, you’d find a way to get me those two little plastic hinges so I’d be more likely to purchase my next home furnishing item from your company. But now, since you screwed up, that won’t happen.

So, my Internet friends, please do me (and yourself) a favor and DO NOT SHOP AT HOME DECORATORS. Do not shop at the Home Decorators website: www.homedecorators.com.

Trust me, you’ll be much better off finding a company that actually values its customers. And if you know of a good home furnishing website, I’d be happy to know what it is.

***************************************
The title of this post is from an 80′s song. Can you name the song?”

October 24, 2007

Back to “normal”

While fires continue to rage in other parts of the county, the fire that threatened my neighborhood has been controlled and no longer poses a threat.

As we try and get back into a routine I cannot forget the fear and uncertainty that permeated our household for a day or so. I don’t want to forget because those who are still in danger or, even worse, lost their homes will have so much rebuilding to do – in both house and spirit.

For those of you who have followed my short encounter, thank you for your concern and support. It really is amazing the connection I have made with so many of you through this blog. It was nice to know that we had offers to move to both Memphis and Wisconsin if needed. That’s the kind of people there are out there and it’s very nice to know.

I hope that the other 1,000+ families who have lost their homes have people looking out for them as well. If you would like to help make a difference from afar you can donate to the American Red Cross of San Diego and those donations will help support the recovery of San Diego.

On another note, this experience really teaches you what’s important in life. My wife and I spent so much time and energy purchasing and moving into this home. We’ve filled it with memories but we ‘ve also filled it with furniture, electronics, knick knacks and a lot of toys. Stuff. But in the end the only things we packed into that car were things that had sentimental value. Old track medals. First locks of hair. Photos.

So, my friends, take some time out today to think about what is most important. We often spend so much time acquiring things or working to acquire things. In the end, that stuff is not the important stuff. It’s easy to forget that. So, I leave you with a homework assignment. You can leave your answers in my comment section or you can just file it away in your heart but I ask you to consider this…

If you had to pack up on a moment’s notice, what would you take with you?
Why?

October 22, 2007

Raining Fire

As many of you know, Southern California has been hit hard with wild fires. I am currently at home because the neighborhood right next to mine has been issued a voluntary evacuation notice. Right now, the fire approaches from the east but there is a lot between us and the fire – including a small lake.

Ashes are raining down from the sky and we are running our air conditioner to keep the inside of the house from being too smoky. Right now, we have all our bags packed and sitting next to the door. We’ve already loaded the important papers and computer backups into our cars and should we receive word, could leave in under 10 minutes.

Swee’Pea and TheMonk sense something is up. They refused to go down for a nap this afternoon – even though they are clearly tired. Perhaps it’s the urgency of Mommy and Daddy as we discuss what to take and what to leave behind. We remembered the hand prints we took of the twins at 3 weeks. We remembered our wedding photos. I remembered my father’s cuff links, now tucked into my overnight bag. It’s kinda strange deciding what parts of your life deserve saving and what can be left behind. In the end, there aren’t a lot of things that are all that important.

Our friends Kristie and Chris, who live in an area unaffected by the fire have offered us refuge should we need it. Right now, however, we wait. Swee’Pea and TheMonk are watching Dora while we follow the news on-line. Our county has a “reverse-911″ phone system that will call us should we need to evacuate so we’ll get prompt information.

Thank you to those of you who have emailed and left comments stressing your concern. We are fine and in good spirits. But say a prayer for the 500+ families (and counting) who are currently homeless. No one deserves to lose their home like this.

UPDATE #1: 8:00 p.m. I just watered down the exterior of our house. I can see the hills a few miles away are glowing orange in the night. Hills to the north are glowing as if a sun rise is eminent. The neighborhood is buzzing as people pack their cars and prepare to leave. A neighborhood a couple of miles north has been issued a mandatory evacuation making things a bit more tenuous here. As I see it, however, the fire will have to get through a couple of neighborhoods before it gets to mine but as I watch the news I see that that exact thing has been happening all over the county. Swee’Pea and TheMonk are asleep right now, we have packed both cars with everything we need and we are ready to get out when asked.

Now… we wait.

UPDATE #2: 8:00 a.m. Tuesday.
The fires burned over the mountains to the north and east of us last night. Every community to the north and to the south have been issued evacuation notices (some mandatory, some voluntary). We have yet to be issued one but are on standby. We have been saved by the lake to the east of us today. The fire to the south, however, has a straight line to our community through some open space and parks. It’s very likely we will be evacuating at sometime today. Swee’Pea and TheMonk are doing fine. Swee’Pea is her usual grumpy morning self and TheMonk just got excited seeing fire trucks on TV. We have switched to watching Dora right now to pass the time. Thank you all so much for your good wishes and prayers. We really appreciate it.

UPDATE #3: 11:00 a.m. Tuesday. Swee’Pea and TheMonk are down for a “nap”. This is a bit unusual for them in that they are now napping in the same room as we have put the pack’n'plays into our car. They usually nap in separate rooms because they distract each other and don’t sleep. This is turning out to be one of those days. I’ve heard Swee’Pea tell TheMonk, “That’s not very nice, Monk.” about three or four times. They are both shouting “NO!” at each other so not a lot of sleep is going on. Sleep would be nice since we don’t know when we’ll need to get out of here. I am feeling a bit optimistic right now as the high winds that were driving this fire for so long seem to have died down quite a bit. Finally helicopters are allowed in to drop water and that is helping quite a bit. We’re still in good spirits! Oh, and a shout out to a certain 5th grade class in Wisconsin. Doesn’t California sound wonderful? :)

UPDATE #4 4:00 p.m. Good news. Firefighters have done a great job in our area. Some of the back fires they lit, combined with the shifting of winds, has helped keep the fire under control – just as it approached our surrounding neighborhood. We just got word via the television that those neighboring communities near us that had been evacuated are now being allowed to return. It seems the worst is over for us. Of course, we will continue to monitor the situation but it appears the worst is over for us. Unfortunately, the worst is yet to come for over 1,000 families who have lost their home. Keep everyone in your prayers – and thank you for all of the support and encouragement you have provided over the past couple of days.

June 20, 2004

Man’s Domain

I finished setting up my garage today. Now, understand, I have never spent much time in a garage. We owned a condo in my younger years where there was nothing more than a car port. When we did move to a place with a garage, it quickly became a storage area and a place I dreaded because I knew I might need to clean it sometime.

Furthermore, as a result of growing up with a single mother, I can’t say I have had a lot of experience with tools. In the carport days, when we needed a screw driver or pliers, I would run out to my mom’s BMW and pull out the little tool kit that came in the trunk of the car.

But now I have my own garage. I have put down a protective coating on the floor, I have installed cabinets and a work bench and I have hung the bicycles on the wall. We have also put in a treadmill with a TV located in one of the cabinets. What can I say I like my garage. It’s clean, neat and there’s a place for everything. I have become quite good at assembling pre-fabricated shelving and furniture. Now, for some unexplained reason, I have the urge to build things out of real wood. Now if only I can convince my wife I need a miter saw.

June 15, 2004

Blood, Sweat and Tears

I hung vertical blinds today. Normally, one would assume that it’s pretty easy to hang vertical blinds. At least I did. I did not take into account that the windows where said vertical blinds would go happen to be in an area with vaulted ceilings and over a staircase.

Tools needed for project:

1. 3 sets of vertical blinds, purchased at Home Depot, cut down to size to fit the 3 windows over the stairs. (Does not include second trip to Home Depot when it turns out young man who just learned how to cut window blinds, cuts them a 1/2 inch too long.)
2. 2 screwdrivers (Ratchet screw driver that you bought in hopes of making the job easier + the one in your tool box that you’ll end up using when the ratchet one doesn’t work.)
3. A drill to tempt you to use but can’t because you can’t get enough leverage and end up stripping the screw.
4. 1 new-fangled ladder that can be adapted to be placed on stairs but weighs a 100 lbs.
5. Band-aids for my knuckles
6. White paint to touch up the blood stains on the top of the window casing
7. Overly concerned wife who is afraid you’re going to kill yourself but still wants the blinds up now and also wants to take your picture because she thinks it’s cute that her husband is doing a manly project.

The blinds are up, my knuckles are healing, I no longer have to wave to my neighbors in the morning and as a treat, Andrea got her manly husband a Frosty from Wendy’s. Life is good.

June 9, 2004

‘Shrooms

I’ve got mushrooms growing in my lawn. According to my on-line research, there doesn’t seem to be a damn thing I can do about it. These are not the things I thought would keep me up at nights when I pictured owning my own home.

May 4, 2004

What happened to me?

For the past week I have been returning home from work and, instead of my ritual of plopping down in front of the TV, I have been doing chores. Bed needs to be made? I’m your man. Dishwasher emptied? That’s me. Laundry folded? You bet.

Somebody write Dr. Phil.

May 2, 2004

Things I’ve learned since owning a new home

1) Apparently, we live in a crime-infested neighborhood because I’ve had no less than 4 alarm company salespeople visit me in the past week.
2) Even IKEA can get expensive in a hurry
3) You can get little plastic bins for your pantry for eighty-three cents a piece
4) What we need and what we want for the house are two entirely different things
5) No matter how new the house, something WILL go wrong (ever see sewage spill out on your driveway)

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