Friday, September 27, 2013

Lessons Learned from Buford Trip 2013

Once again, my friend, Christie, and I headed south to visit the Todd family.  As always, good times were had by all and I laughed more than I had in many months.  Laughter, and friends, are good for the soul.  To recap my visit, I've come up with a list of lessons learned.  On the final day of the trip, Tracy said, "I haven't brought up the blog post.  I'm fine with whatever you write."  My, my, she's come a long way. 

Always take the Briley Parkway - For those who travel south from above the Tennessee line, you know the fun that is driving through Nashville.  You time your departures so as to miss the rush hour traffic and, honestly, hit traffic no matter what time it is.  This year, we took a slight detour.  We exited on to Briley Parkway and took the scenic route that parallels the highway through Nashville.  It's a glorious way to miss traffic and catch the sights, such as Opry Mills and the Opryland Hotel.  Of course, Siri had a coronary when we didn't follow her direction, so we turned her off until we got back on her track.  She's such a commanding little voice.  

Tracy has a soft side - Lest you think Tracy is always hardcore, let me assure you, she has a soft side.  And it comes out when Logan is around.  Chad proclaimed she had turned soft and I saw it.  But, how can you not?  Logan with those beautiful eyes and curly would melt anyone's heart.  Especially Momma's.  I love the way she loves him.  Allison is her twin, and Logan, for sure, has her heart.

It's too soon for Disney World - We took the kids to Chuck-e-Cheese on Friday as their surprise.  As we entered the building, we realized Chuck was out and about.  Allison is not a fan of Chuck.  Oh she loves the place, but that rat can stay backstage for all she cares...and wave from a distance.  Chad calmed her down and told her to stay back while he checked things out.  I told her Daddy was going to pop Chuck in the nose so no worries and she giggled.  Giggles are much better than tears.  Daddy came back to report that he was going backstage, which meant we had an hour before his return.  We left with just 4 minutes to spare.  This is proof it's too soon for Disney World.  

Potato Salad is more than just a food - One of the things I love the best is game playing with the Todds. And since their move to Buford, their friends Ted and Christina come and join the party.  It's like having two Chad and Tracys!  We learned a new card game called "Russian Salad."  I won't go into the details here, but it's an amazingly fun game.  To make it interesting, Ted changed up a rule and we decided to call it Potato Salad.  People need to play more games.  It's also good for the soul.

Everyone's last name is Todd - Logan's full name is Logan Robert Todd.  When Tracy asks him his name, he proudly states it in full.  One day she asked him, "what's Daddy's name?"  He said, "Daddy Robert Todd!"  Close, but not really.  She asked him Allison's name, and he said, "Allison Robert Todd"  It's Ruth, so he got the R right.  Allison even sounded out "Ra-ra-ra-" to help him guess Ruth.  Then Tracy asked what Christie's name was, "Christie Todd!"  and my name, according to Logan, is "Rosie Todd!"  We'd like to announce that Christie and I are married to the long lost Todd brothers and now a part of the Todd family.  

Literal Thinking Reigns - Logan's name begins with "L" which stands for Literal.  The kid is a great literal thinker.  He always wanted to play "Red Bowling" which is the power throw bowling game on the Wii.  Why Red Bowling?  Because the kingpin is red.  When he wanted a pretzel (shaped in the form of a football), he said, "Can I have a football pretzel?"  And when he wanted a Ritz cracker, he'd say "Circle cracker please!"  I love a literal thinker.  No nonsense.  And, most of the time, he comes clean and confesses.  When we heard cries from Allison coming from the playroom, Logan came running in and Momma asked what happened.  He proceeded to give her the play-by-play.  I assured her and Chad that I'm convinced when the kid understands his sinfulness, he'll get saved at a young age.  

Love begins at an early age - Ted and Christina have two children - Jack, who is in the second grade, and Kate who is just a bit younger than Logan.  Allison is crazy about Jack.  You'll find her following him around everywhere and when they are coming over, she talks about him non-stop.  You might even catch her cuddling with him on the couch.  Kate, who affectionately calls him "Yogan," does the same to Logan.  She chases him around and wants to do everything Logan does.  In fact, Christina will tell her at home if she doesn't do something, she won't get to play with Logan, and she becomes quickly obedient.  Jack is in love with Carrie Underwood (seriously) and Logan is oblivious, but these girls are whooped. I encouraged a double wedding and save them all the heartache.  

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Top Five Signs You Know You Have First World Problems

Last week, due to equipment issues in my area, my Internet was out at home.  For a whole week.  A.whole.week.  It's sad to say that I rely on Internet almost as much (emphasis on almost) as indoor plumbing.  This dependence is mainly due to the fact I'm now an online student and do a majority of my homework during late night hours.  I've realized over the past week that I experience those "first world problems" everyone talks about.  So, straight from the home office in Cupertino, California, today's top five list....the top five signs you know you have first world problems...

5.  While reading a printed book, when you press on a word you are unfamiliar with, the definition doesn't pop up.

4.  My new Fitbit Flex connected to MyFitnessPal App, all connected via bluetooth is the one way I am able to lose weight.  

3.  I can tether my iPhone hotspot to my MacBook Air in 5 calls or less.

2.  "In Sync" is more than a cool name for a 90s band.

1.  There is no such thing as Free WiFi - you can't sit at Starbucks without buying something.  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Love That's Rare

Long-term committed love is a rarity in this day and age.  With people getting married later in life and then marriages ending in divorce, finding a love between two people that lasts more than 50 years is almost extinct.  My parents were married 53 years when my Mom passed away and their love story was so sweet.  In short, a young Rose writes to a strange sailor stationed in the South Pacific during World War II.  They fall in love and the rest is history.  There was a recent story about a 96-year old man who wrote a song for his sweet bride.  I won't give away the details, but I cried through most of this video. They were good tears.  It reminded me a lot of my Mom and Dad and of a love that is oh so rare....get your kleenex and enjoy.  

Monday, September 09, 2013

Two Tales of Customer Service

Those who know me best, especially from a professional standpoint, know I am a believer of excellence in customer service.  In fact, one of my mantras to my team is "excellence in customer service."  I encountered two recent customer service fails that actually turned out to be a benefit for me.  

Tale #1 - When my Dad passed away, he had pre-arranged his funeral at a local home that is part of a larger corporate network in the area.  It made it much easier for me to take care of things since that was already in place.  But, since my Dad was a long-time Mason and Grand Master of the state of Kentucky, he did a lot (read: hundreds) of Masonic funerals, hence I've been exposed to the funeral business for quite a while.  My Dad could walk into any funeral home in town and everyone knew him...and respected him.  When my Mom passed away, we had her at another funeral home, though also part of this large corporate network.  The service was impeccable.  I don't know if it was because when my Dad walked in, everyone buttoned up or what, but it was painless during a tough time of pain.  

Sadly, I didn't have the same experience this time around.  Oh, it wasn't awful, and they did take care of the main essentials, but dropped on some major issues that I felt were important.  Communication was lacking so when my family arrived for our private visitation, I had to recount all the arrangements again.  My Stepmom hadn't seen my Dad in probably three weeks, and I had no idea her reaction once she saw him. I wanted her to have time to adjust to that before visitors started arriving.  I had to push the funeral director to do this.  Second, many people sent flowers and other things to the funeral home...some I probably missed.  When we came back from the cemetery to collect the flowers and items we wanted to take with us, I noticed the cards were still on everything.  I started retrieving them and realized that there were some arrangements taken to the cemetery.  At Mom's passing, the home collected all the cards and gave them to us upon our arrival back after the service.  Now, I'm not sure everyone who sent something was appropriately thanked.

I was told I'd receive a survey and I did...and was honest.  So shortly after, I got a call to discuss my comments.  I was honest and fair, and told them I was doing this to help future customers.  If I could be a funeral concierge for innocent people who have no idea what to expect, I would.  The best I can do is let the funeral home know how they can have excellent customer service.  A few days later I received a thank you card in the mail from them and two gift cards from Cheesecake Factory.  I love free meals, but I certainly hope that their customer service improves as a result.

Tale #2 - This past Saturday, I met my friend, Christie, for dinner.  I was swimming in homework after a week (and still!) no internet at home and working from my tethered mobile phone hotspot or at Starbucks and needed a break.  Our server was a sweet guy, but didn't seem the sharpest knife in the drawer.  We placed our orders and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  He came to our table and said that something happened and our order disappeared in the system and asked for it again.  He said they'd put a rush on the order and that our meal would be taken care of.  Well, sweet!  Free meal!  So we waited.  And waited.  And waited.  He stopped by to see if the manager had been by and we said no.  And we waited some more.  Then the manager brought us our food.  No "sorry about your wait" or anything.  But it was free, so yummy.  Later the manager came by to see how things were and apologized for the delay and said "Dessert is on us!"  After he walked away, we looked at each other like "huh?"  Later the server came by and declared the same thing....dessert was free.  Still baffled, we just smiled and nodded.  Once we were finished, the server came to see what we wanted for dessert.  We told him we didn't want anything.  But he kept pushing.  We said, "No, but thanks."  Then he brought us our bills.  Hmm.  Being happy we just got food, we put in our cards and just wanted to pay and get out of there.  A discount or comping our beverage might have been good, though.  As we waited for the server to pick up our bills, the manager came by again pushing the free dessert.  We kindly said no.  And he.just.kept.pushing.  That's when I was done.  I said, "Well, quite frankly, your server told us the meal would be free.  Obviously as you can see, we're willing to pay, but we weren't told we'd be paying for the meal and getting a free dessert."  The manager wasn't happy and said to take our cards back and he'd discuss it with the server.  He said the server didn't have the authority to say that.  Ok, well, you got more problems then your server.

Customer service is a dying art.  If I could construct the dream consulting job, it would be working with companies to make them 100% client focused.  Amazingly your revenues improve when that happens.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Five Minutes: Red

Each week Gypsy Mama chooses a word to write about for five minutes. No editing, stream of consciousness. Today's word is: Red.

Ready. Set. Write.

Tonight in Cincinnati, the Reds will face the Dodgers and will honor the great Joe Morgan from the 70s squad known as "the Big Red Machine."  It's the first time all 8 of the players are back together.  I grew up cheering for the Reds and going to the games with my Dad.  Even in recent years, I'd go watch a game on television with my Dad.  I thought earlier this year that I would see if I could get tickets to the Reds and take him to a game.  He would have probably said, "Nah, we can just watch it on TV." because the thought of all that walking would have tuckered him out.  But I so wanted to get him to the new ballpark just one time.  Now he's gone and I suppose he has the best seats ever looking from above.

I sure would love it if the Reds pulled a World Championship this year, in honor of my Dad.  But even if they don't, I still love the Reds and love watching them and thinking of my Dad.  Red is a pretty amazing color.  It's the color of the Cincinnati baseball team.  It's the color of the Louisville Cardinals.  It was my Mom's favorite color.  And, it's the color that represents the blood that was shed so that I can live eternally with my Creator.  

Thursday, September 05, 2013

You Will Face Hell for Eternity

Tuesday night, Ariel Castro, the man who kidnapped and enslaved three young women for a decade, hung himself in his prison cell, just 30 days after his court judgment.  Most of us can never fathom what possessed such acts from a human to other innocent humans.  But apparently, he could not endure just one month of the imprisonment he imposed on his victims for 11 years.  

During his trial, one of the victims, Michelle Knight, faced her captor and read a statement.  I can't imagine her ability to do that, aside from the grace of God.  But she made a very telling statement as part of what she shared.  "I spent 11 years in hell. Now your hell is just beginning. I will overcome all this that happened but you will face hell for eternity."  You will face hell for eternity.  Yes, I am pretty certain that Mr. Castro is being tortured far beyond what we can imagine in hell today.

Thinking about that statement, "You will face hell for eternity" made me realize that although I may not have done the heinous crime Mr. Castro did, apart from my salvation from Christ, I, too would face hell for eternity.  Romans 3:23 says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."   All.  Not just the monsters like Mr. Castro.  But me.  There is nothing I can do to be 'worthy' of an eternity with my Creator. Only because my Creator sent a Rescuer in Jesus do I have a way to be saved from that everlasting torture.  

No matter how horrible Ariel Castro was, sin is sin.  I'm so thankful my sins are forgiven and I will face my Redeemer for eternity.  

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

And Just Like That, Summer Comes to a Close

The traditional start of Summer has been Memorial Day while the traditional end of Summer has been Labor Day.  Forget all those moon calendars, this is the calendar the world lives by...even when schools start on August 1.  Now that the long Labor Day weekend is over (which I'd love a re-do for more time, please and thank you), I was reflecting on the summer that was.  It's gone by fast, but it's been quite jam packed.

Summer began just three short weeks after my Dad's passing.  I honestly look back over that time and see God's grace so evident.  That is the only explanation for why I endured all that I did.  I often think back over the events of that time and some days it seems like a dream.  But, God, in His awesomeness graciousness, has continued to pour grace in my life.  I kicked off Memorial Day weekend sitting for the GMAT.  I wouldn't say I aced it, but I did well enough to get me into grad school...praise Jesus.

In June I took one of two trips to California this summer.  Just saying that blows my mind - two trips?  In three months?  That trip was so great on so many levels.  I was able to visit my team and work with them for the week, but even greater, I had time away from the world and time to reflect, while overlooking the Pacific, on life and the loss of my Dad...and the greatness of God. I needed that time to get away.  The trip was almost perfect until a baggage truck driver ran in to the engine on my flight home and delayed me to a red eye.  I came back and jumped right into VBS.  A week-long fun fest doing Preschool crafts with some of the cutest preschoolers around.  I was running on west coast time and exhausted by the end of each day, but that week of vacation to be a VBS worker was so worth it.

For the Fourth of July weekend, I headed to visit my Alabama family, Paige and Steve.  Even though it rained non-stop during the weekend, I loved my visit.  It was good to be away during the holiday that is also my Mom's birthday and at a time when I just lost my Dad.  I got to meet some folks I've heard about for years and even prayed for and that made the trip complete.  School started for me July 1 and it's been non-stop ever since.  I may be crazy to admit that I love school.  I don't love the fact that I lack in time management skills, but I love the study.  With MBA, it's topics I can identify with and school is much more exciting when you've worked for decades and have a frame of reference.

In a blink, August was here and gone and included yet another very quick trip out west.  It was a Sales meeting so it was non-stop work and intensity....along with hilarity...the entire time. When I came home, I had to jump right into finishing my first term at school and starting a new one.  Then the month ended with a wedding of two friends on the very last day of August.  

I'd like a day to just sit and take deep breaths, but life marches on.  And so begins the first season of holidays and birthdays without my Dad.  As always, I know God will pour out His Grace.  Instead of wondering how I'll handle this season, I need to just sit in wonder of Him this season.