Back to Never Again

21 07 2013

As some of you know, I do not sleep well. I haven’t slept well in 10+ years. There are a million reasons for this. There are rare occasions when I wake in the middle of the night and have a moment of clarity or creativity. I had one of those the other night. It wasn’t even super creative like when you have one of those wild, hallucinogenic fever dreams. It was just something so simple and succinct that came to me as I awoke. A poem. A very simple poem emerged from the darkness.

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Lines Written in the Middle of the Night

 

I love you.

I miss you. Please,

come home.

 

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Nothing special about it. Nothing that hasn’t been said 290784978 times in literature. But it all fit. And I could get back to sleep.

 





On Being Useful and Living Long

11 07 2013

Howdy, folks.

I haven’t abandoned you. I haven’t forgotten. It’s been a pretty wild last few weeks. Come, take a walk with me.

In my last writing, I mentioned some plans going forward. The good news? Those plans actually became actions. Having been back in NC for about two weeks, I have begun, albeit slowly and when I have time, working on my book. It will likely be years to finish, if it even does get finished, but it’s something to work on/toward. I’m still open to anyone wishing to contribute, especially if they would like to write a foreword. The other item on the docket was attempting to finally lose weight and get healthy. That, surprisingly, has been the easier of the two. Not that either are easy, bear in mind. I’ve just been working on the health thing a little more…steadfastly.

I did get back to NC and with having to unpack and shop and so on, it took a few days. I spent the first week back just getting a little more into the swing of things and monitoring my diet a little more. The second week I began the DDP Yoga program. Many of you have seen the video that swirled around the internet about DDP Yoga – the story of Arthur and his transformation via DDP Yoga. If you have not, you can watch the video embedded below.

I don’t expect a transformation like that. Not at all. I’m well aware that those results are atypical. But I do expect some results, and after spending 1.5 weeks, I can definitely tell the program works, but you have to be mindful of a lot of other elements. This is not new or revolutionary. At the end of the day, we all just need to exercise more and manage our diets better. I’ve gone 2+ weeks and haven’t had red meat. And not as a means of some crazy fad diet or because of any dietician’s suggestion. I just haven’t eaten any (this, I will point out, will change next week when I’m on vacation with family in Florida). I’ve eaten a bit more chicken than usual, but that’s OK. I’ve certainly forced myself to monitor my actual caloric intake and be mindful of portion size.

The biggest problem for me has been portion control. I just never really paid any attention to it, and that is, in no small part, why I am the way I am. I am trying to keep a watchful eye on what I eat and when I eat. I still snack here and there, but now I do so with healthy/healthier alternatives – fruit, yogurt, granola, etc.. While those all have various fats and sugars, they are better than many other alternatives. Likewise, I’ve always been good about eating fresh produce rather than frozen and/or processed goods, but now I’m really, really forcing myself to purchase more perishable goods and use those because I hate to ever let anything go to waste.

At the conclusion of the first week with DDP Yoga, I successfully lost 5 lbs. I know quite a bit of it was collective water weight, but I have definitely trimmed a little fat. I’m not actually all that concerned about the number of pounds lost, at least not now, because I’m still in the early stages and it’s much more important to get into the rhythms and patterns of balancing eating, exercising, and work. Once the school year begins, the real test will come along with balancing those items. As you all know, I put in A LOT of time at school. I am making more of an effort this year to do more for me, in no small part because of actions that happened last year. I’m not going to neglect my job or, more importantly, my students, but I am going to put myself a few steps up the priority list.

I will start concerning myself with the number of pounds and things like that as I’ve really moved into the program and away from the baby steps. I can tell right now that I am building a lot of muscle in areas which I have neglected for a long time. I can tell, just by the way some of my clothes fit, that there are some minor changes happening. And that’s good. And I’m going to stick with it. But I’m not worried about the actual number of pounds lost because I can feel some of the differences already.

At the end of the day, I set out to lose some weight, improve my diet, and live a longer, healthier life. Those are not out of the question.

As for some other things, well, it’s been a weird few weeks being back here. I fully admit that returning to NC was very, very, very difficult. I was in Pittsburgh long enough to re-establish some roots. I was able to meet up with a number of friends and build some relationships I tore down in advance to moving down here. I was doing some of my famed amateur-but-still-somewhat-decent home repair for my mother. You may remember from a few years ago when I built the pond in the backyard of my mother’s house? Well, this year was an all new project.

A railroad tie and concrete block retaining wall had been falling apart for the better part of a decade. The steps that led up the hillside (and onto the deck of the old swimming pool, now the overlook above the pond) had, effectively, completely fell apart. The entire ground underneath the stone had completely washed out, shifted, and been dug out by chipmunks. The only things holding it together were some patchwork concrete block and large, flat stone slabs. It needed replaced.

This was a project completed mostly by myself. I did have a little help from my brother, but he mostly helped with hauling the bricks and doing a little (and I do mean little) digging. This was pretty much an 80/20 split in my favor. You can click each image below for a full-sized version.

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So, there you go. When all was said and done, that project was completed for under $500 and took, in actual working time, about 6 days. I stretched it a bit longer than the 6 days in no small part because I could and there was no reason to kill myself. With that said – the project, from top to bottom, was a NIGHTMARE entirely because of the ineptitude of Lowe’s Home Improvement. I have never, ever, ever in my life had so miserable experience from a company.

It took three entirely separate trips to get the bricks ordered. The 1st trip was to comparison shop and get some feedback from the people in the lawn and garden department. That was a great trip. Sadly, it was the only good trip of the bunch. A few days later, after deciding on which bricks to order, we return to Lowe’s. As we walk to the back of the garden center, two employees, who were talking to one another, look in my direction and immediately turn tail and disappear. We waited for 30+ minutes for assistance in the garden center. None came. We asked the sale clerk to get someone. They called. Nobody came. We left without purchasing the bricks and supplies. Thus, we had to make a 3rd trip to make our order. The third trip started the same way as the 2nd trip. Nobody in the garden center. Had to have the sales clerk call for help. Every member of the garden center sales staff was on break at the exact same time. They had to get someone who was covering for the entire garden center plus working inside. He came out and we told him which bricks we wanted to order, how many we needed, and that we would need them delivered. As we were having them delivered, we were going to throw in a few other items to go along with it to save us even more trips. We ordered some bags of gravel and some bags of paving base.

He writes everything down and we all go up to the cash register. The girl on the register wasn’t entirely sure how to do a home delivery, but figured it out eventually. She entered all of the information, rang in our coupon, we paid our bill, and we left. The delivery was scheduled for a few days later. All was right with the world.

Skip ahead to the delivery date. The Lowe’s driver arrives and unloads the bricks. We’ve got a major problem. The bricks he’s delivering are the wrong brings. We had ordered the charcoal (red and grey) castle wall stone, not the pure red. I notify the delivery driver that these are wrong. I say to him that I know it isn’t his fault and I’m not upset with him, but this is a major problem. He tells me I need to take up the problem at the store because he had other deliveries to make that day and he could come by later to pick up the bricks. So, my brother and I gather up the receipts and everything else and head back in for yet another trip. We approach the customer service counter and were less-than-cordially welcomes by a miserable looking woman with an attitude in her tone of voice. I explain to the woman that the incorrect bricks were delivered and the delivery driver told us to talk to the store. The attitude worsens as she begins flipping through her book of barcodes looking for the bricks. Bear in mind, we have already told this woman that we had lined up people to help assemble the wall and that we couldn’t do an exchange. She then begins to get upset with us because she was under the impression we wanted to exchange the bricks for those which we ordered.

We remind her that, no, we can’t do an exchange and wait even longer to get these picked up and new bricks delivered. My brother and mother had made time in their schedules to help me with this. So, we ask for the manager, because we’re not getting anywhere with her. She calls him over and the first thing – the very first damn thing – the manager does is immediately blame us. He looks at the receipt and tells us that accepting the receipt was acceptance of whatever items purchased and that we should pay more attention to what’s been rung up. At this point, I lost my cool with him.

There were about ten different ways for him to handle this situation. That was the single-most wrong way to handle this. Instead of walking up and asking what was the problem and how can this be fixed, he IMMEDIATELY blamed us for the employees of his store being completely and totally inept in every fashion possible. My response to the manager was that, last I checked, I was not an employee of Lowes and shouldn’t have to go over my receipt with a fine tooth comb for errors because, apparently, the other team members routinely cannot handle the basic functions of his or her jobs. Either the cashier entered the wrong data or, and I suspect this is the case, the garden center employee who ran from me one night and then had to be drug out kicking and screaming to take the order info the next night wrote down the wrong information. The delivery driver did his job of dropping off the materials, but he was supposed to pick them back up and return them to the store. It was a massive failure on every level possible, and the manager had the cojones enough to blame us first. Like I said, there were so, so many ways in which the manager could have handled that situation, and he picked the absolute, 100% wrong way to do it.

After some back-and-forth with the terrible management, he offered to refund 20% (originally offered 10%, which was not met warmly). We weren’t looking to get the thing for free, far from it, but the gross incompetence of the staff and then argumentative-ness of the customer service representative and management was certainly worth something.

Wait, it gets better.

Unbeknownst to us, half of the additional items ordered (and paid for) in the delivery were also missing. We completely and totally missed this because of being so flustered over being given the incorrect bricks. Remember how I mentioned earlier that we ordered the gravel and paver base? Yeah, only half of what we ordered and paid for (our receipt, thank you very much, indicated that 6 bags of gravel and 4 bags of paver base had been purchased and paid for). Sooooooooooo….another trip to Lowes. Thankfully this was handled with the local garden center staff. We presented our receipt and notified them we were picking up the rest of our order that did not get delivered. They said OK and marked us off and let us go about our merry way.

So, in the end, we did get the wall built and everything turned OK, but we were beholden to Lowes because of their ability to deliver what we wanted. And it was all screwed up. Nothing went smoothly and most everything was wrong. After being told that we were wrong and needed to do the job of the employees, the manager, in a somewhat condescending way, refunded what amounted to the cost of the delivery, which was also a nightmare.

And that’s my story. So, please be very, very careful when purchasing anything from the Lowes in Monroeville, PA (Store #1660). I would honestly not recommend them for anything even remotely major after this fiasco. I plan on taking my business (or, rather, my family in PGH) to the likes of Home Depot or (semi) local business, such as Ace Hardware.