Monthly Archives: April 2012

Brothers

Brian, the year he died

My brother died on April 28, 1991. It amazes me every year when this day comes up how much easier it gets. Twenty years ago I would have told you that the pain was never going to go away.

It was the worst day of my life.

For a few years my mom and I would get together on the 28th and go do something fun – just to get thru the day. This year the day was relatively a non-issue – I spent it fixing up the new house.

But it is SO not a non-issue.

I miss having a sibling, a brother. This year even more so because there is a big chasm between my brother-in-law and me. We haven’t spoken in a month and it eats away at me every single day. I feel like I lost two brothers now.

I should know enough just to tell him how much I miss him. Life is too short for this kind of drama. But I choose not to bend on this one… I did nothing wrong to warrant the venom he has showered on me over the past few months. As much as I want my brother, I am as unable to bring this one back as the last.

The first loss taught me that sometimes we have no choice.  The second loss taught me that sometimes we just have to make a choice.

Both instances taught me that moving on is always a choice. The pain eventually fades.

Gentle reminder

Spent part of my morning in a meeting with some top Chrysler execs. Among other things, we spent 15 minutes reviewing a reel of Imported from Detroit commercials. I still get goose bumps every time I hear the first few beats of the original Eminem commercial.

I still remember the first time I saw the commercial. I nearly jumped out of my seat as I yelled, ”Yes, yes, yes!” at the TV. My Twitter feed and phone started to blow up with similar sentiments from friends near and far.

So… much… pride.

Detroit has long been my home, but it is soon to be my HOME. I’m not just going to visit every day and head back to the’ burbs at the end of the work day… Just a few more days and I’m staying for good.

I’ve been so wrapped up in the process of it all, the tasks at hand, that I forgot for a minute what this move was really all about – community, inclusion, becoming part of the solution, pride… a dream fulfilled. But it all came back this morning – the hottest fires make the strongest steel.

Ain’t that the truth?

1, 2, 3, 4… I declare a consumers war

a.k.a. It’s a rant, people.

Convinced DTE is never going to show up, I just might have to power the new house this way.

So, let me tell you all about my new house. It is spectacular. It is paid for. It is mine. I’d love to move in tomorrow (or last week when I closed on it, actually), but I can’t – because my whole family would be dead from pneumonia in a matter of days, taking cold showers in a house without heat, because DTE Energy cannot be bothered to TURN ON THE GAS.

I guess I should be happy we at least have electricity. But that was six phone calls ago and I’m over that victory now. So… so… over… it. (Oh, and we have water – but that just came back on by itself without any phone calls from me. Magical water fairies or something…)

There have been no utilities going to the house for months now as it was vacant. So, as soon as I got my closing date, I set up a new account online and scheduled an appointment to have the electricity/gas turned on – on the 18th. This was a full week ahead of our closing, mind you.

I received an automated email from DTE: “You have successfully requested to start service on  Wednesday, April 18, 2012 at:  [address], DETROIT, MI  48224 for the following service(s): – Residential Electric Service, confirmation number xxxxxx6305, Gas Residential Heating, confirmation number xxxxxx6305.”

Awwww, warm fuzzies! It was my first account for the new house – the first time I had legitimately tied my name to the address. Oh bliss, oh joy, oh rapture!

Oh blah, blah, blah…

After closing Bryan and I drove as quickly as we could to the new house and, once we figured out where the keys were (thank you Bowers Realty for removing the lock box and leaving the keys on the electric meter where just anyone could pick them up… fuckwits), we ran inside and flipped on all the lights and… nothing.

I called DTE and they assured me that the power was on. I assured them I knew enough to know I was standing in the dark. They assured me that someone would be out by dusk to turn on the electricity and gas – they were just “backed up” because of some power outages earlier in the week.

So, we left – and came back two hours later. Still no lights. Still in the dark. And DTE customer service was closed for the evening.

I drove over the next morning on my way to work (well, it is no where near on my way – it was actually one big side trip), flipped on the lights and… nothing.

Again, I called DTE and, again, they assured me that the power was on. And again I assured them I was standing in the dark. They assured me that someone would be out by 3:30 to turn on the electricity and gas – they were just “backed up” because of some power outages earlier in the week.

I went to work and sent a mad Tweet to @DTE_Energy. Their social media peeps DM’ed me right away and asked me to send them details via email. I was so relieved. I trust social media peeps, after all.

And, then… nothing.

After work, at 6:30, I made another detour on my way home. And, again, flipped on the lights… and, again, nothing. And, again, DTE customer service – closed for the night. I started the long drive home, dejected.

Half way home my new (and most awesome neighbor), George, called me. DTE was there! With three huge trucks! To turn on my utilities? Overkill, miscommunication, whatever… I didn’t care. The DTE workers told George that they got a call that power needed to be “restored,” not “turned on” and that they couldn’t help. George threatened to turn on the meter himself if they didn’t. So they did.

Go, George.

Fast forward to Saturday. I take elMom-o over to the new house to show it off and it is balls-out freezing. I tried to turn on the furnace, but nothing happened. So I go find the gas meter. It is as still as can be – not moving a smidgen. I’m assuming this means there is no gas. I don’t even bother to call DTE – I know they aren’t going to pick up.

I thought about calling DTE yesterday, but the POWER WAS OUT at our current-soon-to-be-former house – as it is wont to do anytime the wind blows over 5 miles per hour – and that was about as much as I could deal with them for one day. I almost let it slide another day until DTE called me early this afternoon. Here is the transcript from Google Voice:

“Hello Ms. Adams, My name is Ms. Williams and I’m calling from the Consumer Affairs Department at DTE Energy. I’m calling in response to an issue that was referred to our department by our social media department. Just wanted to inform you that your concerns have been assigned to a representative and that representative will be giving you a call back tomorrow to discuss. Thank you. Bye bye.”

You go, my social media peeps!

I decided to call back since I was working from home and could scream loudly if need be. I explained that my electric was on, but the gas was not. I was assured that the gas was on – to check my circuit breakers to see if I had tripped anything. I didn’t yell, but I might have gotten a little testy when explaining, again, that I know when my damn utilities are on and when they are not. I’m not a freakin’ moron.

For about the fifth time in a week I was told that there was probably a problem with the meter and that it would have to be replaced and that it would probably need a special work order. And for the fourth time I explained that I’m not playing that game anymore – the only problem with the meter is that IT IS NOT TURNED ON.

Oh, and somewhere in the conversation I ascertained that you have to turn the meter on from the inside of the house – the first I had ever heard of such a thing. Kind of important information that should be shared up front, don’t you think?

After being put on hold for a few minutes, I was told that, “due to a new policy,” the customer service rep on the phone couldn’t actually set an appointment for me, that her supervisor had to and that the supervisor would call me back – “you know, probably before the end of today.”

A few minutes later I got an automated call from DTE, surveying me on the previous phone call. I was brutally honest without actually saying, “I want to blow your entire office up right now,” so, go me, for having some sense of restraint. That phone call was followed up by a live person calling from DTE to survey me about the survey.

So, yeah, DTE is freakin’ killer at surveying you about customer service. If only they put that much effort into actually delivering their actual product.

An hour later I get a call from a service worker who was at my new house to turn on the gas. He wanted to know why I wasn’t also there. I quickly calculated in my head how to stall him while I hightailed it to the new house, but I didn’t think he’d fall for “I’m at the front door, I mean the back door, I mean the front door…” for a full 30 minutes. I mean, this might be my only chance to ever get a hot shower in my new house! But, alas, I had to admit to him that no one had ever called me to tell me he was on his way, so he would just have to leave. In a huff he told me to call DTE and schedule “another” appointment.

Apparently someone hasn’t informed him of the new policy. Pee-shaw, you can’t just call DTE and schedule an appointment to get your gas turned on, silly man. You must turn somersaults, do a Mexican hat dance, call upon the great god Odin to perform miracles and then wait on hold for 37.2 minutes exactly whereupon you will be told to hang up so an elusive DTE “Supervisor” can call you back if they so happen to deem you worthy.

Oh, have I forgotten to mention in all of this that DTE has already sent me my first bill? It’s $5… for TURNING ON THE UTILITIES.

So, guess what I did? Yup, called them back. Because, you know, that’s how I roll… all “I need gas in my new house so my kid doesn’t die of pneumonia” and uppity and shit. This time, when I was told a supervisor would call back, I told them I’d wait on the line to talk to her. I don’t believe this elusive supervisor actually exists.

The customer service rep put me on hold and then came back and said someone would be at the house between 4:30 and 6:00. Aha! I was right – the “supervisor” thing IS a sham! But, more to the point, it was 4:19 – and I was a good a half hour away. I ushered Bryan out of the house as quickly as possible as I was dealing with a work issue that killing my soul almost as rapidly as DTE to wait for this rare beast we call the “gas turn-er on-er.”

I called Bryan at 5:55 because I knew I had exactly 5 more minutes before DTE stopped answering the phone. Still no gas. So, I called again. Guess what they told me?

DTE: Our records show it is on.
Me: Nope. Next excuse!

DTE: You may need a new meter.
Me: Shutyermouth, liar, liar, pants on fire!

DTE: We’re backed up because of the power outages on Monday.
Me: I don’t care anymore. I put in this request 14 days ago – before the power outages.

DTE: I see here they came out earlier and you weren’t there as scheduled. They don’t always hurry right back when you aren’t there the first time.
Me: Motherflippingchickensuckerballsonfiresonofadamnablebiscuiteater, that appoint wasn’t scheduled!

DTE: They should be out tonight. Maybe by 7:00, or 7:30, maybe 8:00, probably 7:30. I can’t call and check because dispatch is closed. Okay?
Me: NO, THIS IS NOT OKAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Then he went on to explain that outages take priority, that they don’t actually schedule “times” to be there, that they might get to it if they are in the area tonight, and that he knows I’m frustrated?

He feels my pain? Really? Because he has a house that he just paid half his life’s savings for sitting vacant because he can’t start moving in because it is 50 flipping degrees because there’s been no heat since FEBRUARY?! Oh, coincidences of coincidences…

About 40 minutes ago a very nice lady from dispatch called. (You know, dispatch… that same dispatch that is supposedly closed.) She swears that someone will be out tonight. I’d sooner place my bets on winning the lottery than the “gas turn-er on-er” actually showing up, but who knows… maybe Odin is listening.

Post-script: DTE showed up 10 minutes ago. Guess what? The gas was on the whole time. The furnace was turned off. Asshole here, signing off for the night…

5 smiles for this rainy Saturday

I started the day by waking up to Hubby delivering a hot, freshly-brewed, cup of coffee to me in bed. It is going to be a good day. A dear friend is getting married today, I get to spend the day with people that I really like being with, I got an awesome deal on my homeowner’s insurance for the new house (we close on Wednesday) and I’m in love with my new neighborhood. There is much to be thankful for… it feels like a good day to share things that will make you smile too.

Text from Dog

my dog sends me texts.
i post them here.
Yeah. it’s weird.

Anything that makes fun of Comic Sans

I’m Comic Sans, Asshole.: When people need to kick back, have fun, and party, I will be there, unlike your pathetic fonts. While Gotham is at the science fair, I’m banging the prom queen behind the woodshop.

Awesome t-shirts

Way to be all secure, Jake.

13 Simple Steps To Get You Through A Rough Day

Step 5: Feel empowered.

French Bulldogge puppies

A bigger dream than I dared to dream

So, in just a little over a week – next Wednesday to be exact – I knock two* things off the Mighty Life List; #23. Live in Detroit proper, and #33. Live in a home with two bathrooms.

I guess “they” aren’t lying when “they” say that the first step to accomplishing any goal is to write it down. When I wrote down that I wanted to one day live in Detroit proper, I didn’t really think there was any chance in hell that it would actually happen. But I declared it so and it will be so because in seven days I close on a home in East English Village.

I – we – are moving to Detroit. And by we, I mean me, Bryan and theGirl. After a stint as a counselor at Y camp this summer she’ll be moving in with us permanently.

home, sweet home.

It was only two months ago that I was mourning what I thought was going to be the loss of my entire extended family as I prepared for divorce. In fact, I only started house hunting because Bryan and I had agreed to a trial separation. Amazing how much has changed in such a short time.

During those times, when I thought divorce was imminent, I wasn’t thinking much about my Mighty Life List. Thankfully it was still thinking about me.

This move is a new start in so many ways. Not only is the house bigger, prettier, shinier… not only is going to be a home filled with a family… it is a game-changer. I’m buying it for cash. You can do such things in Detroit where home values have hit rock bottom. I’ll be 41 and own a house outright – no mortgage. I never even imagined such a thing – didn’t even bother to put that one on my Mighty Life List because it was a dream bigger than I dared to dream.

Makes me think that it might be time to up the ante on my Mighty Life List. I mean… what would you dare to dream if you knew you couldn’t fail?

* I’m actually knocking three additional items off my list by giving up my current home – and I’m totally okay with that. Dreams change, sometimes, for the better. So, I hereby declare a sweet goodbye to #32. Replace my ceiling fans, #41. Dig up all the Yucca plants from my front planter & replace them with gravel and a flowering tree, and #42. Paint my bathroom white and chocolate brown.

My TED talk

I’m about to blow any “digital diva” cred I ever had in one fail swoop…

I have yet to watch an entire TED talk online.

In fact, unless the subject matter is a make up tutorial or 2 minutes on how to change the color of your leather furniture (of which I’ll skip through roughly 80%, by the way), I pretty much have an aversion to all things video online.

I’m sure this has something to do with the fact that I’ve been online since AOL was the only public internet service provider and loading an image took 2 minutes via modem. I grew up with an internet where you read things – not watched them. My 41 year old ADD brain still prefers to view videos on that dinosaur of technology – the television.

Preferably with a one hand glued to my laptop so I can look up any questions I have about what’s happening on TV via wikipedia and a smartphone glued to other hand so I can play Words With Friends if it all gets too boring.

Anyhoooooo… this all leads me to the point of this story. Last night I was flipping through the tv guide and noticed that the Science channel is playing a series of TED science talks. Sweet motherlode! I hit the DVR record button in record speed. Finally – finally – I would be able to honestly answer when, yet, another person, when learning what I do for a living, asked me whether I had ever heard of TED and if I watched them online.

(Thank sweet baby bejeebus they never qualify that question with “in its entirety.”)

The first episode recorded last night, overnight. Having never watched more than 30 seconds of a TED talk, I was so excited this morning to flip on the TV and dive right into my first full-length exposure. I was ready to become enlightened, inspired, and smart beyond smart. I mean, for all the hype TED has received, I was fully expecting that, in a mere 60 minutes, something really transformative was going to happen to me.

*ahem* Nyet.

Now don’t get me wrong. I learned a few things. I was entertained. And the speakers were engaging enough that I actually paused the DVR as I looked up Aaron O’Connell’s bio (it gave no clue as to why he choose to wear a metallic gold nehru jacket for his TED talk, by the way) and pictures of Bill Gates’ wife. (I wanted to know if she was a trophy wife… don’t judge me.)

So, count that one as a win for TED.

But it wasn’t exactly transformative or inspirational. It didn’t live up to the hype I had created in my head. The speakers were just “regular” people and, if I’m being honest, I could have knocked the shit out of some of those talks they gave so much more so than they did. Which is sad because these men were talking about some of the most important and fascinating issues of our day.

Have you ever met a person who has the skills to produce a scientific break through, translate that information to a language so common that everyone can understand it, piece together that language in a way that brings everyone along on the journey with you, produce images that help people understand what you are talking about (we think in pictures, after all) and then deliver the information in a manner that inspires?

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

There are vast differences in the skill sets it takes to make a scientific discovery and the skill sets it takes to deliver those same ideas for mass consumption. And I think it is tragic when we don’t recognize that. We don’t do an idea justice if we don’t bring in the right people to translate and deliver it.

And I’m not just knocking on the scientist that believes that, because he created the idea and has passion for it, that he is the best one to deliver it to the masses. This is a two-way street. Those with the gifts of communication and empathy need to step up.

“I could have knocked the shit out of some of those talks they gave so much more so than they did.”

That was my immediate first response after finishing the TED talks. My second? Yeah, but I don’t. And that’s on me.

I don’t know if I am alone in this insecurity, or if it is a general undercurrent for all creatives, but I’ve always had the feeling that I had no business speaking up on ideas that are not my own. I know I know how to communicate ideas well but, because I didn’t actually come up with the idea, I was a fraud.

I have come to see it differently now. It is an imperative that I speak up, that I use my strengths to further the ideas I believe in.

It takes a whole village to raise a child, they say. It also takes a whole village to bring good ideas to the masses. And we all need to be good villagers.

 

Mama Bear

I am never going to be a mom, per say. Having kids was not in the cards for me. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be a “mama” to many. It doesn’t escape me the difference that I have had in my step-daughter’s life, or the lives of the many students I have had the opportunity to work with over the past few years in my job. I’ve been following them for years now on Facebook and every time one graduates, starts their own business, runs for public office, moves to Korea to teach English, gets married, starts a new job – I feel pride.

Tonight I received a message from one of them on Facebook, asking for a letter of recommendation for grad school. This particular person is probably one of my all time favorites… he’s humble, talented, kind and a hard worker.

“Thank you so much for everything. You are the ONE person who gave me the ONE opportunity I needed,” his message read.

He deserved every opportunity he ever got. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time and knew the right people to connect him with to help move him forward. And I am so incredibly grateful tonight that I was.

I am so damn proud.