Month: March 2016

Dear Nivea

 

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Me, thinking about Nivea products.


Dear Nivea,

Recently, I ran out of my favorite skin cleanser, Burt’s Bees Wild Lettuce Toner. Unable to find another bottle of my usual product, I decided to try your Nivea Visage Moisturizing Toner.

I knew there was something different about your toner immediately and found its skin-soothing properties to be quite satisfactory. It did indeed comfort my skin, as the bottle promises, and this in turn comforted my soul.

I couldn’t really put my finger on what made your toner so extraordinary until this morning when I was reading the bottle and I noticed the writing at the bottom. This writing finally explained why your product is special.

There, in your large, easy-to-read print, you have answered the question that has been plaguing me since I first tried your toner. Lo and behold! The secret is that your Nivea Moisturizing Toner is “SKIN INSPIRED.” That’s it! I should have guessed! You are a clever bunch, working hard in your Nivea laboratories, aren’t you?

In addition to explaining to me why your product is superior, this revelation has also made me question the integrity of the lesser, NON-SKIN INSPIRED skin products on the market. Perhaps if Burt’s Bees Wild Lettuce Toner was SKIN INSPIRED like your own, I might have been able to find a bottle of it somewhere?! Ha! And what is inspiring them to make their skin products, I now have to wonder? It certainly isn’t SKIN or they would have put that on the bottle like your company, right?

In fact, my new favorite company Nivea, you have inspired me to make a change in my own lifestyle, a change for the better. I only hope that I can live up to your fine example of inspiration and make you proud.

From now on, when I cook dinner for my family, it will be FOOD INSPIRED. When I get dressed, it will be CLOTHING INSPIRED because I know that is what you would do. When I take a shower, I’m going to try a new approach, and thanks to you, my showers will now be CLEAN INSPIRED. I cannot decide if my laundry will be CLEAN INSPIRED, or instead CLOTHING INSPIRED, but I’m sure the answer will come to me soon. Maybe you could recommend another of your fine products to help me with that dilemma?

In closing, I just want to say thank you, Nivea, for the SKIN INSPIRED skin products and the lessons I will take from them and use to better my life in so many ways. You might say that I am now NIVEA INSPIRED!

Sincerely,

Tawni Nivea

P.S. I hope you don’t mind that I have changed my last name to Nivea in your honor. I decided the least I can do is change my name, since your company has changed my life!

 

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The inspiration is setting in.

 

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Wildly inspired by Nivea.

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Having a Home Built: What We Didn’t Expect

Pictures of many home builder/neighborhood problems described are posted below some of the written descriptions. I’m not giving the name of the builder because my goal is to share information with this company per their request, and to help anyone considering using a home builder learn from our mistakes.

*****NEWLY ADDED AT END OF THIS WRITING: Pictures of some of the few houses left in the neighborhood that haven’t been repainted. Our house was built in the first phase of the neighborhood, so many of the houses pictured are newer than ours, with siding cracking and falling off, and paint rubbing off and fading far beyond what’s typical for houses built in under the last 8 years.

Included last is a picture of the latest garage door in 20+ I’ve spotted half-open over the years because 1 spring isn’t enough to support a garage door the size of our neighborhood’s garage doors, according to 3 garage door repair companies we called. I’ve been watching them break 1 by 1 over the years, many within 5 years of building.

One company told us using 1 spring is no longer up to code because of this basic engineering issue. If our builder disagreed with the opinion of all of the local garage door companies on this point, we should have been informed we’d be soon replacing our garage door at the time of purchase.

If we’d known 1 spring would break soon, we would have paid extra for 2 because springs breaking can be dangerous if they break and hit a person standing in the garage at the time (as well as an annoying repair to be making before you’ve owned your home for 9 years).*****

~~~~~

Nine years ago, my husband and I had a home built by a local builder in one of their custom neighborhoods. We chose an open lot as close to the playground as possible, as our son was nearly two and active. The lot backed up to vacant land full of trees and grass, offering privacy that largely factored into our decision.

We were told by the model home salesperson, Larry, that the neighborhood was quickly filling up with “young families like ours” and were assured it was not going to be a rental property-filled neighborhood. We were excited to live in a suburb with other kids for our young child to befriend.

***

We were told that the field on the other side of our backyard fence had been sold to a church. We found this soothing, as it gave us hope we might not have apartment buildings one day looming over our backyard, and minimal noise.

The land, however,  was not sold, and is still for sale. We now wonder if one of the many large apartment complexes being built in the area, or perhaps a noisy strip mall will be built against our back fence. It eventually became apparent, as the ‘for sale’ sign in the field stayed up, that Larry blatantly misrepresented the land to get our money.

***

Larry also told us the sidewalk that runs along the side of our playground–and stops abruptly–would eventually be continued to a nearby neighborhood that was across a field. He touted the fact that the sidewalk, once connected to the other neighborhood, would allow us walking/biking access to a nearby park and community center.

We waited for the sidewalk to be connected to the neighborhood across the field. Nine years later, this has still never happened.

19.pngThis is the neighborhood sidewalk to the north of the playground that branches off into the sidewalk to nowhere.

11.pngThis is the branch of sidewalk next to our playground the salesperson assured us would eventually be connected to the neighborhood across the field. All of the neighbors with whom I spoke were told the same thing.

54.pngThis is where the sidewalk ends. Shel Silverstein would be impressed. The houses you see are the neighborhood to which we were told we’d eventually connect.

***

The neighborhood connection might not have happened because the field has been turned into a dangerous drowning hazard for the children at the playground.

Did I not mention that? I’ll explain.

Another selling point Larry shared was that the field would “always be a field, because the city owns the land, and it’s zoned as a floodplain.” We liked knowing there would be open land so close to our playground, and this very much factored into our decision to buy our home where we did.

goodfieldI took this picture of my son standing at the edge of the floodplain field the day he decided to wear his Batman pajamas to the playground, which is behind us. He looked so thoughtful, and ready to fight evil… I couldn’t resist.

***

Imagine our surprise when the city brought loud digging machines to carve a twenty-ish foot deep lake into the “field that would always be there.” The digging and machinery noise lasted months, and if a kid who can’t swim falls in, they’re out of luck. The lake they dug has no gradual incline into the water to prevent drowning… it goes from edge to extremely deep immediately.

12.pngThis is the view of what used to be the field my son was staring out across in the previous image. The water spout you see is one of three, and the only one that still works, so we’ll be expecting lots of mosquitoes this summer.

Instead of a field, we now have a lake twenty yards from the edge of our playground. No fence was built to keep kids out, and strangers wander daily around the lake to fish.

20.pngSee how close to the water our playground is? Yeah, it’s fun trying to keep the children away from the drowning pool. A fence would have been nice. Just sayin’.

With the new water hazard/mosquito-breeding health risk, and plenty of unknown people circling it, our playground feels much less safe than the vision the salesperson painted.

24.pngWhen they dug the deep pit, the workers slopped concrete along the top north edge and didn’t bother to flatten it. It’s an ankle-twisting eyesore that actually makes it harder to walk the edge. Please note the old plastic picnic table one of our random “fishing guests” recently discarded. Lovely.

None of this was shared with us when we were in the process of choosing a lot or buying a home. So much for the promises of that “forever field” of open land used to sell us on the neighborhood.

17.pngThis is lovely, but we now have strangers constantly wandering near our homes. They either park at the playground, or access the lake from the dirt road they’ve created on the other side.

***

Some problems with the home we noticed immediately upon acquisition:

1. They used the wrong bricks… halfway through building our house.
We chose a red brick for our outer walls. The builders ran out of our red brick mid-build and substituted an orange brick, giving two walls an odd “half red/half orange racing stripe” appearance that caused multiple neighbors to ask, “What’s going on with your walls?”
racing stripe wall.jpg
The fastest wall on the block.
~
The builder sent someone to look at the walls. They immediately agreed the walls looked weird. They sent the bricklayers to knock out individual bricks and replace them with red bricks, creating an equally odd-looking red and orange-mottled appearance.
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Speckled but still orange-red, rather than the crimson-red brick. The other side of the garage had the same half ‘n’ half appearance.
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A representative from the company once again came to our home, agreed the walls on both sides of the garage still looked strange, and finally the brick crew was sent to tear down the walls and replace them with red bricks that matched the rest of the house.
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This was an annoying and stressful process, and we didn’t understand why bricks that didn’t match the rest of the house were used in the first place. Not very professional, and certainly not a quality move.
 ~
2. They broke a hole in our back fence during building and weren’t going to fix it.
While smoothing out the lot to lay sod, one of the building company’s workers broke a large hole in four boards of the back fence. Nobody ever fixed this. They just left a gaping hole in our back fence and expected us to accept it.
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When we took possession of the home, we asked the builder to fix it, and the first person they sent told us the nearby home supply store was “out of boards in our size,” and patched the hole with pieces of boards, which looked trashy and ridiculous.
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This is where our magical pet leprechaun enters and exits. Be jealous.
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We once again called the company out to look at the “solution.” The second employee shook his head in embarrassment, drove to the store, bought boards in the correct size, and had the fence fixed quickly.
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Hey! Who stole my kiddie escape hatch?
~
3. Our doorknobs were falling off within months.
The nice gentleman who properly fixed our fence also secured all of the doorknobs in the home, as they’d become loose to the point of nearly coming off very quickly.
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They’ve been fine ever since, which logically implies they weren’t properly installed the first time. Many other neighbors I spoke to said their doorknobs were falling off within months of getting into their homes, as well as the cabinet doors. (I guess we got lucky with our cabinet doors. Bright side!)
 ~
4. We may someday have a house fire because the electrical system was not installed with care.
We immediately realized the electrical system in the home was not done well, as the living room and bedroom light and ceiling fan switches are on opposite sides of each other in each room. We still forget and wonder, “Is this the room where the ceiling fan switch is on the right or on the left of the switch plate?” While admittedly minor, my husband and I believe this annoyance speaks volumes about the lack of care put into the building of our home.
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This is the living room ceiling fan and light switch. I honestly can’t tell you which side is which without getting up to check, but I do know the bedroom is wired the opposite way.
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The lack of attention to detail concerning our wiring also makes us worry. A few years ago, our fears were confirmed when the electricity inexplicably failed in the front office/bedroom.
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When we called to have it checked out, the electrician told us a wire had come loose in a wall outlet. This means we had a live wire loose in our wall. We asked if this is normal, and he replied, “Not if the electrician who wired your house did it right. This shouldn’t have come loose.”
~
Oh. So… that’s not horrifying at all. And aside from tearing apart our house walls to investigate, there really isn’t any way to go back and check the work of the poor quality electrician this builder used. Needless to say, we have five smoke detectors throughout the house.
~
5. Our smoke detectors were not wired correctly.
Speaking of smoke detectors, perhaps because of the “wacky wiring” of our home, they all went haywire, randomly beeping and going off at all hours, despite multiple fresh battery changes.
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We bought replacements that use electricity, and these did the same thing. We finally gave up and bought battery-only ones, even though our home is supposed to be wired for electrical smoke detectors.
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These run on batteries, even though we’re supposed to be wired for electrical smoke detectors. Darn.
~
6. They “skipped” giving our attic insulation.
When we first moved in, the fellow installing our cable was in the attic. He told us, “Just so you know, your home builder never blew insulation into the front office/bedroom. It’s completely empty up there.”
~
We called the builder, and they sent the insulation company to put in the insulation they skipped. The room is freezing and at least ten degrees colder than the rest of the house every winter, so we still wonder if they cheated us anyhow.
~
7. They didn’t clean our lot before laying sod.
As I landscaped the front yard, I realized while planting that no cleaning of the lot had been done before they covered it with sand and smoothed it over for laying sod. I dug up glass pieces, nails, chunks of brick, wiring, food trash, planks of wood, and other such debris buried deeply below.
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We made sure our young son always had shoes on when playing in the yard because we were scared he’d cut his feet on something the builders left behind.
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8. They didn’t tell us that if we chose not to add-on ceiling fans during building, it would be a major ordeal to add them later on our own.
When purchasing the house, we were given the option of paying extra to have ceiling fans installed in the bedrooms. We decided we could do this in our son’s room later if needed, thinking we might want a different (kid-style) theme.
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When we tried to install a ceiling fan we purchased to match his room, we discovered the way our builder had installed the light made it impossible to add a ceiling fan without cutting a hole in the drywall of the ceiling, turning what is usually a simple conversion into a major ordeal.
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My husband bought a ceiling fan and took this light off before realizing the builder had made installation impossible without cutting a chunk out of the ceiling. Sorry, sweaty child. No ceiling fan for you.
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This was obviously not revealed to us during the negotiation of our home, or we would have paid for them to install ceiling fans during building.
~
9. The paint they used is so cheap, it actually wipes off.
We were given three color choices of paint for the house, and chose a neutral beige. What we were not told was the paint that would be used in our new house was going to be the poorest quality (known in certain circles as “construction grade”) of chalky matte paint available.
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The paint showed every hand touch, smear of oil or dirt, and if we tried to clean it, it rubbed off completely. I had to repaint the walls in a better quality satin finish paint because it looked smudged and filthy (or missing) so quickly.
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Other neighbors have told me they can’t let their kids play with sticky toys meant to be thrown at walls because they leave permanent oil marks in the cheap, chalky home builder’s paint. This doesn’t happen where I’ve repainted with a better quality of paint.
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The white paint on the doors and floorboard wood trim is so cheap it rubs off with a dry rag. It has done this since we first moved in, and isn’t an age-related thing, just a poor quality issue. I have asthma and only use natural cleaners, but even the most gentle products remove the cheap home builder’s paint.
~
10. Our kitchen tile cracked for no apparent reason.
Within the first year, a tile in the kitchen cracked, and the crack ran through other tiles until it hit a grout line, where it continues to the concrete under the carpet. We wonder if it crosses the entire (connecting) living room.
Kitchen tile crack 1 (2)
We thought our son had drawn on the tile with a ballpoint pen. It took us months to realize the tile had cracked… within the first year of moving into our home.
~
11. Our carpet felt like stepping on rocks.
Speaking of the carpet, when we first moved in, our carpet pad was full of what felt like rocks that hadn’t been cleaned before the carpet was placed. If we stepped on one of these spots, it hurt our feet.
~
The builder sent the carpet crew, who told us the problem wasn’t rocks, but instead faulty carpet pads full of hard chunks of adhesive. They pulled up our carpet from the edges, away from the walls, and cut the chunks out.
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After that, the carpets never stayed anchored firmly against the walls and appear to be coming away from the walls everywhere they were pulled up to remove the chunks. In many places, there are long plastic strings sticking out.
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The carpet company also left sharp nails sticking up that our entire family has stepped on and cut our feet to the point of bleeding (where the carpet meets the kitchen tile).
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Many other neighbors told me they experienced the same “rocks under the carpet” situation, so this was an issue the builder knew about. Clearly.
~
12. Our bathroom drain sometimes smells like dead animals and we don’t know why.
When we moved in, the master bathroom sink drain had a rotten smell. The plumber the company sent to inspect it told me this was caused by my “hair products” and that his wife caused the same thing.
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I thought this was interesting because we’d been in the house for less than a month and noticed the smell, and oh, also because I don’t use hair products. I don’t even wear make-up most days.
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His solution was to instruct me to “pour bleach down the drain every once in awhile” to get rid of the smell. I’m not kidding. We do this, and we still smell the smell occasionally.
~
(P.S. The last time I used the “hair spray” you told me was sullying our sink’s drain, it was the ’80s, but thanks for wasting my time, oddly sexist plumber.)
~
13. Our master bath garden tub was improperly installed.
The master bathroom garden tub is surrounded by marble, and the plumbers who installed it didn’t angle it correctly, so water pools in the corner. This was compounded by the fact that the spout they installed wasn’t long enough to go past the lip of the tub.
Master Tub pooling corner (2).JPG
My husband added blue food coloring to show how the home builder didn’t properly angle/grade our tub toward the drain. He later installed a faucet long enough to reach past the lip of the tub because the builder didn’t fix this when we asked.
~
We have to keep a squeegee on that corner shelf (to the left of the faucet) to remove the puddle of water after every use, or else we get mold. The caulk used to seal the marble slabs around the tub ruptured immediately, and we have to re-do it often or mold grows in it.
Master Tub back caulk (2)
We often re-caulk because the builders did such a shoddy job installing the marble, it all came loose immediately. Yes, that’s our poorly-angled-bathtub-squeegee on the right.
~
We paid thousands extra to add the large garden tub to our home package, by the way. I wish we could take this back and have the smaller one-piece shower/tub combo put in. What a waste of money, time, and maintenance for such a crap-quality product.
~
14. I’m too dumb to microwave, or maybe… just maybe… we got one with a factory defect.
The microwave, oven, refrigerator, and stove were offered as an add-on, and we chose that option. The dishwasher doesn’t clean our dishes, the stove is corroded, rusting, and warped, the refrigerator’s top shelf cracked immediately, the side (condiment) door fell off, and the microwave broke three times.
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Cheapest appliances they could find? Ding, ding, ding! You guessed it.
~
The first time the microwave broke, the builder sent a worker out who figured out the inner piece that had broken, ordered a new one, and replaced it. It was a little box with wires. This required many visits, and during one of them, he grilled me about how I was using the microwave, blaming me for the breakdown.
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I’m a middle-aged woman, and the last microwave I had was a $40 Walmart purchase that lasted me over 15 years until I sold it at a garage sale. I’m not stupid, and I know how to treat appliances well. I’m also a neat person, keeping them extremely clean. I was offended by his suggestion that I’d microwaved wrong, causing this issue. Really, buddy?
~
When the same microwave part broke again (a part inside the machine, far away from my cruel, microwave-destroying hands) I was vindicated. And annoyed. Because once again, a strange, rude man was in my house, disrupting my toddler’s nap schedule and my life. He had to remove the same part, then come back later for a total of four visits.
~
The microwave broke again, because this was obviously a factory defect and after pleading our case to the home builder, they finally sent a very nice different man with a new microwave that stopped breaking. He installed it in minutes, which impressed me greatly as well. Bless that sweet, efficient man. He apologized repeatedly for the accusations and nuisance caused by the four visits from the other guy, and I really appreciated his kindness.
~
However, the stove is still corroded, rusting, and warped, the refrigerator is held together by glue and duct tape, and we have to wash all dishes completely before we run them through the dishwasher. We’ve renamed it the “place we dry our clean dishes.” Because we’re fun like that.
~
15. Our builder only installed one spring for garage doors that required two.
Over the years, we’ve watched all of our neighbors’ garage doors sitting in various states of partly-open, wondering why they all did this? Were they airing something out? Is this a new garage door trend? Often the weather was extreme, and having a garage door open seemed cost prohibitive. We were perplexed.
~
The mystery was finally solved when our garage door spring snapped and broke while I was leaving one morning. I got lucky because my car was outside in the driveway when it happened, as there is no way to manually lift a garage door once the spring snaps. My car would have been trapped inside otherwise.
~
We called a few garage door companies, and every one of them, after hearing about our situation, told us that cheap builders install one spring even though it’s unsafe to not use two springs when a garage door is larger than a certain width.
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Ours was too big for one spring, and the garage door employee told us our builder is known for being cheap and not installing the two springs needed for a garage door of this size. (We have an average-sized two-car garage door, like everyone else in our neighborhood.) We had to pay to install the two springs our builder should have given us.
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Now we knew why all of the houses in our neighborhood had the partly-opened garage doors at one point or another. The garage door company told us we were lucky parts of the large metal spring didn’t fly off as it broke, because this can damage cars and hurt people.
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This scared me, and I had to wonder if while saving money at our expense, the home builder considered the liability issues of cutting this particular corner. Because if my child had been injured during the snapping of our garage door spring, there would be litigation.
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Our next-door neighbor’s garage door broke in the exact same way, for the same reason, three months later. Their house was built at the same time as ours. The neighbors on the other side of us told me their garage door broke too.
 ~
16. The sky is falling. Or maybe it’s our drywall.
After our one year warranty was up, my husband wrote the home building company to let them know we had drywall screws popping loose all over our home. Imagine if the screws holding your drywall sheets in were covered with a thin layer of cheap, chalky paint that crumbled away, revealing silver screws, and you’ve got our ceilings.
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This was happening in every room, too. There are also places you can clearly see the lines where the edges of the drywall start and stop. It looks like our house is falling apart, and this started before the two-years-past-building mark.
Kitchen Ceiling 2 (2)
This is what they look like before the paint falls off, revealing silver screws. Quality work, right?
~
The home builder sent two guys to fix the drywall screw pops, which I assumed was going to mean covering them and blending them into the orange peel texture so they no longer stood out.
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This is what they look like on a side wall in our son’s room. There’s currently one above my bed I thought was a spider until I noticed the flakes of paint on my pillow. It made me wonder if I eat paint chips from popping drywall screws in my sleep. Never had that concern before in my life. 
~
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This is a drywall screw exposed right now in the master bedroom ceiling. Classy.
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What the two guys they sent did instead was slop a bunch of spackle over the drywall pops, giving them an oily, blobby appearance, and then they asked me for paint to cover what they’d done. I had a bit of the original paint in the garage, so they painted over the lumps they created, effectively making what were flat, silver screws look even worse than before.
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No, our living room ceiling doesn’t have nipples. That’s where the home builder’s employees “fixed” the exposed drywall screws.
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If I’d taken a small paintbrush and painted the screws to match the ceiling it would have looked better than the much more noticeable globs they created.
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Here’s a glob of spackle over one of the drywall screws in the master bedroom.
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This spackle glob is on the guest bathroom ceiling.
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Here’s another “fixed” spot on the bathroom ceiling.
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These little blobs of spackle and paint live on our kitchen ceiling. We call them Greasy Joe and Lefty.
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There were also drywall screws popping out on the walls I’d repainted in a satin finish, and for some reason after covering those with spackle, the guy decided to not mix my can of paint well, then paint a large rectangle over the whole mess, again making it look worse than before.
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Do you see the weird streak of lighter brown at the upper right where the wall meets the ceiling with the oily-looking blobs? That’s where the employee the home builder sent “covered up” the drywall screws. And yes, people have asked me what happened there.
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Here it is up close. I want to repaint the entire wall so it will match again, but we don’t have the money, and I’m sick of painting walls only to have drywall screws pop out, ruining my work.
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The only way I could fix their mistakes would be to sand down all the raised-by-spackle places and repaint entire walls wherever they did this.
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As you can see from the pictures, the home builder’s employees made the re-covering of our uncovered drywall screws look like water damage or structural damage, which may lower the value of our home if we decide to sell it someday.
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17. Our back door is no more.
The back door. Dear God, the back door is beyond repair. It would take a complete reinstallation of a new door to fix it. The entire frame is rotting, cracked, and open to the outside world (and termites).
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Dinner is served, termites! Also, good luck trying to force this open, humans!
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Our son can’t open the back door to go play in the backyard. Sometimes I can’t either, and have had to go around from the front door to the back via the side gate if my husband isn’t home to help.
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The door is so out of alignment it has to be lifted to a certain angle, and brute force applied to unlock it. Once unlocked, it again takes serious upper body strength to open it.
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My husband had to add the hideous-looking foam weather stripping because the door no longer fits in the frame, allowing air and bugs in.
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This is a crack in the door frame that runs all the way down.
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The screen door is also so out of alignment that it feels locked, so even if you get the main door open, you have to fight the screen. Here’s hoping we never have a house fire because of the faulty electrical wiring described above, and need to get out the back.
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This is the view from inside the screen, looking out.
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Here it is up close. When it rains, water pours in between our screen and door.
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18. Our master window wall area is trying to escape.
The frame of the master bedroom window is cracking and pulling away from the wall. I don’t know how else to describe this. It looks like someone took a chisel and tried to cut the window out of the wall.
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What is happening to our master bedroom window? Did someone try to steal it?
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Much like the back door, we have no idea how to fix this, aside from tearing the wall down, replacing the entire frame, and redoing the drywall.
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19. Siding? More like SLIDING, amirite?
Every house in our neighborhood had siding separating with dark patches between the pieces showing through within a few years. The darker the paint, the more obvious this process appears. Whatever our home building crew used to fill in the gaps between the siding pieces was made from a substance that over time has created a dark, wet-looking area anywhere it was used.
Back of house siding finger width (2).JPG
These separated areas are everywhere.
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Many people have had to repaint, and our neighborhood isn’t a even decade old. This is wrong.
Back of house siding under windows (2).JPG
Oh, good. Popping screws on the outside too.
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Our paint is a lighter shade, but this has been happening to us as well over the years. You can even see the shiny plastic insulation wrap they used around the house between the pieces of siding coming apart. This is not new, and is definitely not something I’ve ever seen on a house before. Nobody cared as they haphazardly threw our home together, and man, does it show.
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The siding on the right side of our back door.
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The siding was slipping off before the two-years-past-building mark.
West side of house siding (2)
This was happening after less than two years.
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The only solution to this will be to pay someone to patch the openings, reinforce the slipping siding, and professionally paint our house with a decent quality paint. And then hope for the best, I suppose.
***
Our house is much too new to be having so many problems, and many of them started within a few years. This is not normal. I grew up in two farmhouses built in the 1800s, and never experienced any of these issues. I’m aware that in this world “you get what you pay for,” but in this case, I truly don’t believe we did.
~
Yes, the home builder fixed many problems mentioned eventually. The “eventually” part, however, wasted a lot of our family’s time and made it clear to us we hadn’t chosen a builder who valued quality or customer service over saving money. And many of the issues look worse because of their shoddy, half-hearted attempts at fixing them.
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I was raised to believe that any job worth doing is worth doing well, and wish I’d chosen a home builder with the same sense of work pride and integrity my parents instilled in me.
~
At one point after our home was built, we watched our home builder on the television show where they build a home for a family in need and “Move that truck!” to reveal the final product. The family enters their beautiful new home, tears are shed, etc. Exciting, right?
~
But rather than feeling proud to own a home by the same builder, we watched the show feeling bitter, and annoyed by the hypocrisy–by all the care taken to build the house on TV–while our simple dwelling crumbled around us. It felt like eating a stale sandwich made by a chef who braggingly prepares a gourmet feast for somebody else in front of you.
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We are so disappointed with far too many aspects of our home. This is our house, the place we’re raising a child and being a family, and it’s falling apart. It isn’t fair, and it makes me sad. My husband and I can’t count the number of times we’ve been frustrated because of our “new” home, and it affects our marriage and our child’s quality of life.
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We are nine years into home ownership, and most of the issues I’ve discussed above were happening within two years. I don’t think this is reasonable “wear and tear” for a home this new. At all.
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We feel taken advantage of, and don’t understand how this home builder can brag about the quality of their homes on social media, which is one reason I’m writing about our experience. If they cared enough to come to our home, and maybe even talk to other people in the neighborhood, they’d see these issues are not exclusive to our home.
~
Our next door neighbor recently sold her home, for example, and told us about the list of things that our builder didn’t do “up to code” that was insanely long. It took days and money and many people to fix what wasn’t done correctly before they could finish the sale of their home.
~
One problem was that their attic’s front vent was faced the wrong way, so that the slats pulled water in rather than deflecting it down. The inspector told her she was lucky she didn’t have mold in her attic because of this. Before she could sell her house, she had to hire someone to climb up on her roof and turn the circle-shaped vent around to where it should have been placed by the builder.
~
This is the kind of poor quality everyone in the neighborhood (now full of property management companies and renters, by the way, and not “home-owning young families” as we were originally told) has realized too late is the norm for the company that built our houses.
***
My advice to anyone interested in building a new home would be to choose your home builder wisely. Read reviews. Visit sites of homes being built by the company you’re considering and talk to the workers. See if they’re engaged, careful and sober–or trashing the place and unwilling to talk. Our home was filled with garbage during the whole building process, and we were discouraged from bothering the workers during the day. Now we know why.
~
Drive around older neighborhoods built by the home builder you’re considering and see how they’re holding up. If there’s a playground or park, chat with the people there to find out if they’re satisfied customers or regret using the home builder.
~
Another helpful tip: Get the company names of everyone brought in to do the electrical, flooring, plumbing, carpentry, painting, etcetera… so you can research them as well. Do this before you sign anything or choose your home builder; not after they’ve already started.
~
Most importantly: Document everything about your neighborhood and potential new home in writing, and don’t believe a word the salesperson says otherwise. They want your money.
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They can market themselves as family-oriented and concerned with quality, but at the end of the day, your home builder is a business, not a friend. And if they’re like our home builder, once they have your money, they don’t care what kind of a dump your family has to live in until you can someday afford a better place.
***
Addendum: Below are pics I’ve taken of neighborhood houses experiencing the siding and poor-quality paint issues we’ve all dealt with, many of us within the first 5 years of ownership.
The houses in the neighborhood that actually look decent only do so because they’ve hired quality professionals to re-do their siding and paint. You can tell which ones they are because they’re often not in the limited array of colors used by our builder.

These houses are facing all different directions, by the way. It’s not a “weathering on one side” issue, it’s a “poor quality materials and workmanship” issue.

I know sales are sales, but if you’re going to brag about the quality of your product online, and it’s not quality, please don’t be surprised when former customers try to warn others.
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Our latest neighborhood broken garage door. This has happened to everyone I’ve spoken with about their garage. And to our neighbors on both sides.

Miss Congeniality

Shortly after being deflowered by the senior on whom I’d had a crush my entire 9th grade year in a small Missouri high school, I moved to Arizona to live with my biological father for the first time since I was 7, when he and my mother divorced.

My boyfriend was going to college in Colorado, and I wasn’t getting along with my mother and stepfather, so it seemed like a fresh start might be a good thing.

The boyfriend called me on the phone and we wrote letters back and forth while I lived in Arizona, finally culminating in an invitation to spend a week with him and his family, skiing Copper Mountain. I’d never gone skiing before and had to buy the ski suit and a winter coat for the trip.

After letting me pay for my own plane ticket to Colorado, he tried to seduce me in a resort hot tub, and then later had me sit in his car so he could play a song that “explained what he was feeling.” He played The Who song with the refrain, “No one knows what it’s like to be the bad man, to be the sad man… behind blue eyes.”

I sat in his black Honda CRX in confused silence, waiting to understand what the song meant, while he meaningfully sighed with his head in his hands. I didn’t understand that he was breaking up with me, and made him explain it. I didn’t know why he had been trying to fuck me in the hot tub if he was in love with another girl.

He finally had to spell it out, that he was the bad man, the sad man, behind his blue eyes. It was quite possibly the dorkiest way a girl has ever been dumped in the history of all dumpery, and I’ve hated that whiny song ever since. (Oh, poor you. Nobody knows what it’s like, how hard it is to be you, dumping me from behind your stupid Blue Eyes. I’m so sorry you’re sad.)

Luckily, his little sister was there, and only a grade below me in school. We immediately bonded, and she showed me pictures of the short, stocky girl with a huge gap between her front teeth for whom he was leaving me. He’d brought her picture along, and she ferreted it from his suitcase while he was out skiing. We made fun of her cheesy bikini pic.

Neither of us could make any sense of it, but I will forever love his sister for turning what should have been a nightmarish trip into an almost fun one. I was absolutely heartbroken, but she and I hung out and drank hot chocolate and boy-watched the rest of the trip. We forged a friendship far more valuable than the relationship I’d had with her brother.

I returned home to Arizona by plane, and proceeded to become clinically depressed. My usual A and B grades dropped, as I started sneaking alcohol and skipping school.

***

At some point that year, I flew home to visit my mother and stepfather in Missouri. I was allowed to go to a Shooting Star concert in Kansas City with my older sister and her boyfriend. My friend, the sister of the boy who’d dumped me at Copper Mountain was there with her boyfriend. He’d brought a friend along. A cute friend. A friend, they all told me, who had broken up with his girlfriend.

I’d known his girlfriend when I was moved to the small town in 6th grade. She did the thing where she turned bitchy and shitty to other girls (or at least to me) in the 7th and 8th grade. She was a somewhat popular, perky drill team-type, but I only remembered her as the girl who was nasty to me years before. I didn’t owe her anything.

Her ex-boyfriend was all over me, and we slept together. He was the second boy I ever slept with, and I flew back to Arizona to finish up the year.

My father later expressed his displeasure with my teenage rebellion via his fists, violently, repeatedly punching my face. A teacher reported my appearance, and Child Protective Services showed up at our house. It was determined I would move back to Missouri for my 11th grade year.

I didn’t want to go back, despite the beating that cost me my optic nerves and part of a front tooth, so my parents pretended I was coming back for a summer visit and had my biological father mail my belongings in boxes to Missouri.

I felt violated once again, knowing my father had been through my personal things to pack them, and violated by my mother and stepfather because they’d lied to me. I felt alone and completely unwanted by all of the adults in my life. “Here, you take her. We’re sick of her,” they all seemed to be saying.

***

The tiny not-quite-population-3000 town in which my Missouri high school was located had a Fall Fiesta every year, during which a Fall Fiesta Queen would be crowned.

These types of “who’s the prettiest?” contests repulse me, and I didn’t want to take part. The classes at school, however, voted to pick one girl to represent them. Guess who the 11th grade picked that year? Yep. Little old me. I was flattered, mortified, and confused, wondering if they’d picked me as some sort of elaborate prank. I’m not a tiny blonde beauty queen stereotype: I’m a tall red-haired awkward chick from way back.

I still don’t know why they picked me. I wasn’t popular. I was the class weirdo. It was probably funny to them to make me represent them in the stupid contest.

Not willing to spend money on a dress, my mom had me wear my confirmation gown- a white, high-necked, lace-infested creation that made me look like I’d just slid sidesaddle off the back of a horse in the 1800s. It was hideous and utterly wrong for a beauty pageant.

The girl whose boyfriend had broken up with her was in the contest. She was a brown-eyed, brown-haired, chipmunk-cheeked cheerleader in the right kind of shiny, slinky dress, and had found a business to sponsor her.

They’d gotten back together and she’d heard about our tryst. I’d avoided her at school, but now we were confined in close quarters, marching around like show ponies for the judges. She asked me to step outside and talk to her.

I know you slept with my boyfriend last year!” she said accusingly.

He told me you were broken up,” I replied.

No he didn’t!”

Yes, he did! And so did all of the friends we were hanging out with that night!”

Well we were together!”

Why would I know that? I didn’t even LIVE HERE. Why aren’t you mad at HIM? He’s the one who lied to everyone, apparently!”

She huffed back into the community center where we were being judged for our looks.

Of course she won Fall Fiesta Queen. Of course.

And I won Miss Congeniality. No shit.

I jokingly referred to the little silver necklace charm they gave me as my “you weren’t pretty enough to win, but gosh darn it, you’re friendly” award. It made me laugh that I so badly didn’t want to be in a gross beauty pageant, was forced to by the vote of my classmates, and then won the happy to be here award. Beautiful.

The girl ended up having a daughter with the guy I slept with during their Ross and Rachel break/not a break, and eventually separated permanently.

***

Oddly enough, I was reminded of this as I live-tweeted the bizarre moaning of a trainer lifting weights at my gym yesterday. She’s a stringy, spray-tan-orange woman over 60 (or extremely sun-damaged), and she trains other women while I ride the exercise bike. She loves neon colors, and this day was wearing shockingly hot pink shoes.

I was trying to read a novel on my Kindle Fire as I pedaled, but she was being so loud it was pulling me out of the story. We were the only two people in the small gym. I joked on Twitter that if I closed my eyes, I could pretend I was in a porn film, but I wasn’t really joking. It was making me uncomfortable.

Her first client of the day came in, a grey-haired, chatty woman, and thankfully she stopped lifting weights and groaning in her creepily sexual way.

Unfortunately, that was when the talking began. Still couldn’t focus on my book.

The women began to have a conversation about treadmills, the benefits of eating raw Manuka honey, and the client, in her southern accent, told a long story about how her brothers always beat her at Monopoly as a child, and she hated that game because they’d never let her quit, forcing her to play to the bitter end, but when she won Miss Congeniality in a beauty contest, her brothers said, “See? We were training you for your Miss Congeniality win by forcing you to stick with the Monopoly games.”

And this reminded me of winning Miss Congeniality so many years ago in the ugly white lace dress I wore for my Lutheran confirmation in the small town Missouri Fall Fiesta Queen pageant I never wanted to be in with the girl who hated me for sleeping with her boyfriend when he either lied to me, her, or both of us when they were or weren’t on a break and standing on a stage while she won prettiest and I won friendliest.

***

Someone on Twitter asked me if my winning Miss Congeniality/the odd gym interactions I was describing were “true story or Twitter fiction” so I wrote this true story out for her, because truth is almost always stranger than fiction.

And inspiration comes from the wackiest places, doesn’t it?

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Diary #572

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572. That’s a random number. I don’t know how many times I’ve actually taken to the Internet to ramble about the mundane details of my life to nobody and everybody, depending on how bored the people of our fine planet may be, but it’s probably not in the 500 range. I’m a liar. Sorry.

I call these ‘Dear Diary’ entries because they’re extremely random, and make me feel much like a 13-year-old girl whining in my journal. It’s a living.

I’m writing. I haven’t done this in a long time. I’ve had a bad case of the why-the-fuck-should-anybody-care-about-your-stupid-life writing yips, and I’m trying to move past it. I write words for me, just like I used to write songs for me. It’s cathartic. If someone wants to read it, cool. If not, also cool. I used to not give a shit what anybody thought because no matter what, I was being authentic. I wrote songs because I had something I needed to get off my chest, not to impress anybody else, and I need to get back into this mindset.

This is not a fuck you mindset, just to be clear. It’s a fuck me and my stupid insecurities mindset. Fuck me. Stop caring what people think, you big dork, I say to myself. It’s only life. Don’t take this, yourself, or anything too seriously. Someday none of this will matter, so don’t let it get inside your head and matter now.

Nothing matters. Say it with me, kids. Nothing matters. And everything matters. All at the same time. Nothing and everything matters. Now who wants cookies?

This is also why I turn off the comments beneath my writings. Because I’m not writing to chat about or listen to notes on my feelings, and I’m definitely not wasting precious time responding to trolls. I’m writing because I feel better inside after I write. The end.

And because hot damn, I need a creative outlet. A stress outlet. A nervous energy outlet. A pull-up-the-lid-and-let-out-some-psychic-steam-before-I-explode outlet. Kindergarten through high school, I took dance classes or danced in my bedroom until I was soaked with sweat, sang in every choir class I could take, and I sat in my bedroom endlessly singing to music. In my 20s, I lifted weights, I ran miles, I learned guitar, I wrote songs, played guitar and sang in bands… and then I had a child. Insert screeching brakes noise.

My musical life stopped as my child and heart grew. But my brain never stopped moving. And my brain will slowly drive me crazy if I don’t give it anywhere to go. My brain is a hyperactive child tugging at my sleeve trying to show me all of the things in the world while pulling me in infinite directions all at the same time. My brain never stops. Viva la ADHD.

My brain then demanded I start writing words because pretending to be a poorly-aging rock star in crap bars doesn’t work so well with the whole breastfeeding and being the mommy thing. And I suck at drawing, painting, and art. So words it is, for my much needed creative outlet. Lucky you.

***

I’m about to take an Internet hiatus because the political screaming and racism all over social media and news sites has been doing my head in. I hate to hide when I need to be a voice, but I’m no good to anyone when I’m an anxious mess. And if I see one more hilarious hashtag with the word “matter” and ANYTHING in front of it except “blacklives” I am going to throat punch someone. People’s children are dying and that shit’s not funny. Check yourself.

Another stressor: my husband is in the process of scheduling hip replacement surgery, so I’ll need to be strong as he goes through the operation and months of physical therapy afterward. I’m going to be single-parenting while taking care of my healing life partner and two cats, and I don’t see anywhere jacking around on social media sites can reasonably fit into that schedule. Without the throat punching feeling, I mean.

***

I take these breaks to secure peace of mind from time to time, but this is the first time I’ve decided to put my computer away and completely abstain. No email checking. No Facebook. No news sites. Nothing.

I have a cute little writing-only laptop I use to work on the book a chapter at a time (you know… THE BOOK all writers are working on forever), and it doesn’t allow the Internet, so I’m going to write on that. Only that. I’m forcing myself to be productive and stop playing in the comments sections of Facebook, hoping for peace and productivity. Fingers crossed.

(Humiliating aside: I once said “Fingers crossed!” in a meeting with a college advisor who happened to have a hand condition. It looked like a possible thalidomide-related issue, as her fingers were fused, leaving her two on each hand. She typed faster than I do, and I was genuinely impressed. And then, because I’m an awkward idiot, I used the term “Fingers crossed!” about being able to finally finish my degree, and then I died inside a lot. We exchanged a look. There was a pause. And then I died inside some more. And this is why I don’t like to leave the house. Because I should probably not talk to anyone ever.)

***

My husband isn’t 70, by the way. We’re both middle-aged. We remember where we were when we first heard Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” song. He was really active in his youth, damaged his hip joint, and that caused a bad condition called avascular necrosis. (You know… the Bo Jackson/Brett Fav-rahh thing?) A lot of football players and people who throw their bodies very hard at not-soft surfaces have his issue.

This is because pretty much, when you beat the shit out of any part of your body, the tissue dies. Avascular = blood flow. Necrosis = death. Damaged bone loses blood flow, and the bone eventually dies. So my husband is on crutches and in pain. He had an MRI that revealed his hip has withered away and he needs the replacement he was hoping to stave off until retirement, which is over 20 years away. Didn’t quite make it. (He’s 6’5″ and gravity is a harder on his bones.)

He had a surgery in 2001 where they drill into the bone and try to make it grow back stronger, to no avail. He was on crutches for eleven months after that surgery. (He learned to play guitar and cook really well during that time, from which I now benefit.)

We checked out his MRI, and rather than looking smooth and round like the hip ball joint on the other side, his right hip ball looks like the surface of the moon. After mice have chewed on it. Giant space mice, I suppose. Anyhow, it looks bad. So the main body part thingy that holds him up on the right side is crumbling, and he can barely sleep because what used to be an often-pain is now a constant-pain.

It’s hard to watch someone you love in constant pain. I’m moving into depression when I need to be not-depressed for someone who needs me, because I will not selfishly make my poor husband’s dying hip about me. I’m really fighting the urge to slip back into the “my mom has stage 4 cancer” depression cocoon I crawled into a few years ago to join my good friends Netflix and too many carbs in a melancholy quest towards unnecessary weight gain. This means I’m drained, pissed off, and looking for an excuse to take out my frustration on anyone who fucks with me… and it’s definitely time to get off social media. (At least I’m mature enough to recognize this about myself, even if I can’t quite fix it. Sadly, this is progress for me.)

My Depression Netflix Jam was all seasons of Gilmore Girls during my mom’s cancer battle; this time I’ve been enjoying House, M.D. when wallowing freely about the cabin. I have been on my own financially since barely-17 and could never afford cable, so I didn’t bother with a TV. This means there are many shows and culturally significant events I completely missed. Thusly, I’d never caught an episode of either of these shows before Netflix. God bless Netflix.

With the need to be stronger than usual, getting away from the soul-draining bigotry, xenophobia, and other awful stuff online seems like a step in the right direction. I’m also grabbing naps without guilt where I can, and getting to the gym for gentle cardio. I might start yoga again. I’ve been reading a lot. I’m doing things that build me up, because the world seems to want to tear us all down right now, and I can’t handle that.

***

I’ve been spending a lot of time putting articles I wrote and sold when I worked in native advertising on this site because I have them on an external hard drive, but nothing lasts forever. I want to have them safely somewhere else for storage, and also, if I decide to write for a similar company again someday, I’ll have an easily accessed example of my “articles for people without much time to read” here for them to peruse.

I used to call them “articles for dummies” because the format is so basic: bold subheadings, numbered lists, titles that let the potential reader know there won’t be a huge time commitment involved if they click, etcetera. That’s the point. But they convey information I avidly researched and tried to present in a somewhat interesting manner, so I don’t consider them articles for dummies: I consider them articles for busy people.

You say “clickbait,” I say “people don’t want to spend 30 minutes reading long essays anymore… deal with it.” Technology is rapidly changing the average American attention span, whether we like it or not. (I actually don’t like it, but I accept it. I rebel against the dying of the attention span by reading multiple books a week and raising a child who loves to read.)

The job was great training for me, because as I’m sure is apparent while you skim this hot burst of my current brain steam, I’m a rambling writer. I write very stream-of-consciousness style, and don’t bother editing if it’s not a professional piece. But the native advertising job forced me to write within a 700-1000 word format, and it was excellent training. Concise has never been my strong suit. I can admit it. (I can also pose the question, “Why does everything need to be concise?” Can’t a girl ramble once in awhile without being shut down? WHATEVER, OPPRESSOR.)

***

My son has been nominated for the National Elementary Honor Society, which is really great because it’s not only offered to kids who get straight As; they have to meet behavioral standards as well. He’s working grades above average in all subjects, but this can often lead to boredom and disruptive behavior, like not being able to sit still or talking out of turn. So I was more impressed by the behavioral standards being met than the academic requirements. I tell him all of the time that there are many people out there with smart brains, but the person who works the hardest will win the job over the big brain every time. Work ethic > intelligence.

His teachers have also had to ban him from the computers because he hacks into them and changes the code. And they’ve told us verbatim that the FBI or CIA need to recruit him now because he’s so smart. I should feel proud, but I’m a little bit scared because we have no idea how to navigate the “learning about the online world versus keeping our child safe” conundrum. So that’s not causing me anxiety at all. Nope. No red wine being consumed in alarming rates in this house. Not here.

Anyhow… that’s my latest. If you’re reading this, I hope you’re well, friends.

xoxo.

 

P.S. I took a stupid Facebook quiz recently, called “What Is Your Subconscious Hiding?” and I got this:

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I laughed pretty hard at this result, but probably for the wrong reasons.

Join me?

 

 

 

 

Hiring Like a Boss: How to Recruit Efficient, Effective Employees

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It’s easy to find adequate employees who can do the job required of them, but most companies are seeking more than satisfactory: they want to recruit workers who will help the company move forward. The world is full of clock-watchers, but assembling a team of motivated self-starters can take any business to the next level.

Below are 7 tips to help anyone hire the best employees for the job.

 

1. Let Diversity Deliver—

When considering new employees, avoid hiring a team full of people like yourself. You already have your point of view to offer, and hiring those with similar backgrounds might feel comfortable, but it won’t take you anywhere you haven’t already been.

The world is multicultural, and if you’d like to profit from it, you need to echo this diversity within your team. Having a variety of life experiences from which to pull ideas is a valuable resource that can push your company in profitable directions you might not have imagined.

 

2. Be Clear on Compensation—

To avoid wasting time spent interviewing someone who isn’t going to accept the job offer if you decide to make it, clearly establish the available position’s job requirements, salary, bonuses, benefits, vacation and sick leave from the very beginning.

If there is room for negotiation, set your limits early, and if the work compensation is set in stone, let the applicant know this early-on to avoid pointless follow-up interviews.

 

3. Call on the Crew—

Having current employees participate in the hiring process via group interviews can help you determine who might be the best match for available positions. Your present team knows exactly what the job involves because they do it every day, and might offer valuable insight on potential new hires.

Including the crew will also allow everyone the chance to interact interpersonally during the interview, to confirm compatibility amongst employees.

 

4. Don’t Discount Different—

When perusing potential job candidates, avoid following a formula of rigid requirements, and listen to your intuition. Don’t discount someone lacking experience or a traditional background for the job, because people may surprise you when they adapt quickly and excel in a new field.

The charmer with a theater degree might be amazing at sales, for example, because one of the most important aspects of sales is selling yourself, which is what actors do best. If you have a good gut feeling about a non-traditional applicant you’ve interviewed, consider giving different a chance – you may be pleasantly surprised.

 

5. Find Former Feedback—

People can change, but you don’t want to waste your training time and money undoing bad work habits you didn’t detect in the screening process. For this reason, calling former employers of potential new hires to ask about their job productivity is a smart move.

If there are no references, this should set off warning bells in your head, but be sure to ask why before you throw the application into the “no” pile. There may be a logical reason (i.e. the company went out of business) or a situation that can be explained.

 

6. Consider Commitment—

Training can cost money, not to mention the time lost by mentors teaching trainees new skills. This makes it important to hire people who see your open position as a career and not just a stepping stone.

Ask probing questions during interviews to make sure you’re hiring someone seeking a future with your company, and discuss long-term employment goals.

 

7. Grab the Go-Getters—

Unfortunately, when faced with an amazing candidate, some managers avoid hiring them for fear of losing their job to the motivated soul sitting before them. This is a huge mistake, because exceptional employees are not competition: they are the people who will make you look good for hiring them.

Be confident that your job is secure, and consider a smart new hire the person who will help you achieve your next promotion.

 

As the boss, you feel excited about the success of your business, and need to hire employees who not only share your enthusiasm, but want to work hard to turn all potential opportunities into victories. Use the hiring tips above to recruit the most efficient, effective employees possible to increase profits and make your company a success.

Are You That Person? 8 Common Gym Etiquette Offenders

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Those who work out in a gym may recognize certain people who annoy others with rude or oblivious behavior. Discourteous actions can put a damper on a workout, making it a frustrating and irritating experience, rather than a positive one.

Read below about 8 common gym etiquette offenders anyone can avoid becoming with a little consideration for others.

 

1. The Slammer—

You may be startled this person’s weights crashing to the ground, or by their weight machine clanking deafeningly between repetitions.

Not only are these loud noises annoying for those near The Slammer, people with anxiety disorders such as PTSD can find them to be anxiety triggers, turning a trip to the gym from cathartic to stressful.

The Slammer is also known by anyone with knowledge of proper form as The Cheater, because not controlling weights on the way down doesn’t allow muscles to be fully used, and is lazy lifting.

 

2. The Super Soaker—

Yes, sweating at the gym is normal, but people should realize that excess sweat has to go somewhere, and unfortunately, the weight machines, bikes and benches are not made of sponge.

Most gyms have paper towels available and conveniently placed, hoping people will wipe up their own wetness. But if your gym doesn’t offer this feature, there is an amazing moisture-absorbing invention called a towel we can all use so the person after us won’t be forced to share our DNA.

 

3. The Machine Monopolizer—

Boy, you’d love to use that weight machine. And that one, too. But that person at your gym has decided to drape a towel over each one to “save” them while rotating, making it so nobody else can use the machines they’re monopolizing.

This is very rude, because by making people wait to use an empty machine, The Monopolizer is saying to everyone, “My time is more important than your time.”

Working different muscle groups is effective, but can be done without hogging machines.

 

4. The Slowpoke—

The Slowpoke is that person casually reading a book, or sitting for long stretches of time between sets on the same machine, not really working out hard enough to accomplish anything.

Usually only at the gym to placate their nagging doctor, or to feel like they’re “doing something for their health,” what The Slowpoke doesn’t realize is that if they aren’t going to actually work the muscles, they’re only wasting their time. And yours.

 

5. The Cardio Keeper—

The general rule in most gyms, whether posted or not, is that if the cardio machines are full, gym members should limit time to 30 minutes to allow other members a chance to warm up.

You’ll recognize The Cardio Keeper as that person who sees people waiting to use a cardio machine, but inconsiderately stays on for an hour.

 

6. The Weight Leaver—

The most perplexing of gym etiquette offenders, The Weight Leaver is an elusive and confusing creature.

You won’t see the weight leaver, but you will know them by their trail of weights. You know… the weights they came to the gym to lift, yet lazily left on every machine they used?

Gym etiquette experts have yet to figure out why anyone would come to a gym to use their muscles, but then be lazy about doing exactly that.

Perhaps someday the mystery of The Weight Leaver will be solved, but until then, the rest of us will have to rack the weights these slothful mammals leave behind.

 

7. The Expert—

That’s funny – you don’t recall hiring a personal trainer. Yet looming over you while you work out, giving you “pro-tips” is a complete stranger who has decided to boost their ego by telling you what you’re doing wrong.

If nobody asked, there’s a reason for that, but The Expert seems to have no clue. The best way to avoid The Expert is by ignoring them until they go away.

 

8. The Yapper—

This person has a cell phone, and they’re not afraid to use it – loudly – and usually while you’re trapped next to them, trying to get some cardio.

Try as you might to outpace their conversation, it will race along beside you, forcing you to be an unwitting participant in a complete stranger’s relationship with another human.

When faced with The Yapper, feel free to hum loudly, or even join in on the fascinating discussion about what their co-worker said today and what they’re making for dinner.

 

It really isn’t difficult to be a considerate gym member or human. By trying to avoid the behaviors above, and having respect for the people around us, we can all have a great gym workout every time.

Human Hacking: Ways RFID-Blocking Products Can Protect Your Identity

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Many passports, credit or debit cards and forms of identification contain little RFID microchips containing personal information that can allow thieves to steal our money or identity – and all they have to do is walk past us.

Because these RFID microchips use radio frequency to transmit information, all a thief needs to copy the information they contain is easily-made RFID-reading equipment hidden in a briefcase or backpack. This means the person walking past you in the airport, or standing next to you in line may be harvesting your valuable information as you unsuspectingly go about your day, oblivious to the nightmare of identity theft in your near future.

Fortunately, there are plenty of things to do to keep these human identity hackers out of your personal business, because the RFID-reading equipment can be blocked. Below are some products and ideas you can use to keep your financial information private and avoid identity theft.

 

1. RFID-Blocking Travel Wallets—

Radio frequency is blocked by metal and water, making us wonder if water-lined RFID-blocking bags and wallets are in development. But in the meantime, we have metal-lined products to keep prying criminals out of our wallets, credit cards and passports.

One of the most popular of these products is the RFID-blocking travel wallet. Generally these offer places for multiple credit and ID cards, as well as separate holders for passports. Lined with flexible metal or aluminum inside, but nylon or leather on the outside, these wallets look and feel like ordinary wallets – only you know of their hidden superhero powers.

 

2. RFID-Blocking Sleeves—

If you already have a wallet you love, you can simply buy protection for everything you keep inside. RFID-blocking sleeves are great for protecting the credit cards, debit cards and other identification containing RFID chips.

Thin, form-fitting and usually made to hold multiple cards at a time, these credit card shields are an inexpensive and extremely effective way to keep the bad guys out of your business.

 

3. RFID-Blocking Passport Cases—

Designed specifically to protect a passport from RFID-reading equipment, if you keep your passport somewhere outside of your RFID-blocking wallet, it’s a great idea to give your international identity its own safe cover as well.

Some passport cases are designed only to hold a passport, but many include places for credit cards, money and other important traveling necessities, and hang as a pouch from the wearer’s neck for extra security.

 

4. RFID-Blocking Aluminum or Stainless Steel Cases—

These RFID-blocking wallets are often rectangular and somewhat boxy in appearance, but still sleek enough to fit inside of any purse.

Easily found inside a bag or backpack, a small metal case offers the added protection of visual strength: those with RFID-reading equipment will take one look at your metal protection and search elsewhere for today’s victim. Consider this tough case a “Beware of Dog” sign for the fence surrounding your identity.

 

5. RFID-Blocking Bags and Backpacks—

If you’d rather skip the little products and purchase one larger, all-encompassing piece of protective gear, an RFID-blocking bag, hip pouch, backpack or purse might be the way to go.

A larger metal-lined surface can give you the peace of mind found in knowing that no matter where you’ve stashed your identification or financial information inside, it’s not getting stolen.

 

6. DIY RFID-Blocking Creations—

Making duct tape wallets has become a popular and trendy craft over the last few years, and with the addition of aluminum foil to one of these homemade holders, you can create your own RFID-blocking protection on the cheap.

Some people also skip the duct tape completely and make aluminum cases and covers for all microchip-containing cards and identification, which works great as well.

Other tips experts recommend to thwart would-be RFID-readers is to always stack credit and debit cards together in the same spot to scramble the information. It’s also important to monitor your bank statements, credit card bills, and check your credit report often to catch thieves before they can do serious damage to your credit rating.

 

Consider using some of the smart RFID-blocking ideas and products above to keep your personal information, identification and financial security out of the hands of thieves.

The Psychology of Color: Picking a Perfect Paint for Your Personality

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The effects of color on our moods has been studied, with experts finding that the shades with which we surround ourselves can drastically change our mental and physiological states for the positive or negative.

There are many variances, of course, because everyone has different associations and memories psychologically tied to certain hues, but there are colors that tend to affect the general population in similar ways.

Below are some useful color choosing tips and the effects research has shown they may have on our mindset.  

 

1. Red is vibrant. Popular in restaurant and food product branding for its eye-catching and appetite-stimulating appeal, red has been shown to speed up the heart rate, raise blood pressure and increase levels of energy.

If you like red, you are likely a strong-willed and high-spirited person with a passionate appreciation for bold décor and strong design statements.

Often used in interior design to bring the homeowner good luck, red is considered a very rich, saturated color generally used for accessories. But if you have a larger room and feel like red represents your personality, don’t be afraid to go big and paint a feature wall this lively color.

 

2. Blue is soothing. Well-known for the calming effect it has on almost everyone, all one has to do is look up at the sky on a sunny day to understand that blue makes us feel good.

Blue has also been shown to lower body temperature and slow heart rate, making it a great choice for a bedroom or relaxing retreat.

Many people like blue, and a room painted in this color can reflect a person who is peaceful, serene and even-tempered. If you have high blood pressure, blue walls might actually improve your health with their relaxing vibe and pulse-slowing influence.

 

3. Yellow is cheerful. If you want to make a room feel happy, welcoming and bright, yellow walls might be just the uplifting addition you’ve been seeking. Yellow can create a welcoming feeling and bring light into a room, making it an excellent choice of paint color for the walls in a small or dark home.

Studies on the psychological effects of colors have shown that yellow can actually raise self-esteem and create a feeling of well-being in those who surround themselves with this joyful hue.

People who gravitate toward this color are often optimistic and known for being observant and good at communicating, according to color psychologist, Heinrich Frieling.

 

4. Green is goodness. The most common color associated with nature and a favorite of compassionate people, green seems to communicate to humans on a subconscious level that we are safe. We feel a primal sense of calm confidence when surrounded by this lush color of abundance and harvest.

Used by interior designers to promote healing, health, wealth and new beginnings, green is a favorite color of those who are perceptive, intuitive and comfortable with themselves.

Green has also been shown to increase productivity, so consider using this hue in workspaces and offices.

 

5. Purple is creative. Proven to stimulate brain activity and loved by artists, musicians and people with inventive minds, purple represents spirituality, self-awareness and emotional growth.

Purple is considered an excellent color for meditation rooms and studio walls because it can stimulate the imagination of those who surround themselves with it, inspiring people to dream and be innovative.

 

6. Brown is warm. A stabilizing, earthy and comforting tone, perhaps because we associate it with the natural world, brown is a great color to bring neutrality, depth and calm into your home.

Used in interior design to create a rustic feel with accessories in shades from beige to deep chocolate, the right shade of brown on a wall can make lighter-colored furniture and décor pop in contrast.

Those who like brown tend to favor stability, routine and security in their environment.

 

Color can enhance feelings of relaxation, well-being, increase appetite, soothe, energize, stimulate, forge creativity and more, making it necessary to choose design colors that create the atmosphere you desire in every room. Use the psychology of color tips above to cover your walls in shades that perfectly represent your personality and goals.

Suddenly Single: 8 Dating Tips for the Recently Divorced

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Suddenly being divorced can be a huge shock to anyone, making the thought of starting a new relationship an intimidatingly daunting prospect.

Depending on how long you were married, socializing may have changed since your pre-wedding days, creating many things to consider when dating after divorce.

Below are 8 helpful tips to guide you back into the single zone as smoothly as possible.

 

1. Seek Support—

Divorce is highly stressful, and those recently separated can use therapy to help process the guilt, anxiety, anger, loss and other strong emotions that may come with the end of a marriage.

Seeking guidance from someone professionally trained to navigate this labyrinth of intense feelings doesn’t mean you’re weak: it means you’re a strong, mature person trying to handle a traumatic situation in the healthiest manner possible.

Remember that everyone needs counseling or a shoulder to lean on sometimes, and anyone who thinks you need to “tough it out” isn’t being supportive.

 

2. Make Some Me Time—

If you can take a mind-clearing vacation or spend some time alone to get back in touch with yourself, this is a great opportunity for healing.

Hobbies you love or activities that bring you pleasure can be cathartic and soothing ways to work out your feelings.

Properly grieving the loss of your marriage and finding closure may also grant you the ability to trust and open up to future partners.

 

3. Swim Slowly—

Because everybody is emotionally vulnerable post-divorce, proceed very slowly when dipping a foot back into the dating pool. The water may shock your system if you dive in headfirst.

Be gentle with yourself, and don’t feel obligated to make promises or commitments you’re not psychologically prepared to keep.

The only thing you owe dating partners is honesty, so make it clear from the beginning where you stand and what you are looking for in a relationship.

 

4. There May Be Baggage—

Especially if there are children involved, the newly-divorced dating experience will be a completely different beast than the one you knew pre-marriage.

Be aware that if you have children, anyone you date will potentially be a part of their lives, and that anyone you date may also have children to be considered as well.

Be careful not to judge potential partners for what they bring to the table—and if you have children, immediately dismiss anyone who doesn’t respect your relationship with them. Your marriage may have ended, but you’re a parent forever.

 

5. Find Your Friends—

If you can find the time to bond and reconnect with your friends, this can be a great way to surround yourself with the support you need right now.

When you’re ready, your single pals can also be helpful guides to ease you back into the world of dating with insider knowledge of the local scene.

 

6. Try a New Type—

Many of us have a “type” that we tend to be attracted to and date over and over again. Thanks to the recent divorce, you now know that your usual suspect may not be the wisest choice, so consider dating someone completely unlike your former partner.

Sometimes moving out of your comfort zone can push you to grow in different and unexpected ways, opening your eyes to something—or someone—you never realized you might find appealing. Give different a chance: you may be pleasantly surprised with the results.

 

7. Be True to You—

There’s no point in faking it: the real you is going to come out eventually, so don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. You have nothing to prove to anyone, so don’t hide your personality or quirks.

The right person will like you for who you already are, so remain honest and relaxed to communicate in a healthy and authentic way.

 

8. Don’t Compare—

Avoid comparing those you date post-divorce to your ex-spouse. Everyone deserves the right to be judged fairly, and using your previous relationship as a gauge for future connections is a huge mistake.

Also be careful to not project the hurt, insecurities or other negative aspects of your previous relationship onto an innocent person.

 

The most important thing you can do when dealing with a painful experience such as divorce is try to learn from the mistakes you’ve made, give yourself time to heal, and move forward when you’re ready.

Use the tips above to move gently back into the world of dating, and remember that the right person is out there. Even if it takes a while to find them, you’re on the path to better things, so stop and look around, take deep breaths, and try to enjoy the adventure.

Fueling the Engine: What to Eat Before and After Exercising

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Knowing what to eat before and after exercising can drastically amplify the results achieved by a consistent workout routine. Although many fitness fans believe fat is burned faster by exercising on an empty stomach, most experts warn against this potentially metabolism-lowering practice.

Studies have shown that eating small meals before and after exercising can dramatically improve performance by keeping blood glucose levels stable—but it’s important to eat the right types of food at the right times.

Below are some useful fueling tips to enhance any fitness program:

 

1. Water Works Well—

The number one rule of effective exercise and recovery is proper hydration. We need fluids before, during and after workouts to keep all systems running smoothly and body temperature cool.

Plain water, coconut water, herbal teas or other types of non-caffeinated beverages are highly recommended, and be especially sure to hydrate 1-2 hours before exercising.

Well-timed pre-hydration will prepare the body for exercise without causing the sloshing, stomach-cramping feeling that drinking liquid too close to a workout can create.

 

2. Post-Exercise Hydration Helps—

Post-workout liquids are a great way to replace lost fluids, and including protein in these drinks can help muscles heal.

Protein shakes are a favorite recovery drink because they’re easy to make and contain helpful amino acids, but chocolate milk also offers similar benefits.

No matter what, your recovery drink should contain protein; and if you’ve worked out for a long time or in excessive heat, consider adding electrolytes as well.

 

3. Meal Timing is Important—

It is recommended that all foods be eaten at least 1-2 hours before exercise to avoid cramping, indigestion and other gastrointestinal issues that working out after meals may cause.

Because the stomach is busy digesting food, the body has less energy to dedicate to the workout, making exercise after a meal more difficult.

If your schedule doesn’t allow time for proper digestion, try to eat the smallest snack possible for your energy needs.

 

4. Food Type is Important—

Because carbohydrates give the body the most readily available energy source, they are the top pre-workout choice of food for many.

Especially recommended for shorter workouts involving intense training, carbohydrates keep the body’s engine running strong with less chance for stomach issues, such as those caused by fatty or excessively fibrous foods.

Protein is a good pre-exercise food for those exercising multiple hours in a row, as the carbohydrates will be burned first, with protein providing energy later when carb reserves are depleted.

 

5. Get on a Schedule—

Use a journal and take notes if it helps you figure out which foods give you the most effective workout, and try to stick to an eating/hydrating/exercising schedule if you can.

Everybody’s different, so what works for others may or may not work for you, but by staying conscious of your choices and schedule, you will find it easier to give your body exactly what it needs, allowing for better results.

Keeping a food and exercise journal can also help those who are dieting remain aware of the calories consumed and burned for weight loss progress.

 

6. Make Wise Food Choices—

In addition to knowing when to eat carbs or protein, it’s also important to choose healthy versions of these foods. For example: fried chicken is mostly protein, but it comes with excessive fat and simple carbs in the breading that might upset an exercising stomach.

Some popular pre-workout meals include whole grain cereals, breads or pastas because whole grains are high in fiber, causing them to be digested and absorbed slowly.

Examples of complex carbohydrates with a bit of protein for great pre-workout energy might be: peanut butter on whole grain toast, yogurt mixed with whole grain cereal, oatmeal with nuts, apple slices with a handful of almonds, or eggs scrambled with vegetables.

 

Smart hydration, fueling and recovery selections can greatly increase the benefits and effectiveness of any workout regimen. Use the tips above to remember when and what to eat before and after a workout to give your body the most efficient exercising experience possible.