Always Something

Over the last week, we’ve been in the midst of something… challenging.  Our lovely home which is quite old (built in 1883) has been rebelling.  We had family in town for the weekend which more than douimg_2467bled the occupants of our Queen Anne style home.  Sadly our sewer system was not up to the challenge.  Shortly after the departure of our family, Julie says “do you smell something?”  We had just come back into the house from the front porch.  Our home is two floors plus an unfinished basement, the latter isn’t exactly a place you want to spend any more time then it takes to put clothes in the wash or move them to the dryer.

We made our way to the back of the house where the stairs to the basement are located.  Down we go.  We follow our noses into the laundry room, which happens to tie into the utility room where a sewer line penetrates the concrete slab and travels under the house to the main sewer line in the street.  Between these two rooms, there is a gap of maybe an inch and a half between two concrete slabs.  Gurgling up between these two slabs is the most putrid substance I’ve had the displeasure of detecting with my not overly sensitive nose.  Raw sewage.

I spend the next hour cleaning up the mess, bleaching, and otherwise trying to return the basement to working order.  Monday I shall call the plumber.

Monday sees the plumber come to our house.  They try in vain to snake the line 3 different times, each time the snake gets stuck and they just barely are able to recover it.  Let inform me that we’ll most likely need to have the sewer line to the street replaced.  Great.

We deal with a non-functioning sewer system(limping by) for the next couple days as the earliest they can start work is Thursday.  Thursday arrives and so do the jackhammers as they begin to break up the concrete floor in the basement exposing the long since broken clay pipe.Busted_Floor  At this point we need to be out of the house as we have no functioning drainage system, so we check ourselves into a local hotel.  We’re told that they are going to try to have us functional by the end of the day Friday.  Friday comes and goes, no working plumbing.  The issue is that the sewer line they had thought ran under the basement and out from under the front of the house to the street actually runs out the side of the house, under the very substantial driveway and then turns and runs right down the middle of the driveway.

At this point, they decide it’s easier and therefore cheaper to cut straight across the driveway and connect to the sewer line running down the middle of the side street. Road_Closed Sorry neighbors for the closed road!

We spend the weekend in the hotel and try to make the best of it.  Cramming our lives into one room while work pauses for the weekend.

Work resumes Monday morning with the driveway severed from the garage and a trench carved into the yard leading to the street which also now has a swath of asphalt taken from it.

Potty Time

By this time they’re able to give us one “working” bathroom.  I won’t go into all the gory details but we’re using the term working here pretty loosely.  The second bathroom is out of commision the kitchen sink and dishwasher are questionable as is the clothes washer.  And, lest we forget the house still smells like a weird mixture of dirt, musty basement, and, you guessed it… poo.

As it stands a week and a half after work started we’re still not fixed.  We hope to have work complete middle of the week.  Still to be done is the plumbing in the house, pouring the concrete back to fix our driveway and then pouring the concrete to fill the holes in our basement.

The Final Flush

I’ve had time to ponder our situation over the last few days, the frustration of it all.  The Inconvenience.  The smell.  The cost.  However, in the midst of all this, I’m reminded of how very fortunate we are.  If not for the love and support of our family and friends I don’t know where we would be in all of this.  Just when we think we can’t deal with one more thing you tap into that hidden reserve of energy to help you move forward.  When you’re at your limit and have had a terrible day, that one well-placed poo joke gives you a laugh and changes the trajectory of your attitude.  Most importantly our faith in the Lord keeps it all in perspective.  I know that as we hold fast and persevere we build endurance and strength that we’ll most assuredly need for the next trial.  There hasn’t been a hard day that’s been able to stop us yet.  I encourage you to stop and take a moment to consider all the things that you’ve endured and overcome.  What did you learn from those times?  How did it prepare you for the things you encountered in the future?  We may not be able to foresee the next plumbing disaster, but we can control our attitudes and that counts for a lot.


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Saying Thank You

If you were a bride, you’ll remember your bridal shower. Everyone sits in a circle and your bridesmaid makes a “bouquet” out of a paper plate and all the ribbons.  And another bridesmaid writes down everything you received with the name of who gifted the much-needed crystal vase from your non-essential item registry (seriously, who actually uses their china more than once a year?).  And, please tell me you also had the more seasoned attendee who announced how many children you would have each time you snapped apart a ribbon.

The more you read about the life of Jim and Julie, you’ll learn that our marriage started out really rocky.  So, while most are blissfully in love with stressors being which flowers to choose as centerpieces, our troubles were a bit more heightened.  Nevertheless, I remember thinking that I had to get all of my thank you notes done after my shower.  To be honest, I don’t even remember if I finished all of them.  And I definitely didn’t do them within 3 months or any reasonable time frame.  I also remember writing thank you notes after my wedding, but I also remember agonizing over 1) what to write and how much to write to fill up the entire card 2) when to send them and 3) the money to pay for stamps.  I also remember thinking…what if I just don’t send them? Eek.

Ten years later, I can write an expertly crafted thank you note – handwritten, typed, and I could probably send it in smoke signals if I tried.

I’ll never forget my Nana (strong-willed Southern woman) telling me that if someone doesn’t send her a thank you note within two weeks of her giving a gift, then that person shouldn’t even bother sending one!

But, think about it!  Think about the last gift you gave to another adult.  You most likely gave the gift a good bit of thought.  With minimalism and the idea of less is more hitting homes, the last gift you want to give if something that will end up in their junk drawer or at the local thrift shop faster than two-day Amazon shipping. I don’t go all crazy on gifts, but I do spend a little more time than when I say, in college, gave a friend some Lip Smackers and Walmart jewelry (sorry friends!).  I spend time thinking about the recipient and choose something that fits their lifestyle and matches up with their interests.

I think of thank you notes as mini bridges for the overall relationship – anchors that connect you to this person throughout your life.  If you want your relationships to grow, then give them anchor points or meaningful connections that take little time and effort, but really mean a lot to the recipient.

In my profession, I send a lot of thank you notes.  And, I write them not only when my organization has received something of value, but I write when I feel I need to make a connection to show that this relationship is reciprocal. You can show your appreciation at work with co-workers and clients, with your family, close friends, and even acquaintances.

How to write a thank you note:

  • The note: I tend to choose thank you notes that reflect my style. I love simple elegance and also the color combination of black and white. I tend to buy Hallmark thank you cards and notes because I just like seeing the word Hallmark on my card and envelope – to me it means that I spent time choosing my note wisely.  Who knows if the recipient will even notice this!
  • The format and writing: You learned how to write a letter at school – you know how to do this. You’ll need the date (always date your notes!), a salutation,  a body, and a closing with signature.  The hardest part is the body.  But, the following are sure-fire ways I write winning and meaningful thank you notes:
    • Start with something that ties you to this person. Did you see them recently? Are they experiencing a heat wave in the ‘neck of the woods? Start your note off with a connection right away.
    • Thank them for precisely what they gave you – could be tangible or intangible
    • Write a sentence about how you’re using or enjoying what they gave you.
    • Close out your letter and sign it.  Use your full name if you don’t know the person well and just your first name if you have a close relationship.

I’ve included some samples below.

Pro Tips:

  1. Get your thank yous out the door within two weeks.  I have found that thank yous are best received while the person still remembers the feeling of giving you the gift.
  2. Choose a variety of note styles.  I prefer blank notes with a Thank You on the front.  I like to craft my messages and these aren’t anniversary cards to your significant other! I am a fan of these and these!
  3. Choose a few different sizes.  If you are sending thank yous to people who you don’t know well, don’t panic about filling up ALL the space!  Choose small note cards like these that encourage short, simple notes – these are perfect! If you know the person well, choose a larger format so that you can write more about your tie with them or expand on what this gift means to you.
  4. Not every gift needs a thank you note, in my opinion.  Did your two-year-old receive the latest Power Ranger or a Dora coloring book? Great! Thank the giver in person at the party.  I don’t think that children’s birthday gifts require a thank you note.
  5. Sometimes, a phone call is best.  If you haven’t spoken to the giver for a while, maybe it’s time to pick up the phone and verbalize your thank you.  And, in the case that you have waited a month or longer to send a note, a phone call may just get you out of that hot water with your Southern Nana!
  6. Don’t send a thank you note via email.  A handwritten note is like magic! An email is commonplace and while it works for a lot of relationship exchanges, a thank you note is not one of them.  You can write an email as a follow-up, but it speaks volumes when you also handwrite a note.
  7. Easy on the exclamations (!!!!!), especially in a business setting.  Use them sparingly and only if you think the other person would appreciate a little excitement!

Examples: (all handwritten on cards like these)

In response to your husband’s Aunt giving you a housewarming gift (don’t forget the date and bonus points if you include a printed photo of the gift in use):


I hope you are enjoying your summer so far – we hope to see you soon! Your package arrived in the mail today – what a beautiful tea kettle and matching teacups. They are perfect in our new kitchen and I’m enjoying a cup of tea with honey IMG-4972 (1)as I write this.  You are so special to us and we thank you for thinking of us during our move.

Love you, Jim, Julie & Emily

In response to a client trusting you with their business (don’t forget the date):

Dear Patricia,

It was a pleasure to meet with you and Ken last week.  Our team cannot wait to start working with you and exploring ways to grow your customer base. Will be in touch about our next steps, but I wanted to reach out to share my enthusiasm and sincere appreciation.  Thank you again for sharing your business with XGN Business Group.

Sincerely, Julie

In response to your daughter’s grandparents who watched her for a week (pictured in the image for this blog):

Gigi and Papa,

You are such wonderful grandparents to Emily! Thank you so much for watching her last week. She really enjoyed her time with you – she will remember this forever. Love you both!

Love, Julie

In response to a co-worker who gave you a bottle of wine after you both just finished a major event…get that co-worker their own bottle of wine because they deserve it!


P.S. I’m currently using these as my thank you cards!  They are so ME and are so classy!