Friday, April 30, 2010

Choice and Consequences

Some time ago I designed the floorplan and finishes for a new construction house. During the construction phase the economy changed to OMG and the family had many an anxious time over the costs of construction. Some of the dreams of what was going to be took a back seat to get it built and get moved and we'll add to the dreams as economics allow. Time passed then the Mrs. called and said family finances were on the upswing and they were excited to be moving forward with doing the Master Suite. They would be keeping existing furniture but were ready to get the temporary paper shades off the windows, get some real window treatments, a custom bedding ensemble, art, accessories and maybe some seating for the bay window area.

We scheduled an in office appointment to start the planning and selection process. What textiles, what styles, what color combinations, what price points. The next step is then to field measure as necessary, design and draft the concepts, price the projects and write up a purchasing agreement. All of which was done. Except for that last part.

FishyDesigns does charge a professional fee for services. Our clients who are purchasing custom goods benefit from a percentage of those fees being applied toward purchase deposits. This policy prevents folks from " idea shopping" the designers. If we are providing professional design services, we like to get compensated. So when this client came back for her project review conference she was eager and excited. She even took pictures of the presentation so she could show her husband what was designed and ordered. Except she did not sign her custom orders agreement nor did she pay the accumulated design fees. She looked at her watch , rushed for the door saying she had forgotten she was doing the school pick up and we'd get everything finalized by the end of the week and after her husband had seen the photos.

Well that did not happen. I did call or e-mail, I forget which but, the net result was they were so busy with tax stuff they had back burnered the bedroom for now. Fine, but please remit for services rendered to date. In the mail Fishy, in the mail!

That did not happen either.

So imagine my surprise when this same client came breezing through the door with a cheerful greeting and more of that eager excitement.

" Fishy! Lovely to see you again we are ready to do our Master!"
" There is a bit of a change in our plans"
"Well Fishy you know budgets are tight for everyone these days. So I got the notion to sort of shop around for the fabrics we selected. You know, online? I had those photographs I took from your design presentation for reference. Of course I couldn't find the exact fabrics you offer but I thought I could get " the look" for less if I went this way. So I spent just days online searching and ordered these swatches . Now what I need you to do is tell me how to use these substitutes and how many yards of each fabric I will need."
" I'm sorry Fishy, what did you say?"
" No"
" What!"
" But Fishy I know you understand this. I want my dream house to be, well a dream. I don't want to come home at the end of a long day and feel down because we couldn't do everything we hoped. Now look, you are my designer and, my friend, I need you to help me do this. And while we're on that subject why are you not praising my cleverness!"

So I explained. Yes I am an interior designer. Yes I am your friend. However, we are standing in my interior design business not out to lunch or a movie. When we are here, making design decisions for your home I am working. As you know I have a fee schedule for design services.
You by the way, still have an unpaid invoice for services rendered. You are, in effect, asking me to help you bypass my business to aid you in transferring your business to an online retailer. An invitation which I decline. I actually refrained from asking her if she came with camera on presentation day with a pre-meditated purpose of "using" if not "stealing" from me.

Looking stunned the client then said, "Well this is just ridiculous".
On that point I could agree. I did take some time to explain to her the risks of buying textiles online , but if she elected to take those risks most online retailers had help desks which could do the yardage estimates for her, etc, etc. She departed not mad but sort of with a you will see I can do just fine without you demeanor.

A week later I was coming in the back door as she was trying to wrestle bolts of fabric through my front door. She looked a stressed out mess.
" Fishy! come and help me!", she insisted.

I went to hold the door and to take some of the bolts . She proceeded to the conference area and commenced babbling before I caught up to her.
" Damnit Fishy this is your fault. Just look at this! Not all the colors match the swatches and not all the goods are in one piece but in unusable pieces and this one smells bad!".
Before I could display proper gravitas I busted out laughing.
This was not well received.

" What the devil do I do now? I have all these fabrics and spent all that money and OMG 17% shipping and handling fees and Tomas is going to kill me!"

While she was talking I began taking the offensive smelling textile out the front door. It did smell bad and I definitely did not want my storefront to retain any of it. Plus I had an in-shop appointment scheduled in half an hour and I did not want this drama or the textiles still present for that client's visit.

" Fishy! please pay attention. I need you to help me."
" I did warn you about online textiles. Yes there are great prices, but there are also great risks.
Your best option is to contact the retailers you purchased from and see if you can make any progress. If that does not work you can file a protest with the credit card company to which you charged the purchases."
" I've done that damnit! That's why I am here eating crow. Here is your check for the fees due.
Now tell me how to fix this problem".
Accepting the check I said, "I've told you everything I know to do".
" Fishy did you understand I cannot return these fabrics, cannot get replacement fabrics, cannot use these fabrics and cannot get my money back ?"

Somewhere on the back channel I was thinking," Yep, payback is a bitch".

I picked up some bolts and headed to the front door saying,
" Well it's a shame things have turned out this way for you. Let me help you get these back in your car. I have an appointment in a few minutes so I must ask you to leave. I do wish you luck with finding an acceptable solution to this issue."

On her way out she stopped and took a hard look at some new inventory. She freed up a hand long enough to flip a price tag into view. She made a throaty sound then said, " You know I think I saw something similar to this at TJM and really it was a third less expensive".
I paused before saying, " Why didn't you buy it?"
" It wobbled and wouldn't stay straight. This item of yours actually looks a lot better quality and it is straight but I'm not going to pay this price for something I can get from a discounter."

Lesson learned.
I need to become an online retailer.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lasting Choices

The PRIZE from the e-bay bidding war!

Blowfish's grandaughter is graduating from high school next month. She is a lovely young woman.She rides horses, plays the harp, works hard for everything she earns and is a person of grace.

Blowfish has begun thinking about a graduation gift. So far he has not settled on any one thing. I mentioned to him I still had my high school graduation present from my grandfather, it's a string of pearls. I also shared I have never once placed those pearls around my neck without thinking of my grandfather.

[ I did have an unusual grandfather who taught me fine life skills like yo-yo-ing, jacks and knife throwing. If you do not know, yo-yo's were originally weapons, not toys. Getting good at jacks created a fine level of eye hand co-ordination I still appreciate. He taught our Mom and, we grandkids, the fine art of speaking "dog". That is a treasured gift too. He also taught me how to take bows off packages and place them on my head or around my neck with the admonishment to recognize "I am a gift!" and to respect the importance of lifes celebrations. A fine legacy to be sure. Along with the pearls.]

Blowfish would like to think it is possible with the current generation to also select a present which would last a lifetime. He is not sure others are like me and will , this many decades after high school, still possess and treasure a grandfather's gift.

So, do any of you still possess high school graduation presents? If so what is the gift and why did you keep it? Because of the gift itself? Because of the giver? Both? Please share!

I am buying this lovely young woman a couple of gifts.
First I am getting a 1930 Irish Half Crown coin. Strange, I know. But one of Blowfishs grandmothers was a Trainor from County Cork Ireland so there is the heritage connection. That's a good reason but the real reason is this particular coin has a hunter (horse) on one side and a harp on the other.

How perfect is that?

I am also giving this Catholic High School graduate a silver coin pendant of St. James on horseback and a book on Saint James. Actually, St. James is most often depicted with a pilgrims walking stick as he is also the Patron Saint of Spain , is much consulted, and lies in Campostello where he is visited regularly. It can be very challenging to find a St. James on horseback, but I have located one. Not exactly the quality or size I was hoping for but it will be just fine. Since life is a personal pilgrimage, which often starts when young people leave home for the first time, I thought this an appropriate time for such a gift. This young woman, like most of us will face her fair share of adversities so if she partners with St. James along her journey I trust she will be finely lead.

I suspect her mother will scorn my selections.
She is more attuned to show than am I .
But she is not the graduate.

Blowfish on the other hand would like to select a gift the graduate will appreciate for years to come. A gift his incredibly materialistic daughter will give the nod to. And, a gift his ex will not find necessary to critique.
( Yes! I am very glad I will not be attending this graduation. )

So my fellow bloggers, PLEASE help Blowfish by offering suggestions.
Thanks much.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Fine Welcome Home

Sky High Cecile :-)

Bloomed out Cecile

Chinese fringe tree bloomed out too!

Blackberries on the fences

Zepherine roses are on the way!

Peonies are coming soon

Apple blossom pink Azaleas

Shasta Daisys and Azaleas

remaining winter snaps

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Pricey stuff!

Blowfish had a lot to say about the cost of fuels on our recent journey.
Somehow he takes the manipulation of pricing very personally.
Looks as if he is not the only one.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Wait for me Cecile

Blowfish and I are taking a four day trip to celebrate his birthday.
We will have the joy of hugging our Mermaid and the horses. We will see Spring in the Bluegrass, a very fabulous sight indeed. We will go to the races, visit galleries, book and antique shops, eat too much, laugh a lot, sleep in heavenly beds and delight in the retelling of favorite family tales. I am eager to go Fizzing up the road.

But there is Cecile. Our beautiful, fabulous, ginormous Cecile Brunner rose. Cecile is about 20 feet tall and 30 wide. Currently she has thousands of buds with a few early openings. But every year, when Cecile has her big BloomOut it is spectacular. Thousands of pale pink roses sending forth an incredible, but not heavy fragrance. It is a one of my favorite Pond joys. Each Spring we put out the systemic rose care granules to prevent disappointments. Then , once we see the first leaves coming, the first buds forming, we go out after dinner and inspect Cecile to make sure she hasn't any insects or illnesses. We talk to her. We eagerly await her show day. It is glorious! Blooms however, fade so over the rest of Spring and Summer there are always enough blooms to have sweet smelling arrangements in the house. It's great, but it is not the same as the first Spring BloomOut when the entire 20x30 expanse is covered in perfection. Sigh. Cecile is close. I'm thinking she might have her big Spring Bloom Out while we are away. That I will miss the day when suddenly there is Cecile massed in blooms waving gently on the Spring winds. Wait for me Cecile, wait for me!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

It happens every year

nice little cottagy shed
It's Spring here in the Carolinas, which means Blowfish is once again on his annual we have got to get some organization in the garage mission. Course, once translated, this means Fishy would you get all that  gardening mess out of the garage. It never means Blowfish has a single thought about maybe getting that giant, steel, antique Vandenkurt printing press out of the garage. Or the compressor, or the drill press or the generator or his collection of cleverly designed but never used power tools.

Blowfish has a true admiration for tools designed to perform one very specific task. He proudly brings em home and strokes the housings while  expounding on the genius of the design, the genius of the presentation and how it is going to radicalize his yard life. Then they get stacked in the garage in their original packaging like some  sort of tool  museum. Never is it suggested this assortment of finds should vacate the premises.

This year, I was ready for the annual  we gotta organize the garage assault.  Once mentioned I readily agreed.
We went outside for the Annual Pond Garage Tour where Blowfish promptly began pointing out all the space occupied by gardening "crap". I smiled and readily agreed with him. He paused, maybe having a brief inkling of a set-up.
Then he said,
"Fishy, are you agreeing with me about setting this Garage to rights"?
"Sure am"
"Why is that"?, Blowfish asked.
" Well by gosh Blowfish, you been speaking your mind on this for near bout as long as we have been at the Pond. I  want you to be happy.  I am willing to do what you want. Course we have to have some other location for all my gardening "crap" but I think I have a plan for that too."
" What might that be?"
"Honey wander on over  to the two trunk tree with me"
We made the hike  up to the far back corner where I smiled and said,
" Just imagine Blowfish how pretty the vista will be from the Garden Room once we build a charming, cottage style potting shed up here under the spreading branches of the two trunk tree! Course you know I will need a foundation poured and we have to have some water up here. Then I was thinking I'd like a little side deck with a pretty little porch swing and maybe some electricity so's I can have a little refrigeraor up here too. Then I need to have a darling little shed garden so the view from the house will be special and I can just hardly wait to get moved in! Can't you just see it Blowfish?"
" I think what I am seeing is dollar signs Fishy. You got any idea what this little shed idea might cost?"
very sweet!
maybe with a skylight?
" Honey, I took care of that. All together with the fella  you want to come take out the tennis court and put in the putting green, the bocce court and the croquet field, why it won't cost a bit more than The Fizz!".
Blowfish got a terrible pained look on his face but didn't say a thing.
So I smiled and placed my hand on his arm and said,
"Well really Blowfish, I'm not too disappointed about the Potting Shed. Lets us go on back down the hill and take another look at all those boxes of tools we've got stashed in the Garage. Maybe we can make some space!"

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Diva Syndrome

One of my favorite clients, and good friend, has one of those diva daughters.
You would never pick out this family to be producers of a diva.
They claim they did not produce her. They claim she arrived in full diva demeanor.

Their diva is not at all like their other children who are smart, talented, good natured, productive, delightful human beings. Their diva is different ... she is all about being the diva. If the costs of her diva-ness impinges on other family members, this is highly irrelevant. They after all, are not the diva.

Over the years we have had numerous luncheon conversations about the diva. It is a terrible worry with underlying issues of guilt for this mother. I have very low tolerance for the diva syndrome children of this world. But I have heard and observed enough over the years to be grateful I never mothered one of these creatures. Those who are diva parents suffer. Terribly.

Of course I have asked how on Earth these delightful people got themselves in this
all other family members take a back seat to the diva lifestyle.
Parent is more than a word, it's a responsibility. The answer is these children, from day one, demand far more than normal people. They are exhausting, they are cruel in their selfishness, they will wreck a long planned family event if their appearance isn't perfect or their clothes are not new or their hair didn't co-operate with their intentions. The divas have no focus outside of self.
It is their pathology.

In this family, the diva is a 7th grader. As in she is 12 or 13 years of age. She is a "performer", participating in little theatre, childrens theatre and some school special events. She does not do any sports. Obviously one cannot be a team diva. She is obsessive about her appearance, obsessive about performances. She requires an expensive voice coach because her talent in this area is not stellar but she views this as a necessary diva skill. She is relentless in her pursuit of physical perfection. She is relentless in her pursuit of all things diva. There is no cost too high to the family at large for the diva to not have her needs met. Her family is happiest when she is away. With good reason.

Imagine my surprise when this friend called and asked me to "help" the diva with her new room.

" I love you but no", was my immediate response.

Also, I could not imagine she had run this idea past her diva. This diva, like all divas, has an exquisitely tuned self preservation mechanism. Trust me when I tell you she is aware of my diva intolerance. Back when she was 9 or 10, her mother and I had made plans to attend an art festival together. As we were leaving, the diva announced she would be joining us. About half way to the festival I was so horrified by the diva monologue and the incessant demeaning of her mother I pulled my car over and told her to get out. The diva declined. I got out and pulled her out of my car , walked down the road a span with her in tow and called her Dad to come get her now. Her mother never said a word and never got out of the car. I however spent the time waiting for her Dad explaining to Miss Diva that I, as a sane individual, indeed did have the right to divest myself of her pesky presence.

As an aside, years ago there was an equestrian diva at the center where Mermaid trained. Her parents were not at all reticent in asking others to transport, feed and house their diva to numerous training or competing events. Being a diva there were no limits on her incessant demands, her needs as well as her preferences must be met above all other criteria. I had several chats with her parents about her diva behaviors being unacceptable. They got it but like other diva parents I have known, they were unsuccessful in correcting the diva behaviors. There came a day when I drove off and left her. Calling her parents to say they would have to fetch their horror child as she was not welcome in my vehicle, nor actually, in my presence.

My friend explained they were all having a difficult time adjusting to life in chaos from the recent move. The diva had claimed the largest room and had "given" her bedroom furniture to a younger sibling so she, the diva, would be the only one to get new bedroom furniture. Now the diva was pressing her parents about pricey new furniture in black, white and mirrored surfaces. And, she had announced she wanted a "faux" painter to come in and do her room in zebra.

My friend said, " Fishy please help me. I cannot bear all this strife but,
I really don't want a zebra room in my new house".

" Take her shopping at Goodwill and buy some paint"

" Fishy!"

" Okay, take her shopping at Salvation Army and buy some paint".

" Are you going to help us Fishy?".

"I certainly am. Show her the price of the furniture she wants and tell her when she has earned the funds by doing chores she can have the furniture. Until then, give her an inflatable mattress".

" Please Fishy."

" Why on Earth did you even agree to give this child the largest bedroom and new furniture?"

" It was our best option. What do I do about the Zebra room?"

" Just say no".

" I really wish that worked for us, but you know it does not."

"Okay, get an estimate from a painter on what it costs to reverse zebra'd walls. It should be about $800. Tell Diva once you have escrowed the $800 from canceled voice coach appointments you'll talk."

" Can you come tomorrow afternoon? She will be home between 4 and 6.
After 6 she has a rehearsal."

So I stopped on my way home yesterday. Greeted my friend, motioned for her to stay put while I went upstairs to the the new diva domain. Diva was standing smack in the middle of the room projecting her most commanding demeanor. She inclined her head ever so slightly to acknowledge my presence then commenced announcing her expectations. When she finished her presentation of criteria she indicated she would receive my response.

" Sure thing diva," I said,
" Awesome idea! Nothing I would like better than to see you minimized"

" What!", she shrieked, " What does that mean".

" It means diva, that you will be so overpowered by graphic walls you simply will fade from sight."

The new diva domain is going to be a lovely shade of turquoise. There will be a tall, dramatic white headboard with black chests flanking the bed, , a mirrored dressing table , a very sculptural black chair, zebra sheets and possibly zebra edged drapes. It will be dramatic and beautiful. Very diva but without faux'd walls and without the overpriced, tacky, glitzy furniture.

Her mother is relieved.
I am sure her relief will be brief.
Whatever new grief tomorrow brings,
it won't be zebra's walls in her new house.

Peace be with you my friend.
Happy Easter.