Sunday, September 29, 2013

Complaints

I work in a customer/client driven workplace.

My clients have every right to expect the best from me and my staff.

Not only because they pay a fee for our service but because they entrust to us their precious children.

And sometimes they have complaints.

No one loves dealing with a complaint. However a respectfully asked question or query or complaint is one of the best ways of helping us to a) do our job better or b) help us articulate why we do what we do or c) help us find a new way of doing something.

I found it somewhat revolutionary several years ago to read an article that reframed a parent complaint as a parent actually doing their job to secure their opinion of the very best care their child deserves.

I now do my best to hear a complaint through that filter...... this is a parent advocating for what they think they want / need for their child......

And we go from there, hopefully with mutual respect for the constraints each of us has and to an outcome we can all feel satisfied with.

So when the shoe is on the other foot and I am a customer or client that receives service I think is unacceptable I am perhaps more likely than others to voice my feelings.  I always do so with the perspective of helping the other party know that in my (ever humble) opinion they could be doing better in the customer service department.....or whatever it is......

I recently had a very "unhappy" moment with a person on the front line of customer service for a large bureaucracy.  I am a pretty cool customer and have been through many tough moments with people and managed to keep my head but this interaction really rattled me.  It was incredibly rude, completely out of character for the organisation and smacked of power-tripping for the sake of making a point.

I walked away from the encounter without the thing I had come for, although I had done everything that was asked for, and shaking from both shock and anger.

I managed to get through the situation by calling on other people I knew in the organisation and in the end it was all ok.

And once it was, and I was happy and calm, I made a complaint.

I have been immensely impressed by the response..... timely, appropriate, thorough and respectful.  I learned more about the organisation and the processes and I felt heard.  I demanded nothing.....no apology, no letter, just a commitment, by those who can, to do better.

The whole process reminded me again to see complaints as potentially mutually beneficial.....and when one landed on my desk this week I dealt with it accordingly.

On the flip side I think it is so important to speak out about good service or great encounters we have....and I love doing that and I love hearing that!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Sustaining

Well aint that just the way it is ..... you take a couple of "rest: days off and then WHAM back to work and the week runs away with you like a runaway camel that sees an oasis in the distance and cares not what is between it and that sweet water and the rider just has to hold on for dear life......


Just like that......

Me= Rider
Work Week= Camel
Friday night= oasis

(well..... that may just be the most imaginative analogy I have ever come up with and I didn't even have to think twice.....and no I have never ridden a camel.....and no I am not drinking wine!!)

But what struck me as I drove home today after a very full, sometimes fraught, few days was that it was the relationships in my life that sustained me.....the connections along the way that filled up my tank. 

I am so grateful for the people in my life.......who love me and care about me and let me love and care about them.

To be able to talk to people who get you, to be allowed to speak into others lives, to chat about small things and big things, to imagine and dream together, to listen and be listened to, to share stories, to have weighty discussions or just to be quiet together.... this is the richness of life.....of my life.....I want for nothing more than to grow and deepen these relationships in honest, authentic ways that affirm both me and them (you)......

I look back on the week and now I discount the wild camel ride and see the moments of connection that enriched me, made me think, made me feel useful, fulfilled me.

Just feeling thankful for family and friends tonight..... feeling rich in relationships.....and isn't that the best kind of rich?


Monday, September 23, 2013

Staycation

This Mama needed a break.  

So I took Friday and Monday off.

And after I slept in until 10am on Friday I was busier than if I had actually gone to work.

But different busy.

I think I whined sufficiently on this blog about my regular full-time job over the summer but now that the new centre is open all the stuff I didn't do needs to be dealt with and some of it is pretty weighty.  

Then there is my part-time conference work which has two conferences on the go.

My practicum supervision which has reports waiting to be submitted.

And this big trip we are taking which is like a job all on its own and to which I devoted today and checked a bazillion things off the TO DO list which feels fantastic!

But I am getting ahead of myself.....

Thursday Night 

We hit the weather jackpot and enjoyed an outdoor concert by the young and upcoming band called the Lumineers.   They are great - the venue was not great for them in my opinion - but we had a grand time with a big group of friends, some suitably dubious food cart food and some dancing while the full moon rose on a perfect late summer night.  And beer.  





Friday

I was a sloth.  I slept in.  I went for a pedicure because all I wanted to do was sit and play bejewelled on my phone and drink coffee...... so I did.

Then Allan and I drove to the bank because my debit card was on a list of cards that had possibly been skimmed..... 3rd time this year one of my cards has been "compromised"......SO annoying.  We had a brief coffee date afterwards - I think I spoke but maybe I just stared..... 

Thankfully Allan and Lindsay had made a meal plan for the week so no thinking needed there but we did decide to watch a movie together and have a family feast night.  Ever since the kids were little we have had family feast nights when we watch a movie (which is not often).....I used to put all the dinner in small bowls on the table and they could take whatever they wanted - they LOVED it....now we usually eat a regular meal and have treats on the table - they still really embrace the feeling and that makes my heart happy.  I actually had to run an errand for work with Allan and they had set up by the time we got home. 





We had a fun family feast night watching a very funny, totally inappropriate movie - thank goodness they are old enough I can rely on them not repeating some of the language!!!!

So ended sloth day aka my summer vacation.

Saturday

I got up and went for a bike ride.  I know.... you just checked whose blog you were reading didn't you!  I needed a workout and after a deluge all night the rain was gone and the air had that fresh scrubbed quality to it - it was a perfectly lovely hour and a great start to a day of running errands (for work and home).


Allan did some chores around the house in the break in the weather - boys and ladders???




In the evening Lindsay was off to another new babysitting gig and David off to hang out with buddies and so the Vera's and ourselves went off to check out the Lantern Festival at Thompson Community Centre (not to worry if you missed it - West Richmond Community Centres Lantern Festival is coming up soon!) and then out for an interesting Asian dining experience.  The food was great - especially the Dan Dan noodles - but pricier than some places and with disdainful service..... are white people who know their Asian food really still so unusual??..... we eat more than sweet and sour pork!!!!! 



As all cosmopolitan, foodie, hipster couples out on the town on a Saturday night do... we ended the evening at PriceSmart doing groceries......we were actually looking for half price moon cakes (as if that doesn't prove something) given the Mid-Autumn Festival was two days prior but they were sold out.

A fun night out with our good friends.

Sunday

Lindsay and I went to church and the boys had soccer photos....in the rain......



Then we moved furniture and other goods from our friends the Branscombes house as they are moving this week ..... we will be so sad not to have them at the end of the street!!!  

I did conference work and Allan made ham and split pea soup with homemade brioche buns = YUMMY!




He and I managed to catch the last of the sunset as  the storm clouds broke briefly and took another 50 photos of Spanner....... I think I could become a pet photographer ...... for well trained chocolate labs in lovely light.....





Monday

Alas the sleep was a fail......but on a dark and rainy morning it was lovely to snuggle under the duvet and listen to the CBC and imagine everyone else at work.

Today was dedicated to all things South Africa....... my TO DO list had grown to "keep-me-awake-in-the-night" proportions so I started with booking the SUV we need with Mastercard points - for which I should receive points for patience.....in the end I got what I needed for less than I thought .... priceless?

I then sent several emails, confirmed bookings, booked tours of Cape Town, Cango Caves, Elephant Riding, Horseback Safaris.......and sent lots of messages to my network of friends and family on the ground in SA about any number of things.

Of course as I was booking something my credit card was declined........which took me an hour to get Mastercard to unblock and read the note on my file clearing SA transactions...... I, of all people, get the need for security but stupidity should earn me extra points....just saying..... the dude tried to suggest I had confused the system by trying to purchase something worth $5200 which is over my daily limit.  I pointed out it was actually ZAR5200 which is $520...... well under my limit..... he suggested I put a note on my file.....Priceless?

I managed to have a lovely lunch in Steveston with Miss Lindsay who had a spare.... I actually had lots of Lindsay-time this weekend and we had some great chats.... lucky Mama!



And so with my mini staycation drawing to an end I still have a couple of things to accomplish and a visit to the hairstylist to enjoy at 7:15pm where they will mock me for my slight hysteria at thinking the appointment was as 7:15am when I booked it....... "Hairstylists don't work at 7:15am Darling".  Got it.

So it wasn't exactly a relaxing spa vacation but I got much accomplished and had some fun along the way.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Be brave. Do good

It is interesting (to me at least!) that when I sit down to write and I write a phrase like "I am not really a brave person" I find myself considering that characterization of myself...... "But, but"......I hear my inner voice say (you have inner voices too yes?) "You have been brave, you are brave.....you have courage".......and then I think..."No.... not really brave....not like "superhero" brave".

We all know I hate to shower when home alone.  Not brave.

But I did just overcome my desperate fear of biking to the point that I choose to ride now.  A little bit brave?

So I don't know how brave I am......

But this I know.

Picking up hitchhikers as a single woman in a car is just asking to have yourself kidnapped, tortured and left for dead in the wilderness. 

And if "they" don't kill you your husband/mother/father will when you tell them what you just did.

As I drove through the farm fields on the back route to the grocery store last night I saw some of the field workers making the long trek to the main road to find a bus.  

I know they have worked long days and mostly are not young people.  I see them in the fields with their big hats on at sunrise and here it was sunset and I thought they must be so tired.


And here was I in an empty car.

All alone.

So I drove past them.  

That sure stirred up the inner voices into a big old argument....... so as I rounded the next corner and saw three more field workers I had to make a choice.

I looked in the rear view mirror - no other vehicle - so no excuse not to stop. Two women and a man.  Older, looking tired, weather beaten......  I figured I could take them if they tried to kidnap me.

So I rolled down the window and asked if they would like a ride to the main road.

What ensued was a fairly hysterical pantomime that someone should have caught on film. 

They spoke no english.at.all

I spoke no chinese.at.all

They looked afraid, then perplexed as I made loud pronounced driving gestures and noises - "vrooom, vroom ...I  drive you......"

They peered tentatively into the car, with their whole heads, as I threw my car debris to the back.... "come come" I said...."you must be tired".

One lady started to laugh..... sort of hysterically..... a car came up behind me so I gestured more frantically for them to get in.......

So they did....... much nodding and smiling and still the one lady laughing ever more shrill by the moment..  

With all their bags in we drove towards the main road.  I decided not to try to get seat belts on them all.  I think they thought I was crazy enough already.

Oh man - how to discuss the drop off point now?....... lots of wild gestures..... I tried to offer to take them closer to home .....but as we approached the main road the tone of the gestures and the sign language (and the attempt to open the door while I was still moving) I got the picture they wanted out.

So I pulled over and with much bowing and nodding and the ceaseless laughter they got out - I think they said thank you .....a lot...... David confirmed later it was indeed "thank you" they repeated over and over.

We waved and waved until I pulled into the traffic.

And so my would be kidnappers were off.  Likely to re-tell this story at their own dinner tables with a totally different perspective..... I wish I was a fly on the wall.  

And so I was struck again that 
a) I am a little brave 
b) comfort zones need to be breached sometimes(well mine do) 
c) horror movies seldom play out in real life 
d) language does not have to be a barrier to kindness or to communication.

I don't know if it helped their day at all but it sure made mine.  

And isn't that exactly what happens when we give freely (if full of angst) of ourselves! 

Disclaimer: The reckless bravery of the writer is not an endorsement of such behavior in the general population and should not be acted on without appropriate personal inner voice agreement.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Was that Summer 2013????

I find myself starting to feel a little desperate as the seasons start to change this year.  

I have always loved living through 4 distinct seasons and embracing what each has to offer.

Maybe because summer whizzed right by me this summer and I worked on beautiful, hot day after beautiful , hot day ,I was really hoping Summer would stick around a bit longer.

Alas today was foggy, then stormy and rainy and the week ahead forecast on my pessimistic iPhone App is pretty dismal.

We expect sudden clearing at 5pm Thursday for an outdoor concert we have tickets for - standby!

The signs of Fall are creeping slowly across the landscape..... (see Wordless Wednesday this week for evidence).

My whining isn't going to change anything and despite weather worries we had a grand weekend!

Of course it revolved mostly around family and friends and food.

Shocker!

Allan has been enjoying the Pink Salmon Fishery over the last couple weeks with his bud Fil (at undisclosed locations across the lower mainland) and he came home with 4 beauties this week.

And by beauties I mean slimy fish with heads on. And eyes.

However once headless and mostly boneless we set about making meals while the aforementioned bits simmered away outside to make fish stock for upcoming salmon bisque.


Allan and I then found a recipe for salmon burgers and prepared all we needed and then ground the salmon and voila an hour later we had 16 quarter pound, home made, salmon burgers ready for the freezer! NICE!

We were also preparing two other salmon for a welcome feast for my Dad who was on an unexpectedly extended trip to South Africa for the last 5 weeks.  So the kitchen was a whirlwind as Allan prepared two salmon fillets for alder smoking and two for curry bbq salmon with mint yogurt sauce.  David made a spinach salad and I made a mushroom risotto and roasted some fresh heirloom tomatoes from Urban Edibles.





Lindsay was displaced to the Dining room to make her Martha Stewart Chocolate Cake which was possibly the nicest chocolate cake I have ever eaten!

It was so busy that I totally forgot to take any pictures of the actual meal when plated but trust me, it was delish!


We sat outside in sweaters just because we could still sit outside and just as well as tonight its pouring rain and windy.

Today the kitchen has been just as busy with Lindsay producing batches of peanut, oatmeal, choc chip cookies (aka fishing cookies), Allan made a great chicken curry and homemade naan bread and Lindsay and Allan are currently dealing with a superb over abundance of pork bun dough which should shortly produce 30 pork buns ready for steaming for lunches for the rest of the semester due to a slight over calculation.

You know when your mother tells you math will be useful in everyday life?  This would be one of those days for Lindsay.  Anyhoo.....we should be done by midnight.

For those wondering how I managed with my new FOCUS (thanks for asking) .... I lost 5lbs last week religiously watching and recording calories and working out 3 times.... this weekend was harder but I stayed in calorie range (albeit only just yesterday) even when accounting for alcohol and dessert!  Back to working out tomorrow and in a challenge to work out 4 times per week for the next five weeks!!

So there is the weekend highlights - lets not speak of laundry, lawn mowing, puppy care, trip planning, conference delegate entering, bidding, grocery shopping and other lesser things!

Have a great week friends!

Friday, September 13, 2013

FAIL

David came in from soccer tryouts the other day very dejected.

Senior boys soccer try outs.

He is a junior.  A small junior with no real competitive soccer experience.

He is a solid player always much loved by his coaches for his fearlessness and tenacity on defense.

But this was Senior Boys soccer tryouts.

He told us "I was the worst player on the field"

Of course we jumped in "Oh no honey I am sure that's not true"  You are just a junior" "I am sure you just felt like you weren't the best"

But with one tear escaping he adamantly said "I was the worst" "It sucks to be the worst".

Of course my heart was so sad and I wanted to erase it all for him but I checked myself and I said.

"I am so sorry it didn't go well.  And I am sorry you feel you were the worst but someone has to be the worst.  I am sure it sucks".

There was another set of tryouts the next day but at that moment he said there was no point in even going. The coach had ignored him and he had no chance.

I suggested that sometimes its better to finish well even if you finish last but left it at that as he went to shower.

At bedtime that night I asked how he was and he said "I am going back tomorrow.  I know there is no chance but its about my attitude now".

WOW!  What character....a proud and humbling moment.

The next day at work I opened a list serve I am on and there was article on allowing children to fail..... I was of course heightened to the topic and intrigued... I encourage you to read the article but some of the points that caught my attention were.....
Failure is hard for everyone, but interestingly, it's particularly hard for high-achieving students. They don’t know how to deal with this unfamiliar territory. It kills their spirit because their performance is so linked to their self-esteem. I've seen this firsthand as an Ivy-League professor, and it isn't pretty.
We need to teach children great stories of failure. Thomas Edison tried 10,000 different materials before he found the right one for the light bulb filament. Failure?  No, that's data -- lots of it. Or as he put it, he learned 9,999 ways that it didn't work.
I think the article is a bit simplistic and one dimensional but I think it was instructive regarding the need to help our kids re-frame "Failure".

I personally think its also important to sit next to our kids on the stairs after soccer try-outs and agree that it sucks sometimes when things don't go the way we hoped. I think they need to know we are ok with "failure" ,ours and theirs, and ok with the emotions attached to that.

They have been sold Disney happiness and that can be as much of a straight-jacket as having to "be the best", "No 1", "a winner" or "right".

Its such a fine line to walk as a parent - when to push our children towards excellence and to be the best they can be and loving them through stuff that "sucks". On the sports field or in the classroom or in relationships.

David went back to tryouts the next day and he "failed".  He took a risk and he "failed" by someone's definition.  But the coach said "It was brave of you to come back today David and if we get a junior team I will recommend you to the coach".

Hmmmm...........