I Go La la, la la la…

“I’m covering my ears like a kid 
When your words mean nothing, I go la la la 
I’m turning off the volume when you speak 
Cause if my heart can’t stop it, I find a way to block it I go 
La la, la la la…” 

I first heard this song 2 or 3 days ago and cannot get it out of my head. I love the music, I love the message and I even love the video (it took me a couple viewings to “understand it,” but connect the lyrics with the images and you will like it, too!)

I’m not sure why it takes so long for music to “get heard” in America – this video clip has been on YouTube for months and has over 258 MILLION views. Sigh. Whatever the reason, I’m glad I finally heard it and that it is gaining some traction on the US stations. Enjoy! “I go La la, la la la, la la la la la…”

Interior designer vs. Mind reader

I am owner/partner in a reasonably-successful interior design practice. I love what I do – MOST days. Some days, though, I feel like chucking it all in and going to get a “good factory job with benefits.” Not even kidding here…

I think a lot of my frustration comes from client expectations of what interior designers can do. I must, perhaps with a bit of smug arrogance, confess that talented designers can do ALMOST anything. But, we need our clients to partner with us – we are on YOUR side. We are on the same team. We share  a common goal – to create a pleasing, beautiful and functional interior that fulfills your every desire. That said, we will never reach that goal if you do not tell us everything. And by everything, I mean everything. We are not psychics.

The Mind Reader“I sense that you want wall to wall carpeting, and a baby grand piano and a steam shower. And you don’t like waterbeds, or yellow – am I correct?”

Many times, the design process is delayed by our clients’ inability or unwillingness to share clear desires and specific information. So what – you have 147 Precious Moment figurines – it is not my job to judge. You want a “special drawer” to store your vintage Swatch Watch collection? No problem. You have a firm dollar figure ( BUDGET)? Well, what the heck IS it?

The Great Karnak“I’m thinking of a number between $100 and $100,000 dollars – is THAT what you want to spend for your new powder room?”

Listen, I totally get it. Everyone – myself included – wants the MOST for the very LEAST. That’s just smart. But let me ask you this: Would you go to a doctor, tell him you had a broken bone and then ask him to fix it WITHOUT telling him which one it is? Of course not! Yet when clients withhold budget guidelines from interior designers, we are forced to “shoot in the dark.” We must have some idea of the dollars you “hope” or “can only” spend. If you have done your homework – interviewed us, vetted us personally and our work professionally – and if we as designers have done our job – talked through your project to get a thorough understanding of your goals, shown examples of past work and/or provided references –  then you must trust us and commit to achieve the best possible results. That means sharing.

I am a good guy. You know it. Dozens of past clients have confirmed it. My public record and portfolio support your decision – I am the one. So why in the name of Heaven would you be reticent to share your budget amount?

ouija board“Tell me, mystic Ouija Board, will they spend $125 a yard on fabric? Can they imagine a wallpaper sold by the linear yard? Is $1800 too much for a pair of lamps for the master bedroom – they said spare no expense…”

Working with an interior designer is a very personal and (it should be a) very rewarding experience. Help us help YOU achieve your dream room, house, boat, plane – whatever.  Let us know your hopes and dreams for your space – and the money you have to spend. We will do our very best to get you as much of that dream as your budget allows.

But be realistic in your expectations. I am reminded of a story that helps illustrate this point…

Years ago, I met my very first professional party planner/event “specialist.” Her name was Barbra (like Streisand – no extra “A”), she dressed like Maude and had a very solemn and stern face. She was coordinating a very large fundraising event for a charity I was involved with at the time and, the evening of the event, I stood in awe of the staff, food, decorations – all if it. I was compelled to compliment her on her skills. Then I meekly asked if she had ever fielded a request she could not fulfill.

Without even a hint of a smile, she turned to me and said very slowly and matter-of-factly,

“Tim, darling – if you want belly dancers juggling fire while straddling elephants, I can make that a reality for you. It will cost you, but I can make it happen. You just need the budget, and I need to know it.”

Same with interior designers. We can make dreams reality but not without knowing up front how big we can dream… Let’s dream together.

Wednesday Roller Coaster

I was “off” work today and have had a roller coaster of a day… The good part of it?

I got to spend the bulk of the day with the two men I love most – my father (Pop-pop) and my husband (MSW). MSW and I went down to visit Pop-pop today, tour his new 2BR/2bath condo – which is pretty sweet, BTW – and have lunch at Shelby’s own Chinese buffet. Delicious. We also took Pop-pop some paczki’s (ridiculously-delicious filled donuts eaten to observe “Fat Thursday” – more on that tomorrow). MSW and I had a great time, my father enjoyed our visit and, all-in-all, that part of my day was fantastic. Now, the other part…

For anyone considering owning his/her own business, let me just share with you that MANY – and I mean MANY – days, you will feel like this:

Punch the wallI feel like that today. Without going into a ton of details, I will just share that I have been shepherding a client order for WEEKS, with weekly status update emails, and weekly assurances from the manufacturer that all is “right on target” and the product will ship on schedule. It was supposed to ship this Friday (the day after tomorrow).

Today I got an email – not even a phone call! – letting me know the manufacturer was sorry but it would have to be “pushed back” a week. Ugh. I wanted to throw my phone down and stomp on it (I was checking my email with my phone).

Some free advice – NEVER check your work email on your days off…

It will all be resolved. No one is dying. But it IS annoying, frustrating and supremely aggravating when you have done EVERY SINGLE THING CORRECTLY and you still get screwed. Just one of the many joys of small business ownership…

For now, I’m gonna’ go watch some mindless TV with my Beloved and eat a(nother!) paczki. I’ll fret more about this all tomorrow. It is comforting to know that yeast-y fried dough, chocolate cream filling and copious powdered sugar always make everything better. Sorry, Weight Watchers – I’ll “track” tomorrow.

Five Random Things

Every so often, my mind gets overloaded with thoughts, ideas and images, and some of them just “have to get out.” I like to think of it as mental purging (it’s not bad, it just is…) Here are five random things plucked from my head today – enjoy:

1. The 2104 Winter Olympics in Sochi

Sochi_2014_Olympics_aiThe Olympic Games have come and gone – I didn’t watch one minute of them, in my own personal protest against Russia and their egregious stance on LGBT rights. Thing is, it didn’t seem like anyone else was really talking about them, either. Sorry, world athletes, for not acknowledging your achievements but I really just couldn’t support the games.

2. Men’s Felt Boot Liners

boot linersFor more than three decades, my Dad worked as a heavy equipment operator, burying communications cable for United Telephone of Ohio. In my youth, I remember him putting heavy boot liners like these in his winter boots to keep his feet warm and toasty as he worked outside all day in the cold. Now that I am an old person, my feet are always freezing. I want a pair of these to wear around the house as slippers. And maybe to work, too…

 3. Cheesecake. Any Cheesecake (but especially Cheesecake Factory Cheesecake)

Cheesecake-Factory-Display-CaseI am on a life-long journey to release the “thin, happy and healthy” me I have trapped inside. Most days, the journey is a little challenging; today, my mind has been obsessed with cheesecake – especially cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory. I think the slice I love is called Adam’s Peanut Butter Bliss. I.Want.It.Now.

4. The Perfect Design Client

Rich LadyI have quite a few really great design clients at the moment but wish I had one, filthy, filthy rich one – like lottery winner rich – that wanted me as her personal, on-call designer. She would never question price, always agree that my taste was “superb” and we would go – on her dime – to Europe to look for really modern furniture because, in her words, “Europeans know all about great design. You, and Europeans.” And she will have a kick-ass, I’m-rich-as-Hell, country club name, something ridiculous like Aurora Smythe-van deGroot. (She hyphenated her last name after she wed her Dutch billionaire industrialist husband, Jakob van deGroot).

5. A fabulous spa weekend with my husband

massageThis has been a very full and busy year so far for my Beloved and me. My design business is growing (hooray), my Sweetie is consumed with schoolwork and classes (sometimes hooray but sometimes BOO!) and after five and a half years of uncertainty and worry, we were finally able to get off the gay binational couple roller coaster in late January when my husband’s green card arrived. The past two months – and even before that – have been a bit exhausting, mentally and physically. I’d like to go away for a super-indulgent spa weekend with my guy, and enjoy healthy, organic food, massages and mud baths, mani’s and pedi’s – the whole shebang. He deserves it, and I do, too.

So there you have it, five random thoughts/wishes for today. Thanks for reading – it helps to “empty out the old noggin” every now and again. I recommend mental purging to everyone.

Party Time

My Beloved has wanted to throw a house party for a long time – I think the time has finally arrived. I have suffered an emotional break due to the extended, ridiculous winter we are having and think I will host a bonfire party, where I BURN all my “summer clothes,” since it appears I will never have need for them again. In fact, I think I will burn ALL my clothes…

bonfireYes, I think I will burn all my clothes and take to wearing only all-white Ghillie suits. What is a Ghillie suit, you ask? From Wikipedia:

A Ghillie suit is a type of camouflage clothing designed to resemble heavy foliage. Typically, it is a net or cloth garment covered in loose strips of burlap, cloth or twine, sometimes made to look like leaves and twigs, and optionally augmented with scraps of foliage from the area.

People wear Ghillie suits to blend into their surroundings and conceal themselves from enemies or targets. The suit gives the wearer’s outline a three-dimensional breakup, rather than a linear one. When manufactured correctly, the suit will move in the wind in the same way as surrounding foliage.

And yes, I will be wearing only all WHITE Ghillie suits, like this:

snw white ghillie suitSince this Winter has made me FEEL like a Yeti, and as my disposition has definitely become ABOMINABLE lately, I feel like this suit is not only appropriate, but necessary. Maybe if I “blend in” to all the cold whiteness that has been Cleveland for the past what-seems-like-FOREVER, maybe I will feel better about the situation.

Or maybe some men in different white suits will come to take me away to a place that is warm and bright – and padded!

padded room

Me Talk Polish One Day

My husband is Polish. Like so many non-native Americans, he speaks not only his native tongue fluently but also has pretty darn good English language skills as well and – as if that weren’t enough – he is modestly conversant in German. Maybe a little rusty in the German department, but he could manage… Me?

I speak American English and – if pressed – could dust off that 3.5 years of Latin I took in high school and translate some church ceilings for you, if you wanted.

I know, right? Pretty mad language skills here…

The reason I am thinking about all this today is that my Sweetie’s younger sister is taking English lessons, and we help her with lessons from time to time. Thing is, the English they are teaching – weird tenses and structures and composition rules – are NOTHING that I ever remember taking, or even know how to help her with. English is complex. English is complicated. English has rules and exceptions to those rules. English is hard.

Grammar rulesI don’t even remember “learning” English, although there must have been lessons and lessons and lessons all through school. It is hard for me to help my Beloved or his sister when, I guess, I would never speak the way the lessons are teaching. I mean, I guess I wouldn’t. Maybe I do and just don’t realize it?

I am reminded of the brilliant essay by David Sedaris, “Me Talk Pretty One Day.” It’s like my yet-to-be-started-in-earnest journey to learn Polish. I hope you will take a few minutes and read it – it conveys my exact reservations about learning Polish. No one wants to look sound silly.  But unless we try, we cannot learn, correct?

So my Angel and I did all we could to help his sister convert spoken English into reported English, whatever the Hell that even means… I think we three ultimately wound up with a passing quiz score; I hope so. It would be pretty embarrassing for me if I helped her fail an English test, right?

I want to visit Poland with my husband in 2015. I keep putting off my lessons but know I must begin soon. Much like David Sedaris, my hope is that me talk pretty Polish one day. Życzcie mi szczęścia!

Love Hangover

Do you have songs that take you back in time? Songs that make you remember an event, or a night or place? I heard one of those songs today at work, “Love Hangover” by Diana Ross. (I was listening to the “disco” station at work today, LOL!) I can absolutely remember the first time I heard Love Hangover – I was standing in The Retreat, a little bar that catered to gays and lesbians in Mansfield, Ohio in early spring 1976. The guy had just come and loaded new tunes on the jukebox (I’m not even kidding!) and, as I stood there, enjoying my $2.00 pitcher of 3.2 draft beers with best “girl friends,” the song played…

Diana Rossclick image above to hear “Love Hangover” by Diana Ross

I thought the song was brilliant – and still do. I remember pumping quarter after quarter into that machine, punching in the number over and over and over again. Sadly, The Retreat is long gone, now only an empty parking lot. The friends I enjoyed that song with – Kirk, Donny, Chip, Michael and Harold – are all now gone as well, but every time I hear this tune, I return to the corner of Trimble Road and West Fourth Street, remember them and get “the sweetest hangover.”  Thanks for the memories, Miss Ross.

Signs You Are “Older”

I often joke with friends that, once I turned 21 (34 years ago), the world’s population suddenly became of two ages: 6-year-olds, and “my age.” To make it easier to understand, I tend to separate the people of the world into two age categories – children (the 6-year-olds) and “my age” (everyone else).

I stopped keeping track of my age when I turned “legal.” Now, the whole world is the same age as me. I know this isn’t true, but I like to believe that – that is, until something happens that (usually) not-so-subtly reminds me that time does indeed march on, and I am, as a result, older. Such a thing happened yesterday…

My beloved Martin and I were out running some evening errands and I realized that the road was kinda’ dark. I originally dismissed it as our headlights being covered with road slop but, upon pulling into a parking lot, I discovered the real reason – a burned out headlight. How annoying…

I can’t complain, really. Our car has over 110,000 miles on it and it is one of the original “low beam” headlights so we definitely got our money’s worth out of that original part. A quick trip to the closest “Autozone” and a new headlight was in my hand for only $15.11, including tax. Here’s there thing:

The last time I replaced a headlight (on my at-the-time 1976 MGB convertible), the headlight cost over $90.00 and looked like this:headlight bulbThe replacement involved screws and frames and removing this then aligning that, and – I seem to recall – took like an hour. (OK, I admit – maybe I am NOT the most mechanically-inclined guy, LOL!)

The “headlight” I bought this time looks like this:new headlight bulb

And the installation required a screwdriver, a flashlights, rubber gloves (you know you aren’t supposed to touch those bulbs) and about ten minutes, part of which was spent trying to locate my hood release! Sigh…

While I am happy things are so much easier know, moments like these are a bitch slap from The Universe reminding me that time IS marching on and that the whole world really isn’t my age. I mean, you should have seen the auto parts guy’s face when I told him about my previous “headlight” – he looked at me like I was some kind of insane person…

Maybe – if I try hard – I can go back and live among the six-year-olds. I’d like to…

Personal Finances and FIFO

I started working in restaurants at the age of 15 – almost forty years ago. One of the first principles of solid “restaurant-ing” I learned was what Paul and Vera Mae Shrock called the FIFO MethodFirst in, first out. In a nutshell, FIFO means that incoming stock is rotated in storage so that the oldest product is used first while the newest, freshest product stays in the back. It makes sense.

In my adult life, however, FIFO has come to mean something entirely different. For me, FIFO now stands for “Finances in, finances out.” 

Money out the windowIt seems recently (and to be honest, my whole life, actually!) that as fast as I can MAKE money to go INTO my checking account, it goes right back OUT. There is no time for my money to spoil or “go bad.” Don’t get me wrong, I am really happy with my life; I just wish I could put money in the bank and let it stay in there, accumulating interest/dust. I have always wanted to come from “Old Money.” Honestly? I’d just be happy to have some.

For example, today I received a check which I promptly deposited after work. Once that check clears overnight, tomorrow I will “Bill Pay” it away, not even allowing it 24 hours to “get used to my account.” Sigh… Talk about rolling dough gathering no moss! I know I have shared this concept before but it does seem to me that you should get to KEEP money as least as long as it take you to MAKE it. My checking account has a virtual revolving door – it looks like this most months…

Money takes flightBTW – just to be clear – that money is flying AWAY in that image, rather than towards us, LOL! Anyway, as I said, my life is really great – I have a spouse that I love with all my heart (and he loves me back!), my job can be challenging at times but there is nothing I would rather be doing, we are blessed with a great circle of friends and I have a terrific family.

That said, I do kinda’ wish I could hit that Mega Power Ball Lottery, or whatever it is called. Four hundred millions dollars – I just wrote that out because I am not even sure how many “zero’s” that is! – would be pretty dang great! PS – While I envy the woman in the image below, I want those all to be HUNDREDS, not singles…

buried under money

Let Me Take a Selfie

“It’s not even summer. Why does the DJ keep playing ‘Summertime Sadness’?”

I heard this song for the first time today at work (I was listening to the Top 50 Dance Tunes on iTunes radio). As someone guilty of taking a few selfies of my own, this tune made me laugh out loud. The two ladies in the video are shallow, vapid “Mean Girls” but their dialogue? Pricesless. And – even better? The song is actually kinda’ catchy… Enjoy.

The lyrics really are hysterical and the “beat is kinda’ hot.” Best of all? The name of the song, #Selfie, is brilliant. Many thanks to The Chainsmokers for this fun and clever track.