Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Right to Criticize Includes the Obligation to Praise . . .

I spent one day on my soapbox last week, grumping about the delay in receiving the new Tim Holtz Distress Markers.  But if I’m going to do that, then I need to be willing to shower the praise when something comes in early.  It happened today . . .


The first few boxes of new Tim Holtz goodies arrived today.  Don’t get too excited – this only involved five items.  But those four boxes on top weren’t expected until March, and for another day and a half it’s still February.


And this was what was inside.  So there – maybe it’s not a shower, but I have at least sprinkled praise where it was due.  We now return to your regularly scheduled grumpiness . . .

Friday, February 24, 2012

I Completely Agree . . .


My friend Bill Begley (his wife Becki is my childhood nemesis who became my dear friend in adulthood) posted this on his Facebook page this morning.  It brought tears to my eyes, because it reminded me so much of Zoe . . .


She loves to lie in the warm sunshine by our front door when we have it open – when we don’t (like last night), she props herself on top of the couch and looks out the window until Ryan gets home from work.

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These are lousy pictures, but I took them this morning because on days like today when she comes to work with me, my dog loves to do exactly what that dog was doing.  And I am truly fortunate to have such a faithful friend.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Two Souvenirs from Florida That I’m Not Keeping . . .

I am in a much better mood today.  A lot of that has to do with you folks – I got buried in e-mails from people who understood my pain (and a couple who scolded me for thinking that you might not).  I have said many times that you folks are why I like my job.  Thanks . . .

Onward . . . to quote my childhood friend Rocket J. Squirrel, “And Now Here’s Something We Hope You’ll Really Like!”

When I travel, I am not much of a souvenir guy.  I take a few pictures and bring home memories.  So I brought home only two things from Florida.  The first didn’t show up until the day after we got back – that was the cold I caught from Ryan sneezing in the truck cab all the way up I-75.  Took almost a week, but I think I have finally disposed of it.

The second kind of grew on me – literally.  I didn’t shave for a couple of days after the Clearwater show, and that is about as long as I have ever gone without shaving in my life.  For many years, I have claimed that my brother Blake looks like Dad, and got his facial hair – I look like Mom, and got hers!  But I decided to let it grow for a few days, mostly to see how long it would take Ryan to notice.  I think it took five days, and when he made the discovery he urged me to let it grow for a while.  My response was “Why – do you want to see how white it can get?”

But I played along and kept it all the way home.  The next morning I started to shave it off, but just for fun I cleaned up the sides and left the moustache and goatee and then walked into the kitchen.  Ryan’s look of delight and the shocked “You KEPT it!” convinced me to let him have his fun.  Through the weekend and into this week, it got a lot scruffier – and a lot whiter.  And I have to admit that it was fun to see the surprised looks from people who have known me forever.

I can’t tell you how many times I walked past a mirror and was surprised by the image looking back at me – or put my hand on my chin and felt like I had rubbed against a porcupine.  But by Tuesday night, I wanted my baby face back – and even Ryan was ready to admit that the look just wasn’t me.

A few minutes before I went to face the shaver, I told Ryan to get a camera.  You didn’t really think I would write all of this without at least giving you a peek, did you?


And just to ease your pain, here’s one last parting shot that you’ll probably enjoy more . . .


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

An Apology for Someone Else . . .

This is not the blog post I intended for today – it was supposed to be something that I think is pretty funny and was going to be titled “Two Souvenirs from Florida That I’m Not Keeping.”  That will have to wait until tomorrow – unfortunately, today I have to deal with a work issue that has made me quite upset.

Several customers have contacted us over the past couple of weeks asking about the status of their orders for the new Tim Holtz Distress Markers.  Gary has been checking with Ranger two or three times a week, and was finally told that they intended to start shipping last week.  So we have been watching patiently each day when the deliveries arrive.

Today, I have taken two calls and an e-mail from customers who want to know when theirs are coming.  So I passed this on to Gary, and he asked me to call Ranger – honestly, he told me he hoped that a different voice would get a better answer.

I spoke with Ranger this morning, and the only answer they'll give me is "we ran out".  They won’t tell us anything else, including how many sets they shipped before they ran out or who received them.  We have ordered far more sets than we have sold so far, and Ranger has no explanation for how other companies received orders while we didn't get a single shipment.  Ranger told me that they won't have any more until mid-March.  Delays been quite common with Tim Holtz products over the past few years.  They're fantastic products -- but they consistently ship later than promised.  This is different though, and it makes us look bad and disappoints customers like you who trust us to handle your orders promptly.

So I asked Ranger what I should tell our customers, since the estimated ship date I put on our site came directly from them.  I was told to tell you that I passed on the best information I had at the time, but the date has changed.

At this point, I can do nothing other than apologize -- which is very frustrating because I really have no interest in apologizing for Ranger, especially when they offered no apology and no acceptable explanation to us.  But I care about our customers, and as such I am truly sorry for disappointing you.  We will ship your markers the same day they arrive here.

Thanks for waiting patiently.  We are doing our best.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Vacation Days . . .

My son has been accumulating vacation days ever since he started working at Best Buy, but he rarely uses them.  So when one of his managers started pushing Ryan to take some, I suggested that he fly to Tampa after the Clearwater show.  I would pick him up at the airport and then we could run up to Orlando for a few days before driving home.  Actually, we first had this conversation in April or May last year – but Ryan has no interest in 95 degrees and humidity.  February is more his speed.

He had never flown solo before, so he was a little apprehensive.  But the flight went fine, other than a “rock and roll” landing (it was really windy) – Ryan was convinced that he wouldn’t bother flying again.  I told him to revisit that thought after spending 16 hours in the truck heading home (yeah, he thinks flying is much better now).

Of course, we packed for the warm sunny days that Florida has experienced all winter.  Imagine our glee when we awoke Sunday morning and it was thirty degrees outside!  But nothing stops us – we threw on every layer we had in our suitcases and headed for Disney’s Hollywood Studios (our favorite of the Disney parks).  We learned quickly that nothing beats cold February days at theme parks – the longest line we experienced all day was five minutes!

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Didn’t take many pictures – we were moving too fast and having too much fun.  But when you can park the truck less than 100 yards from the entrance, it’s an easy trek out for a cold drink and Ryan got to sit down and catch up on his texting.

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Later in the day, we took the bus/monorail over to the Magic Kingdom.  We knew that wouldn’t be our favorite destination since we had no little ones with us, but we walked around for a while.  Ryan found a globe that apparently rotates if you work it just right (he didn’t).  But on the way out of the Magic Kingdom, we discovered the highlight of our trip . . .

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Ice cream cookie sandwiches from the Main Street Bakery!  Imagine two cookies as big as your hand, with two scoops of vanilla ice cream smashed in-between.  Ryan made it easily through his, then enjoyed taunting me as I struggled to finish mine (yes, I did – but it wasn’t easy).

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Ryan hadn’t spent a night in a hotel in years, and when we got back he suddenly remembered how much he enjoyed bouncing on the beds when he was little.  Still does . . .

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Monday and Tuesday, we went to Universal.  More thrill rides there – and more danger for me.  I get motion sickness very easily, so I have learned to avoid eating and drinking while I’m at the parks.  That way, I can keep up.  Ryan has to be careful as well – but he can’t resist Dippin’ Dots!


I know nothing about Harry Potter – haven’t read the books, haven’t seen the movies.  But Universal outdid itself with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  I explored the “town” while Ryan rode Dragon Challenge for the second time.  And then we tackled the castle.  My opinion – Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is the best ride I have ever experienced at an amusement park.  Stunning architecture, fascinating walk through the building, and the ride is unbelievable.  Imagine what I might have thought if I had understood what was going on!  We walked out of the building when the ride ended and immediately went back for a second trip.

We had planned to spend a day at Epcot before heading home, but Ryan started flirting with a cold on Monday morning, and by Tuesday afternoon he was pretty miserable – couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think, couldn’t taste his food.  So I suggested that we head for home a day early.  I knew he felt bad, but I had no idea how bad until a couple of days after we got home – sneezing constantly in a small truck cab means that Dad gets to share the experience later.  And the experience is rotten . . .

But we had a ball . . .

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Mirror Mirror on the Wall (and Other Stories from the Road) . . .

There are so many stories from the past week on the road.  Some of them are interesting . . . some are amazing . . . others are just funny.  I usually try to tell them in chronological order – but this time they’ll be random.  I’ll just tell the best one first – since I heard it over and over and over and over on Saturday . . .

Two minutes after the Clearwater show opened Saturday, I was straightening some packages on a shelf at the corner of our booth.  And a customer walked up and asked me to step aside so she could get to the booths in the next room.  Next room?


This is what she saw . . . it’s a mirror.  And I heard similar comments over a hundred times during the day.  The best was a nice lady who was leading her daughter and granddaughter around the room and said “Let’s go over into this room.”  As she started that way, her granddaughter’s very soft voice said “Grandma, it’s just a mirror.”  But Grandma didn’t believe her until she got all the way to the wall.


Eventually, I piled several empty boxes in the way.  But they didn’t help much . . .

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It’s amazing that we actually made it to Clearwater at all.  That puddle in the left picture shows coolant leaking from the truck’s engine – it blew a fuel pump in Valdosta, Georgia.  This was one of those “God is in control” moments – I was just doo-bopping down the road and decided to stop for snacks at a WalMart right next to I-75.  When I got out of the truck, I saw coolant pouring out of the engine.  I never made it into WalMart – instead, I got out my cell phone and put “International Truck Valdosta” into the browser.  And when I saw that the nearest one was five miles away, I jumped into the truck and headed that way as fast as I could.  The warning lights and beeps were going strong when I pulled into the lot.  Those good folks stayed an hour past closing time to get me back on the road, and I am grateful – especially since I was carrying four other booths in the truck.  If I hadn’t stopped for snacks in Valdosta, that breakdown would have happened miles down the road, I would have been stuck there for hours waiting for a tow truck, and who knows when (or if) I would have made it to Clearwater.


Did you enjoy your Super Bowl party last Sunday?  This was my view of the game – in the terminal at the Atlanta airport.  I stored the truck after the Lawrenceville show and flew home, then flew back on Thursday to pick up the truck and head to Florida.  Saved a lot of wear and tear on me – not to mention over $400 (the difference between parking the truck and flying and the cost of diesel fuel home and back).  In the terminal, the game was on about a 20 second delay – but in the restaurants, it was in real time.  So we would hear cheers and then get to wait 20 seconds to see what had happened.


Here’s a face you haven’t seen for a while – but may soon.  No, not Picasso – put wild multicolored hair on the nice lady, and remember Amy’s Magic?  Yep – that’s Amy!  She stopped by the Lawrenceville show for a visit (she lives in the area now) and told us that she’s about ready to bring her famous gold leaf (and everything else she is known for) back on the show circuit.


This is what the TSA scanner saw when my suitcase went through on Thursday – I packed for two shows and left my clothes in the truck, then took an empty suitcase back to Dayton.  I was sure that there would be product that just had to get to Clearwater . . .

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Want to make a northern boy very happy on a Friday in February?  Start with a warm and mostly sunny Florida morning, wipe away the wispy clouds by lunchtime . . .


And add shorts . . .

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After setup on Friday, I made it out to Clearwater Beach for about an hour.  The picture on the right was all I could get between bursts of laughter – six or eight teenagers were out frolicking in the water, and all of a sudden they came tearing out of the water and screaming (I started to wonder if they had seen a shark).  Then I saw it – about a hundred seagulls had discovered where the kids left their towels, clothes, and snacks and were having a feast!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished . . .

We are in Lawrenceville, Georgia this weekend for our annual visit to Metro Atlanta.  Even though a year has passed, a story from our last visit gained more clarity.  Remember the nice husband who bought a Vagabond as a surprise for his wife for Valentine’s Day and then sent her on a scavenger hunt through this show until she found her prize in our booth?


I got to meet him yesterday.  This is Tom Walborn, and his wife Barbara says she has gotten a lot of good use out of that Vagabond.  Tom is a good sport – I introduced him during the giveaway (basically explained to the ladies present that their husbands needed to take lessons from Tom) and he got a nice round of applause.  A few minutes later, he won a prize!


This happy lady won the last prize.  I called a number (I think it was “014”) and she moaned loudly.  From experience, I know that the loudest moans usually come from someone who has the ticket one higher or lower than the one I just called.  But “014” wasn’t there.  So I asked her which she had – one higher or one lower.  Her thumb went up, just as I drew the next ticket --- “015”

Mid-afternoon, Dave Carlson from Heirloom brought the ATC Contest entries by – a vote by the vendors determines the winner, and it was my turn to vote.  The theme this time was “Robots” – and the first entry I saw was the obvious winner . . .


And it did -- but it’s not the one I voted for . . .


I figured that anyone who was brave enough to steal an actual Star Wars Lego from her kid to try to win a prize should get at least one vote, just for guts . . .

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Passage of Time . . .

I so look forward to our trips south in the winter.  Anything that gets my frozen body into anything approaching warmth is greatly appreciated in January and February.  The past couple of years haven’t been all that warm in the south, but I didn’t care . . .


This was February 2010 – the truck was buried in snow and it took me two hours just to dig it out.

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February 2011 – our parking lot was a sheet of ice and it was scary just to walk from the car to the front door, much less load a truck.  Both years, there was no point in bringing shorts to Florida, where it was in the 50s and hardy souls who ventured to the beach were wearing multiple layers and parkas.  And for two years in a row, setup day in Atlanta was 33 degrees and pouring rain.


February 2012 – this was Wednesday.  Bright sunshine, 65 degrees – I was actually sweating a little as I loaded the truck.  And it was wonderful.  This morning, I am in Atlanta, where it will be 63 degrees and dry.  And the forecast for next weekend in Clearwater makes shorts a real possibility.

So make sure to come out and see us this weekend at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds in Lawrenceville, or next weekend at the Matheos Hall in Clearwater – we’ll have a booth full of goodies to tantalize you!

On a far more important note . . .

For the many, many people who have sent e-mails, offered prayers, and supported my mom in any way over the past four months . . . Mom and Dad flew back to Arizona on Wednesday.  The chemo has been completed and the outlook is very promising.  The oncologist has scheduled a PET Scan for early May, and he seems confident that when he sees the results he will be able to use the phrase “complete remission.”  Obviously, we can’t wait.  Please, please – keep that support coming.  My mom knows how much it has meant to have people all over the world praying for her.  Thanks.

For now, they flew all the way to Tucson and gained five whole degrees.  But that’s short term – it will get chilly here, and in Arizona Dad can go hiking in he mountains and Mom can walk in the warm sunshine.